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Peter Ramsey: 'Rise of the Guardians' Director on Serious Animation

Peter Ramsey: 'Rise of the Guardians' Director on Serious Animation | Animation News | Scoop.it

Ever wonder what Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman and Jack Frost do in their off hours when they're not spreading joy and merriment? Well, in the beautifully rendered, animated 3-D film Rise of the Guardians, which opens in theaters on Wednesday, all five join forces and become superheroes of sorts in order to keep the Boogeyman from invading the hearts and minds of children everywhere. It's based on the best-selling book series The Guardians of Childhood, by author and illustrator William Joyce.

This fun and fantastical romp through childhood lore and legend boasts a cast of big-name voiceover talent, including Alec Baldwin, Jude Law and Hugh Jackman. Guardians also marks the directorial film debut of Peter Ramsey, making him the first African American ever to helm a big-budget animated movie. It's a first, he admits, to which he didn't give much thought until he shared an article about the movie with his parents.

"It wasn't until my mom and dad read a little newspaper article about me and saw that line, 'first African American'," Ramsey told The Root. "And I looked up, and my dad had a tear in his eye, and I was like, Oh man, I guess this is a big deal."

Considering Ramsey's early work as a storyboard artist for major motion pictures -- he was an illustrator on A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Adaptation, Fight Club and How the Grinch Stole Christmas -- and that he is a self-proclaimed cartoon and comic-book geek, the move to animation would seem a natural progression. Not so, says the Los Angeles native.

"You know, it's funny. I was totally into live-action [film]," said Ramsey, who also served as a second-unit director on Godzilla, Tank Girl and on the John Singleton films Poetic Justice and Higher Learning. "That was my thing, that's where my career was, that's what I was intending on doing." That is, until he got an offer he couldn't refuse. Here, Ramsey shares with The Root his enthusiasm for animation, what makes Guardians unique and how he joined the League of Enchanted Adults.

The Root: What were some of your favorite animated films or television shows from childhood?

Peter Ramsey: Oh man, there are so many! One of my earliest memories is of seeing Disney's Snow White at the drive-in with my mom and dad, in my pajamas. I know the original Pinocchio. I watched all kinds of television [cartoons] from Hanna-Barbera and Looney Tunes to the Japanese type -- Gigantor, Speed Racer -- and any stop-motion stuff by Ray Harryhausen. I was big into comic books and science fiction. That stuff was my meat and potatoes.

TR: Rise of the Guardians has been described as a departure from the type of animated fare we've seen as of late. How so?

PR: It's part of a trend at DreamWorks that's actually been going on for the past few years. [Our studio] really became known for the Shrek movies and their irreverent humor. A lot of other studios began to imitate that style and retreading the same territory, with wisecracking characters joking about Twitter and mouthing the latest sayings of the day, like "AWK-ward."

[Consequently] we started to turn back to a more classic style of storytelling. We wanted to do something that was going to be more timeless and more about the story instead of topical jokes. We also wanted to take the characters seriously and not make them satirical, and take that idea of belief seriously and make our story about that, too.

TR: Those who work in animation seem to belong to an elite League of Enchanted Adults, enjoying an extended childhood and getting paid big bucks for it. How did you gain entrée?

PR: Lots of these guys -- Brad Bird and the Pixar guys and most of the guys at DreamWorks -- came up through animation, but I kind of stumbled into it. I worked with producer Aron Warner on Tank Girl. Later he ended up producing the Shrek movies, so he called me from DreamWorks and said, "You know what? I'm having a great time doing this. I think you should come check it out, it would be a really good opportunity for you to direct," which he knew I really wanted to do.

I took him up on his offer and kind of fell in love with the place and the possibilities. And Aron got them excited about me. They were looking for people who could bring a little bit of live-action feel but could also tell a story visually. It positioned me well to rise through the ranks there.

If these big CG films didn't exist, I don't think I would be doing anything having to do with animation, simply because I wasn't trained in animation. I've never been an animator. It's just a lucky fluke for me that the medium has kind of evolved in a way where the skills that someone who's worked in live action has are now really useful in creating an animated film.

TR: Most people are familiar with a director's role directing real people in live-action features, but how exactly do you direct for animation?

PR: Directing for animation is multitiered. I direct the actors on the vocal performances. We then take the vocal performances to the animators, whom I direct just as I would an actor giving a physical performance. The same goes for the sound people.

Guardians is almost a hybrid because a lot of it feels more like a live-action film -- just the way it's shot and the way some of the performances are -- but at the same time the characters are very animated. There's a lot of stuff, like the way Jack Frost kind of leaps and bounds around and the expressions of the Easter Bunny and Sand Man that you can only do in animation.

TR: What are some misconceptions that people have about how animated features are made?

PR: People don't realize how many people it takes to build everything you see on screen. Everything you see has to be created. Then people have to light that. There are dozens and dozens of people who light those sets, so it really is like a big crew of people building everything you see. The only difference in animation is that it extends to the characters, too, because the characters have to be designed and built and lit and all that stuff.

Julia Chance is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based journalist and the author of Sisterfriends: Portraits of Sisterly Love. Follow her on Twitter.

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Tom Hiddleston Is The Great Escapo In The Muppets... Again

Tom Hiddleston Is The Great Escapo In The Muppets... Again | Animation News | Scoop.it
Also, Dexter Fletcher will be joining in with Peter Serafinowicz.
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Watch A Full Action Scene From GI Joe: Retalliation

Watch A Full Action Scene From GI Joe: Retalliation | Animation News | Scoop.it
I think this sequel may have come off considerably better than the first film.
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Moonlighting Pixar Artists Announce First Video Game, Flyhunter

Moonlighting Pixar Artists Announce First Video Game, Flyhunter | Animation News | Scoop.it
The game where you play as a little Alien who has come to take our flies.
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Captain Action - The Animated Series

Captain Action - The Animated Series | Animation News | Scoop.it
These are images from the Captain Action animated series, currently in production. Captain Action, was a toyline in which the central figure could be dresse
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Monsters University Viral Tumblr - Excuse Me, Grumblr - Offers New Images And Video

Monsters University Viral Tumblr - Excuse Me, Grumblr - Offers New Images And Video | Animation News | Scoop.it
Apparently running off-radar since Boxing Day, there's a Monsters University viral Tumblr or, rather, Grumblr.
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In this Oscar-nominated short, a grim grandma turns "Sleeping Beauty" into a twisted tale

In this Oscar-nominated short, a grim grandma turns "Sleeping Beauty" into a twisted tale | Animation News | Scoop.it
In Nick Phelan's animated short Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty, Granny doesn't believe in telling children comforting tales with happily ever afters.
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'Teen Titans Go!' Returns As A Half-Hour Show On April 27

'Teen Titans Go!' Returns As A Half-Hour Show On April 27 | Animation News | Scoop.it
Good news for fans of the Teen Titans cartoon: After the success of the shorts on the DC Nation block, Cartoon Network has announced that
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Heisei Policemen!! Gag Comedy Manga Gets Web Anime

Heisei Policemen!! Gag Comedy Manga Gets Web Anime | Animation News | Scoop.it
So-He- Inaba's comedy manga revolves around young, odd policeman
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Disney Plan Live-Action Spin On Beauty And The Beast, While Emma Watson Decides Not To Be Cinderella

Disney Plan Live-Action Spin On Beauty And The Beast, While Emma Watson Decides Not To Be Cinderella | Animation News | Scoop.it
Two developments at Disney seem to have possible knock-on effects for Guillermo Del Toro.
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First Look At Mr. Go, Korea's Baseball Playing CG Gorilla

First Look At Mr. Go, Korea's Baseball Playing CG Gorilla | Animation News | Scoop.it
Mr. Go himself has been created with CG and the help of motion capture. He looks pretty good to me. I hope his film is up to snuff too.
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Three New Promo Videos For Monsters University

Three New Promo Videos For Monsters University | Animation News | Scoop.it
Dean Hardscrabble has another message for you, and then there's two new TV commercials looking to recruit students for Monsters University.
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Wow - A Very, Very Young Mike Wazowski Is Super Cute In This New Monsters University Trailer

Wow - A Very, Very Young Mike Wazowski Is Super Cute In This New Monsters University Trailer | Animation News | Scoop.it
Monsters Inc. was a Sully story but it seems like Monsters University is a Mike story.
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Co-Creator doesn't want Megan Fox to play April O'Neil

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Co-Creator doesn't want Megan Fox to play April O'Neil | Animation News | Scoop.it
A few weeks back Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle producer Michael Bay announced that Megan Fox would be joining the TMNT family. And everyone freaked out including Turtles co-creator Peter Laird.
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The Implausible Origin Of Turbo's Super Powers In His New, Full Length Trailer

The Implausible Origin Of Turbo's Super Powers In His New, Full Length Trailer | Animation News | Scoop.it
This film was co-written by Robert Siegel, screenwriter of The Wrestler and writer-director of Big Fan. Hopefully he'll have been able to elevate proceedings a little...?
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The Minions Return In A New Trailer For Despicable Me 2

The Minions Return In A New Trailer For Despicable Me 2 | Animation News | Scoop.it
With some tough competition coming from Monsters University and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, we'll have to wait and what Despicable Me 2 can do in the battle of the 2013 animation sequels when it's released this July.
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Tina Fey, Gonzo And Kermit's Evil Double Filming The Muppets... Again!

Tina Fey, Gonzo And Kermit's Evil Double Filming The Muppets... Again! | Animation News | Scoop.it
Gonzo gets his jumpsuit on.
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First Trailer For Teen Titans Go!

First Trailer For Teen Titans Go! | Animation News | Scoop.it
Teen Titans Go! looks to be just like New Teen Titans but with full-length episodes.
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We can only hope Frozen is half as lovely as these Snow Queen illustrations

We can only hope Frozen is half as lovely as these Snow Queen illustrations | Animation News | Scoop.it
We've only gotten a few glimpses of Disney's upcoming adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Frozen, but there are some truly lovely visuals in the film's concept art.
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Peter Serafinowicz Has A Role In The Muppets... Again!

Peter Serafinowicz Has A Role In The Muppets... Again! | Animation News | Scoop.it
Peter Serafinowicz is a comedian, actor and voiceover artist. In each of those roles he's probably best known for his twitter feed, Shaun of the Dead and as Darth Maul respectively.
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Jonas Venture battles the Scientology robot in a glorious new Venture Bros. trailer

Jonas Venture battles the Scientology robot in a glorious new Venture Bros. trailer | Animation News | Scoop.it
Yes, ladies and clones, The Venture Bros. is really coming back! Adult Swim has finally confirmed the date when we can once again revel in the triumphs and hilarious failures of Rusty and the gang.
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George Lucas Is Working On A San Francisco Based Comic, Illustration And Animation Museum

George Lucas Is Working On A San Francisco Based Comic, Illustration And Animation Museum | Animation News | Scoop.it
Director George Lucas may have largely turned over the fate of his Star Wars franchise to other hands following the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney
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When Bryan Singer Convinced Me That Apocalypse Is The Villain Of X-Men: Days Of Future Past

When Bryan Singer Convinced Me That Apocalypse Is The Villain Of X-Men: Days Of Future Past | Animation News | Scoop.it
Apocalypse soon. In Days of Future Past, in fact. At least... I think so...
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Jem’s adventure with the Yeti and the magic bongos was truly outrageous

Jem’s adventure with the Yeti and the magic bongos was truly outrageous | Animation News | Scoop.it
The Oxford definition of the word "outrageous" lists two meanings: "shockingly bad or excessive" and "wildly exaggerated or improbable." I'd say both of those apply to the Jem and the Holograms episode "Journey to Shangri-La," in which Jem nearly ...
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Rumour: Disney Preparing Animated Version Of Rumplestiltskin Called The Name Game

Rumour: Disney Preparing Animated Version Of Rumplestiltskin Called The Name Game | Animation News | Scoop.it
From Ron and John, the directors of The Princess and the Frog and The Little Mermaid.
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