Animation directors roundtable: ‘Blush,’ ‘The Boss Baby: Family Business,’ ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines,’ ‘Sing 2’

Four of the top animated films of the year sought to take us to very different worlds. One showed an astronaut trying to survive after his spaceship crash lands on a strange small planet while another shows a robot uprising on Earth instigated by a vengeful AI system. Another shows us a school that looks to make parents obsolete and the other displays a world of singing animals trying to make it in show business. In a recent discussion we got to hear the filmmakers behind these projects talk about their influences in animation and what lessons they’ve learned over the course of their careers. Gold Derby recently got to ask these questions with Joe Mateo (“Blush”), Tom McGrath (“The Boss Baby: Family Business”), Kurt Albrecht (“The Mitchells vs. the Machines”) and Garth Jennings (“Sing 2”) during our recent Meet the Experts panel.

You can watch the film animation group panel above with the people behind these four films. Click on each person’s name above to be taken to their individual interview.

SEE Gold Derby interviews with 2022 Oscar contenders

McGrath went with a reliable standard for what influenced him. “I remember being a kid and watching Disney films and I was just blown away because you just stepped into the world.” He elaborated that with modern computer animation, he always wanted to try and make it more resemble traditional animation and references one of the classic Disney films as an example. “If you look at the opening of ‘Lady and the Tramp,’ it just evokes so much and it’s more of an impressionistic feeling.”

Mateo remembers watching Saturday morning cartoons and remembers how one specific manga cartoon was kind of an act of rebellion. “It was like those Japanese super robot series which was banned by our president back then because he didn’t want the kids to worship robots or whatever. It didn’t make any sense.” He also fell in love with the process by reading books on the subject along with this love of comic books but it was in college that he got a big assist in pursuing it. “When I met Mary Ann, my wife, in college, I got into animation because she was into it. I remember watching ‘The Little Mermaid’ with her five times in a row.”

Albrecht didn’t think much of working in animation at first as he wasn’t an artist, but there was still a love for the medium that he had at a very young age. “The animation I loved the most as a kid was the anime series, ‘Star Blazers,’ but I think it’s called ‘Space Battleship Yamato’ in Japan.” When he started working at a production company that put out animated material is when he truly fell in love with working in that field. “It’s so collaborative. You get to work with so many talented people and every one of those people has a chance to get something in the film.”

The animation that Jennings singled out wasn’t a show but rather one of the most influential music videos ever made. “I remember the ‘Sledgehammer’ video for Peter Gabriel coming on TV and it was really magical.” He also recalls linking some of the people behind that video to one of his favorite shows, ‘Take Heart,’ and continuing to be amazed at the products that Aardman Animations would put out. “Then when ‘The Wrong Trousers’ went on TV, we’re all like, ‘This is the greatest movie ever made!’ and literally weeping at the train track scene at the end. It’s just, I find a whole thing with this medium we’re in.”

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