Hi this is Jim Batt here.
Oh wow I love your accent, that’s awesome.
It comes natural.
Im duly supposed to inform you that this call is being recorded simply for my note-taking purposes.
Noworries, sorry I was a bit late calling.
Its all good you’re obviously very busy.
Yeah the last interview went a bit into technical stats so we ran a bit overtime
That’s totally fine. So we’re here talking with jim batt, about his creative collaboration for Neil Gaiman’s The Isle of St. Oran. So let me ask you, what made you as a director decide to take on this particular project?
We first heard the poem when Neil Gaiman was giving a reading of it at one of his events, I think even before it was published. He had given a reading of it and at the time I was looking for a new project, I had just finished a few other animated shorts, and so I got the poem stuck in my head, the strange imagery of it and the melancholy atmosphere. And when I was looking for a new project, I had some friends in common with Neil which was convenient, so I emailed him and was like hey, how would you feel about me adapting this poem. And he (Neil) is very generous with his creations, I think he’s more interested to see the versions other people will make of his stories. So he was onboard, he’d seen some of my previous work which I think really helped, so he could get a kind of sense of the skills I’d bring to it, and so yeah, that started the project. It was quite a few years ago now, and then off the back of that we planned to raise the funds for the project off a kickstarter, so we did that, and because Neil has such a supportive community, we were able to get together the funds to hire a small team, and that was that!
Was it you who made the decision to do the paper cutouts meticulously hand animated frame by frame?
(laughs) Yes it was. The project I had just finished at the time had been paper cutouts as well, so I had been exploring that kind of format before, and was interested in taking those techniques I had learned from making the previous film and developing them a bit further. One of the things I really like about it is its an opportunity to collaborate with other illustrators, so you can work with other people who aren’t necessarily familiar with animation, so one of the first people I brought onto the team was Ellen Barkin, she’s a Swedish artist who did all the watercolor drawings for the film, and because we do paper cutouts what it means is that she could look at our storyboard, draw and paint the scene, and then we would take it and break it all down into layers in photoshop, build the puppets from that, and then print it all out and hand-cut it all out with scalpel blades and then we actually animate on layers of glass, we use a fairly old-school technique called multi-plane animation, which is basically we’ve got a giant 9ft high by like 5ft wide rig that’s got like 5 or 6 layers of glass on it and we put all of the paper on it, we rebuild the scene with layers and the cameras overhead so from the cameras point of view, it looks like a seamless 3D landscape. But it means you can get in there and light each layer separately. Josh Mahan who’s the lead animator, could then get in there and animate the characters separate from the background and things like that.
That’s super cool. It reminds me a little bit of the ancient Chinese art of shadow storytelling, or shadow puppetry, if you know what I mean.
Yeah! For sure.
Was it you who made the decision to make it into a cartoon? Why not a Claymation or even a live-action?
Yeah! I mean, I direct live-action as well, so it was a very conscious choice to go with animation on this. I think, I find Claymation is harder to capture some of these more somber moments and I think that we knew that this story would have a lot of stillness and a lot of atmosphere, so it kind of made sense to go with something that has like the gentleness of watercolor and kind of ephemeral feelings with that, it definitely felt like the right approach, whereas Claymation is much more tactile and kind of more immediate. I think the other things that’s real important to me in terms of choosing stop-motion over Claymation is, is that it has this very real feel to it, you can see the way the light bounces around, its not like manufactured, all of it is grit and texture, from a digital composite or something. So that for me was a good way to bring that kind of feeling to the film. And live-action would be interesting, but I think it would be a challenge to capture a lot of this atmosphere, especially because of the way the story is told, like the landscape and the atmosphere and that sort of thing kind of change a lot throughout the course of the story, the scope would’ve been a lot harder, I think we have a lot of fantastical sequences in there that were challenging to do on a small budget, much less live action.
And will you be showing the film in various places, such as film festivals? How are we the common public gonna be able to see it?
Yeah, for sure! We’re actually at the tail end of our festival run at the moment. We got a little interrupted by the pandemic, unfortunately. But we’ve been screening here and there, had some really good screenings, it’s been awhile since we’ve had any in-person ones so I’m looking forward to actually being able to watch it with an audience again, like at Comic-con.
And that actually leads into my next question – it says that it’s your first Comic-con ever, please – elaborate!
So I haven’t been to Comic-con before! I’ve heard a lot about it, obviously.
I find that hard to believe, it seems like you’d be right up Comic-con’s alley!
Well, I look forward to checking it out this time! I’m gonna ease into it a little bit, I’m only going for the Saturday and the Sunday. And I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about!
Your Twitter handle happens to be “Battsignal”, are you into Batman?
Yes yes, when I was a kid I think Batman was my favorite comic book. So that was an easy Twitter handle to come up with.
That’s super cool. Do you have a preference as far as comics go? The standard DC vs. Marvel is a bit overdone at this point, and though of course for this there’s a bit of preference because DC Vertigo is Neil Gaiman’s thing, it’s where Sandman happens to live, but other comic book companies, and even graphic novels like Umbrella Academy and such, have gotten very popular in recent times, people are getting more into alternatives, what have you got?
Yeah, I think like you said the DC vs. Marvel thing is much less an issue these days, people can take what they want from each thing. When I was a kid I used to like DC comics a lot more, I wasn’t really into Marvel comics when I was younger, but then I kinda got back into comics when I was at University, all the DC Vertigo stuff, I read a lot of Vertigo comics at that point. I would say what’s interesting now is that on the film front, the Marvel films are definitely the ones I find more interesting, the DC films don’t feel quite like they’re nailing it as well. But I would say now I read a lot of independent stuff, so I would say probably Image is actually where, if you look at my collection of comics on the shelf, a lot of it is gonna be Image stuff.
Did you see the, I believe it was an Image character, the Bloodshot movie?
No, I haven’t seen that. Was it good?
I actually liked it. It wasn’t widely popularized despite starring Vin Diesel, but I thought it was good!
Okay good, I’ll have to check it out.
Have you actually been to the Isle in the story, the Isle of Iona?
No actually I haven’t, but by coincidence, my parents have. So they were like, oh we went there this one time, and I was like okay, that’s a huge coincidence. So they had some photos I could use for reference, which was good. And I got to show them the film and ask them, we got it right? So yeah that was an interesting little coincidence, but no, I haven’t but I would very much like to. When we did the Kickstarter, there were some people who reached out who were actually from Isle of Iona, saying they were very excited for us to tell the story and were looking forward to seeing it. So that was pretty special. And I would like to go there at some point, we briefly spoke with someone who was like, Oh there’s a festival and maybe we could do a screening, and I was like damn, that would be cool.
Wow, I am totally impressed. So, what are you working on next?
Covid has kind of screwed filming for awhile, so mostly focusing on scriptwriting for the moment. The next project will be longer, is the main thing. Depending on which of these gets off the ground, I’m interested in doing – stop-motion takes a long time to make anything, so I’m interested in doing something episodic there because the feasibility of doing a stop-motion film is very slim, and you need a lot of resources to not let that take up the rest of your life. But I am interested in exploring the idea of something that releases like a series of very short episodes, that like all add up to a bigger theme. That’d be an interesting format to explore so I’m working on some scripts there, and then some kind of Indy-Sci-fi feature scripts as well.
Is it possible to get a tiny tiny teaser for the sci-fi script you just mentioned?
Well it’s early days, but I can say it’s blue-collar sci-fi.
That doesn’t happen terribly often!
I wanted to do something in a kind of Cowboy Bebop vein. I think the title sequence to Cowboy Bebop is one of the most amazing pieces of animation ever done, such a good intro to like encapsulate exactly what they’re going for, and when I saw the live-action version of the intro and they just didn’t quite nail it, I was like, I think I’ll just leave this there for now.
Rather than courting potential huge disappointment, yeah. How about other anime you happen to enjoy?
I rewatched Princess Mononoke recently. It’s just like such a well-told story that is as timely as ever I think. It really captures that feeling of like, not needing all your characters to have a happy resolution at the end, some of the character arcs it leaves it pretty up in the air, like yeah this is some stuff and we’re gonna have to work it out. And I think that’s really important storytelling. You want your storytelling to be about something – it’s nice to have an element of escapism, what I like about genre in general is you’re able to inhabit other places but at the same time it doesn’t have to be an escape, it can be something that brings to mind current issues or themes, things that make you think of everyday life.
Do you watch foreign films, Korean, Japanese, that sort of thing?
Yeah, for sure. My favorite foreign thing recently has been Dark, all three seasons of Dark (on Netflix). With it’s like impeccable filmmaking, incredibly well-written scripts, I hesitate to recommend it because each season’s ending looked like it may have gone off the rails a bit, but they somehow manage to nail it, the plane lands on the runway and you’re like wow, they actually pulled it off. It somehow all clearly made sense, from step one, if you just hang in there. So it doesn’t pull a Lost, where it sort of veers off and no one knows what’s going on anymore! I was nervous in the beginning with Dark, like do they know what they’re doing, and then you get to the end and there’s things they clearly set up in episode one and you’re like, okay, this is master craftsmen at work here.
That’s fantastic and I will definitely take your recommendation. So was there a panel or anyone in particular you were looking forward to seeing at Comic-con?
I haven’t really had the chance to dig into what panels there are, I’m more just going to going and experiencing it. I think having too much of a plan sounds like not the best way to do that, so I’m just gonna catch up with some friends and then follow my nose and see where it takes me!
Sounds great! Well that’s the full slate of questions I had, thanks so much for taking time to do an interview with me, I hope your panel at Comic-con goes over very well and you have a grand time at the Con itself!
Finally, the Cinderella story of the Richmond Greyhounds has come to an end.
We are now in a new season for the team, and they have started off on the wrong
foot. The team is broken up and Ted has his work cut out for him. The team goes
through a slump, and Ted is now doubting his coaching ability. Ted’s personal life
has also gotten out of control, and he discovers his ex-wife Michelle has started a relationship with their therapist. The wonderkid, Nathan Shelley, the former manager of West Ham has had a change of heart and leaves his job to be with his one true love, the waitress from his favorite restaurant.
She convinces him to return to the Richmond team he started out in and it’s quite evident that
everyone wants him back and held no hard feelings. All of Lawrence’s series he has worked on with others have just that right balance of slice-of-life drama with a little bit of ridiculous comedy that reality dishes us, normal folks, every day.
This all comes to a head in the potential series finale where Ted announced to
Rebecca that he will be returning to the States to his family after his mother tells
him that his son misses him. This puts the Richmond owner into quite a state of denial; doing everything from offering Ted the position of being the highest-paid coach in the league to selling the team after he leaves. The team is also affected by this decision as they perform a number from the musical The Sound of Music that is a more than touching farewell to this family.
This bleeds into their playing as in the final title match the first half is met with
bumbling and possible injuries to their star player Jamie.
After an energizing pep talk and a circle back to the first motivator in the
beginning, a sign Ted made up that said “BELIEVE”, the team dominate the second
half and win with a rousing closing scene that is reminiscent of any 80’s party
movie. It’s a fitting end for this pandemic darling that emotionally carried us through. It is
a must-see series even if you don’t like soccer (football).
No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters
If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago.
It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced.
Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game.
From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.
Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.
The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.
What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?
And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Back to the movie.
Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.
Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.
The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023
Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).
Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm