Richard Linklater and Tommy Pallotta interview: ‘Apollo 10 1/2’
“This movie isn’t just any moment,” declares Richard Linklater about “Apollo 10 1/2 : A Space Age Childhood.” For our recent webchat he continues, “The Apollo trip is going to be talked about 500 to 1,000 years from now. The first time humanity left and landed on another planet (moon). That’s a huge milestone. It seemed worthy of examining from the viewpoint of a kid. Taking out the trash and playing with his buddies. To have a small story wrapped around such a monumental achievement seemed kind of fun.” Watch our exclusive interview above.
“Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood” is the Best Animated Feature Oscar contender which tells the story of the Apollo 11 moon landing from the perspective of fourth grader Stan in the suburbs of Houston in 1969. It is narrated by adult Stan (Jack Black) who offers reflections on life and the moon landing as well as an imaginative account of covertly going to the moon on Apollo 10 ½.
Linklater directed, wrote and produced the film. He explains, “When I was in second grade we walked on the moon. I was living near NASA. We see a lot of astronaut movies from the top down, this is kind of a bottom up cultural look at that unique era. That’s a pretty small step. That was ’03 or ’04. Here we are almost two decades later with a uniquely looking animated film.”
The film uses rotoscoped animation, where animators trace over motion picture footage. This has resulted in authentic action and a nostalgic comic or cartoon aesthetic. This compliments the perspective of a child from the late 60s well. Tommy Pallotta was the head of animation for the film. He reveals, “The biggest challenge was thinking how we could tell this story from an analogue era, using digital tools. The limitlessness of it very quickly was replaced by the limits we were putting on ourselves; not to rely on algorithms and simulations and 3D animation. To really look at this in a bespoken way and do as much handcrafted as possible to bring out the humanity.”
Linklater and Pallotta have known each other for decades, having met at the University of Texas. They have worked on numerous films, including the rotoscoped “A Scanner Darkley” (2006). Working on “Apollo 10 ½” Pallotta says, “I loved sticking my head into the candy colored pop world we created. Like with all productions, I’m always sad when it ends. I’m sort of faced with the real world. I’m so much more comfortable in the world that I have a hand in the creation of. In this world I am kind of powerless. In that very small world I feel like I have an effect.” Linklater adds, “That’s what draws people to filmmaking. We’re telling a story; we’re creating a world. That’s what draws people to this, the magic of that.”
Over his career, Linklater has received five Oscar nominations, including a Best Director bid for “Boyhood” in 2015. He reflects, “Each film is like this magical little trip. In a world of millions of stories, it’s just one more, but it’s yours. I was a team sports guys, I was drawn to movies because I love the artistic troop feel. I like collaborating with others. All of us getting together and making something that none of us could make alone.”