Chuck Powers meets Cinnamon Lion to watch "Ribbit".
Not a stranger to the flourishing animation industry, Chuck Powers, the Chief Creative Officer of Kartun Studios and the Vice President of Animation for the KRU Group of Companies had spent many years in America honing his talent before moving to Singapore as an acting coach.
The co-founder of Creative Fuzion and Voiceovers Unlimited saw Powers dabbling in the dubbing of Japanese language animation into English for the animation "One Piece", "Yu-Gi-Oh", "Digimon", "Detective Conan", "Initial D" and more.
But his latest and possibly biggest project to date is via his involvement with the Malaysian company, Kartun Studios founded by KRU Studios. Writing and directing "Ribbit", the new local animation following a frog with an identity crisis, the movie is set to make a leap for the local animation industry.
Cinema Online interview with Chuck Powers held at the premiere of "Ribbit" at TGV Cinemas 1 Utama.
Q: Tell us more about your work with "Ribbit", what was the production of the film like?
Chuck Powers: One of the best ways to do it is that you work with really talented people and then you get out of their way and let them do their jobs. Because my job as a director is to keep everyone motivated, it is like cheerleading, I get to pick the cheers but the cheerleaders will have to perform it. So it is the same with my staffs, animators and designers, I tell them what I want them to do and how I would like them to do it and I tried to keep everybody in a unify kind of direction, but in truth I actually have 250 people to thank for this movie, it is my idea but they executed it perfectly.
How long have you been working on this project?
Almost 5, but it was our first time doing it. One of the things along the way is that we needed to enlist the help of people like MDec who were vital in making something like this possible. Because from a financial point of view, the amount spent for this, probably have never been spent on a Malaysian movie before.
It is just the nature of animation, it is not an inexpensive process but we feel like we made something that can compete in the international market and the very fact that we got distributors in 80 nations who were putting it in theatres and not just putting it for DVD, so we feel that that's a pretty good justification that KRU and Kartun Studios have done a pretty good job on this.
Chuck Powers is the Chief Creative Officer of Kartun Studios.
What is the toughest challenge faced while making this movie?
I must say the toughest part of the film production was during the final year of the film because we have so much in place. We started to get into the serious side of rendering of the movie which is kind of technical and we needed massive amount of computer power to get the film rendered.
Even though we have a great partner like Crest Animation, we just don't have the kind of power necessary to make a film of this quality. The quality that you are going to see on screen is just as high, I mean we used the same level of animation pixels that are used by Pixar or Dream Works which requires tremendous and massive amount of computer rendering.
So, we ended up having to go to a company in Hong Kong and literally rent their render farm and that's why Norman mentioned that we also worked with companies in Hong Kong. They did the rendering for us. They get everything arranged and we ship our files there, and get them back to make sure they were right.
It was a long and complicated process and it certainly was part of the reason why the film took a longer time to finish. But in the long run, it was worth taking the extra time to make sure we got it right. That was what everybody wanted, it is our first film and we didn't want to stump and we didn't want to cut corners, we wanted to make the best movie we thought we could. I will say this, every dollar spent is definitely on the screen. You'll see it and I hope you enjoy it.
"Ribbit" is a story about a frog with an identity crisis.
Moving on, how do you feel about working together with the KRU Group of Companies?
It has been an honour working with KRU and to be a part of Kartun Studios. It has been a long path getting here, none of them would have been possible without Norman and his brothers.
The international production has been a wonderful experience for us, but don't doubt for a second that this isn't a Malaysian film, it was conceived, written, character designed, background designed, all the pre-production was done here in Malaysia.
Although we did partner with a team in India, half of the animation and all of the post-production was done here in Malaysia. We are lucky to be able to partner with a team that has more international experience and they certainly helped us over some rough spots and we learned a lot. From an overall perspective, we feel like we made a very special film and we're all pretty proud of it.
How did you and KRU start on "Ribbit"?
It happened 5 years ago, I got a call from one of Norman's top guys and they said Norman would like to talk to me. I was invited by Norman to have some talk in his office. To be honest, at first, I walked in not knowing what he wanted to talk about, I thought he wanted me to voice direct or something. Then, on January 2nd 2009, Norman called me and said he wanted me to write and direct "Ribbit".
Chuck Powers and Norman KRU have been working on "Ribbit" for 5 years.
Did you hesitate when Norman made his offer?
None whatsoever. Norman told me that he had an idea about this frog with an identity crisis. When he told me that, I said, that's an idea, that's an amazing concept we can work with that. So, I worked with a wonderful Malay writer by the name of Hafizi, he and I worked together on the script and I couldn't be happier with how the script came out, we went through like 15 drafts.
I mean it's not like you magically write it and its just perfect the first time you do it. Our designer Sandra Khoo is a Malaysian and works in the industry here. Also, our background designers and some other staffs they are all local people who we brought in to work on the movie. So it is very much a Malaysian production. I am just lucky enough to have been invited to kind of coordinate everything.
So what's next for you and Kartun Studios?
I am directing another movie and I am the also the Chief Creative Officer of their animation division. Currently, we have a slate of 3 animated series in various levels such as production, pre-production and also we have a slate of 5 movies coming up. So, my next decade is pretty much blocked out right now.
"Ribbit" is now showing in cinemas in Malaysia.
Cinema Online, 04 September 2014