Elaine Bogan is an animator and the director of DreamWorks Animation’s new film, Spirit Untamed. Read more about the process of making the movie here.
I remember how struck I used to be by live-action shows or movies that incorporated stop-motion animation. Especially as a young kid, when I was watching a show or a movie, and suddenly there was an animated character that ran into frame, it was so incredibly exciting—because that’s what was happening in my own head. I was imagining my toys coming to life and running around and causing chaos. It was like an actual visual representation of a kid’s imagination, and that blew my mind.
I always think of my favorite shows when I was a kid: Pee-wee’s Playhouse and Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, which incorporated humans and puppets in such an integrated way. They felt like places you could actually go to or characters that you could meet in real life, and it was something that helped me continue that weird surrealist imagination. Probably for a little too long in life and maybe that’s why I’m here animating.
The storytelling in this film really struck me as honest and brave with an incredible sense of imagination. It spoke to me about children using their imagination to deal with or escape from some harsh realities happening in their lives. This is something we all do sometimes, but not something we see onscreen all too often.
The magic of scenes that incorporated sudden stop-motion within live-action really excited me. It felt like a perfect representation of what happens in a child’s mind and imagination all the time. The surreal became something attainable and believable to me as a kid.
The artistry involved in the making of this film made me really start to question how animation was made. It’s an incredible execution of art, design, imagination, story, animation, music, color and every aspect of filmmaking.
Adding extremely cartoon elements and style into a live-action movie became a tone I had never quite seen before and continued to open up the possibilities of imagination for visuals and storytelling. I no longer thought about movies as strictly live-action or strictly animation.
Not only was I overjoyed to watch a classically animated movie executed so beautifully, but from a storyteller’s perspective, I remember this movie stunning me with how much emotion was evoked by a robotic character made of metal who spoke very little words.