February 20, 2014

“The Croods”: Millions of years in the making

By Phillomina Wong

The DreamWork’s Animation film The Croods was completely dreamt up by the artists working on the production. With so much built out of pure imagination, directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco talked about the process of creating another world. They joked the caveman film was millions of years in the making, not only because of the long process, but because it took place during a primitive era.

“Every tree, every character, every creature had to come from the artists,” DeMicco said. “This goes to show what goes into making this film.”

Seven artists and 20 animations artists worked on the film for 2 years to create the prehistoric family, the Croods, and their environments.

The process followed something called a production pipeline in which different departments complete tasks working on the animation or direction of the film. While the pipeline shows the different aspects of creating the film, all these elements flow out of the story. Storyboarding the film was crucial to developing the complexities.

 “I think it’s one of the most fascinating parts of the entire process,” Sanders said. “Because you’re part artist, you’re part director, you’re part writer.”

The Croods follows a story about a family of cavemen who lose their cave and go on the first ever road trip in search of another cave. Along the way, the characters change as they try to survive and adapt to the conditions they experience. Sanders said the story changed based off of the different things they went through and the things they came in contact with. As the perspectives of the Croods changed, so did the story’s direction.

“Story is the best place to go if you want to direct,” Sanders said. “Story is the only thing you are going to do if you are directing.”

When directing a film, following the pipeline is not necessarily linear, as the directors may have to adjust the story based on the changes in effects or voices.

The development of the film is a collaborative effort between the different departments involved. Sanders said when he wanted a sequence made; he did not give any specific instructions on how it should look. He said, “We let them solve it and bring it back to us.”

Music, in particular, was one factor that helped shape the story of the film. When looking at the different sequences, Alan Silvestri worked with Sanders and DeMicco early on in the procedure to bring an aural story to the visual. With the help of the Trojan Marching Band and separate recordings at Abbey Road, some of the sounds for the film became a unique arrangement for the storyline.

“Music is one of the greatest storytelling tools you’re going to have,” DeMicco said. “Music is really unassailable—one of the most powerful things you can put in a film.” To drive the point home, the audience was surprised by the nine-piece Trojan Marching Band performance. The rat-ta-tat of the snare drum buzzing led to the build-up of the song and to the horns blaring the same tune many heard in the movie.

The audience of animation students and SCA students were then led outside to a reception courtesy of DreamWorks Animation Studios. Fans of Sanders and DeMicco greeted the directors outside to talk with them about animation.

“[I learned that] You don’t necessarily have to be an animator or drawer to be involved with animation,” said Minnie Schedeen, first year Critical Studies major. “I always loved animation films, but now that I know that I don’t have to be an animator, I’m definitely thinking about studying more how to write for animated films and get involved that way.” 

You can see the Trojan Marching Band’s performance online at: http://dwaawards.com/video/