Enchanted had a script, a champion at Disney that pushed it through a green light, and legendary composers lining up to write for the project’s damsel in distress! But what was she going to look like, and where would her story take us, the audience? Jeremie Noyer speaks with character designer Harald Siepermann, hand picked by director Kevin Lima to design his heroine, and storyboard artist Troy Quane, who came on board to shape the story with the director.
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Harald Siepermann: Designing Women
He’s one of Enchanted‘s character designers. His name’s Harald Siepermann. We owe him the design of many characters, and especially many Disney characters, be it in Mulan, Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove (at the time when it was still Kingdom in the Sun), Treasure Planet or Brother Bear. But how did a German artist get to become one of Hollywood’s greatest character designers? Simply because there’s no business like show business!
In fact, Harald started illustrating at the university in Essen, Germany. His true love always was film, even when he was a kid. The Jungle Book was the first movie he saw. He met some people at the university who were also very interested in animation and together they started to work for advertising agencies, as storyboarders. They were lucky to work together for Richard Williams, who was animating some of the commercials that they had been storyboarding for German television. So, when the time for Who Framed Roger Rabbit came, he asked a couple of friends and him if they would like to join. They started out first as character designers on Roger Rabbit and then were on to do some storyboards in Los Angeles for Toon Town, the only sequence when Eddie Valiant is in a cartoon. From there on, Harald had one foot at the door at Disney and one foot at the door at Spielberg’s. And at the same time, he was doing some comic strips in Germany that became a TV series about a duck called Alfred J. Kwak.
Since then, he’s been a freelancer, and whenever there is an opportunity, and Disney has something for him to do, they call Harald to design of their characters. And that’s just how it happened on Enchanted…
Harald Siepermann: Well, Tarzan was the main thing, so to speak, which I have done for Disney so far because back on Tarzan they asked me to do the entire design for the film. So, I did basically all the characters except Tarzan, who was animated by Glen Keane, and I sort of set the visual style for all the other characters, too.
AV: You also worked on a lot of gorillas!
HS: I had done some warriors for Mulan, really some minor character work, which the directors of Tarzan saw and they thought that those warriors had something that they were looking for in the gorillas. So, they asked me to start off with the gorillas. Apparently, I had a hand in getting character and personality into those characters who are basically looking all the same. But there is much you can work with on gorillas. They don’t have hats or tools or funny shirts or whatever. They basically look all the same. We had the same problems on Brother Bear. We had a bunch of bears. And in the first draft or The Emperor’s New Groove, we had a lot of lamas. So, I helped out designing all these characters.
AV: Speaking of character design and personality, you seem to have a particular admiration for Disney Legend Milt Kahl.
HS: He’s of course the ultimate animator. He’s the animators’ animator. I mean, I worshiped him even before I knew his name! That’s the guy who kind of invented the Disney style. So, even as a kid, without knowing who he was, I started to copy. But I’m not an animator. I wish I was, but I’m not. I never really had the time or the opportunity to really learn animation.
AV: Can you tell me about your relationship with Hans Bacher, who seems to be also important in your career?
HS: Yes! Very much. I met Hans as a teacher when I was at the university. Hans was one of those guys who were asked to work on Roger Rabbit. He was introduced to me as a teacher. My professor actually said: “You got to meet Hans Bacher”. So we were introduced, he was a teacher and then we became friends rather quickly. We started to do first jobs together. We worked for television and commercials and then we both went on to work on Roger Rabbit. It was the perfect match because Hans is more into the production design side of animation and I’m more into the character side. So, we really did a lot of stuff together. And as a matter for fact, we worked on the comic strip together. I did all the characters and storytelling and Hans did all the colors and the backgrounds. He’s a genius for that!
HS: Same thing. Andreas left the school when I came in. So we just briefly met the university and then Andreas stayed in touch with Hans who had been Andreas’ teacher and friend at the art school. So, every year or something, around Christmas, when Andreas came to see his parents, he also came back to see us and we went out for a drink or whatever. Then, we really started to see each other again when I was at Disney working for Mulan and Tarzan. I think the only time when we worked together was on The Emperor’s New Groove, that very first draft when Andreas was still supposed to animate Yzma. And he asked me for a kind of a second opinion on Yzma in order to make her go away from Cruella. So, we sat down together a couple of times and designed the first version of Yzma. He’s a very good friend and we see each other regularly. He was here last year to give a talk at the animation awards here in Hamburg, which I helped to organize. Quite interesting!
AV: How did you come to specialize in the character-design aspect of animation?
HS: To tell the truth, I have no idea! I seem to have a natural talent for character. I always did that, even when I was a kid. When I was like four or five years old, I used to copy things that had seen on television. There wasn’t that much television back then, but there were some kind of children’s shows and I took the characters and invented new stories for them and stuff like that. Even when you look at my drawings as a kid, I never drew cars or houses or spaceships or whatever. It was always characters and people and animals and stuff like that.
HS: I worked together with Dick Zondag on The Snow Queen. I’ve known him since Balto, actually, which we did for Steven Spielberg animation. When the time came for The Snow Queen, they gave me call and then I did some first design based on a young Meryl Streep kind of character. Unluckily, the project was canceled because Disney didn’t want to go into fairytales anymore at that time. They said that they wanted something wise, witty and more modern, because at that time, you know, everybody said that the Disney formula was dead and nobody wanted to see princesses and stuff like that. So, that project was canceled, sadly. But I spent a couple of weeks on some Queens, trying different levels of caricature on her, some more cartoony, others less.
AV: And there’s also Fraidy Cat, that seems really interesting!
HS: That’s still a favorite of mine. It was a very witty story, like Disney-meets-Hitchcock. They did some very nice designs, I think, and the development was very promising, but it was full of Hitchcock references and at one point, Roy Disney pulled the plug of the project because it was a filmmaker’s movie, not the general Disney audience. A lot of kids would not have gotten all the jokes and the references to Hitchcock. So, it wasn’t what he thought a Disney story should be. So, they pulled the plug on it, which was sad because it was a very funny story. But on a certain level he was right. It was for grown-ups. And the cat that I did later somehow turned out in Lorenzo! When I saw Lorenzo, I saw a lot of references to one of the cats that I had done for Fraidy Cat. That’s just the Disney way of going through the archives and looking for what’s there, you know.
AV: How and when did you come on to Enchanted?
HS: Well, I had worked with Kevin Lima, who was one of the directors on Tarzan and he gave me a call two years ago and asked me if I was interested to work on Enchanted. I think the lucky thing was that Enchanted was done on a live-action budget, with a live-action production. It’s not one of those productions where the crews are already there. So, Kevin had to build his crew from scratch. James Baxter was going to animate it, not at the Disney house. So, before he was going to James Baxter, he wanted to have some visual development which he could show to James. He asked me to spend a couple of weeks with him but I never went to America for that. I just came up with some first ideas and some basic visual development for Enchanted.
AV: What kind of material did you have to draw your inspiration from?
HS: Kevin gave me his first ideas. Because the main characters would spend some time in New York, there would be a lot of vertical and straight lines. So he wanted the fairy tale country to be very round and curvy and flower-like, without straight lines. That was kind of a visual guide that I had. Then, I saw screen tests of Amy Adams and James Marsden. I immediately thought of the work of Alphonse Mucha. That immediately came to my mind, along with the work of Maxfield Parrish. I remember Googling together with Kevin Lima through the work of Mucha and pick out some things that we’d like. “This would work for Giselle” and “we should make her look like that”, and then I made my first sketches based on those works and on Romanticism and Art Nouveau sculptures and paintings.
HS: First of all, we kept the hair, the very long hair and we kept the way that Mucha draws hair, more like waves. We also tried to incorporate that to the animals and the flowers. Then, we knew, storywise, that she would have two dresses. There would be one dress when she’s Giselle and one bridal gown when she’s the bride. So, we tried to put those two dresses as far apart from each other as possible. There’s one slim dress which is her normal dress which is her normal dress, which is straight down and then there is the bridal things which is very puffy and big, with huge shoulders. That’s just the way you try to keep things apart from each other and make them visually interesting, so the audience know this is the one dress and this is the other dress, this is fairytale country and this is New York. And of course we based her on all the Disney princesses, rather on what people think the Disney princess looks like. There is also one thing I should tell you about: when I was a kid, on German television, there were a lot Czechoslovakian fairytales. They were very good in doing live-action fairytales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and stuff like that. And they had very rich costumes; they spent a lot of money on costumes and the sets. Luckily enough, all those things are now out on DVD. So, I got those DVDs and I had a look at them again. They had the most beautiful princesses, the most beautiful actresses playing the princess and that was a big inspiration for me on Giselle and also on the Prince.
HS: Prince Edward of course is the generic Disney prince and he’s more like a caricature of Prince Philip. We tried to find a visual relationship between him and Giselle and that became the puffy shoulders. They both have those puffy shoulders so they look similar, so you know that they belong to each other.
AV: Did you work on Narissa?
HS: No, I didn’t. I just did a couple of first sketches. When I worked on Enchanted, that was still very much at the beginning of the movie and there was a different actress mentioned for Narissa. Disney had somebody else in mind but she hadn’t committed yet. So, there was not much sense in doing her then because we didn’t know if she would – and she didn’t. So, we kept pushing her for later and then we didn’t get around anymore.
AV: What about the creation of Pip?
HS: Pip is the basic chipmunk, right? I don’t think I spent too much time on him, maybe a day or two. It was just a way to do a nice, generic chipmunk with a personality. Something familiar, but new. Somebody that people except, so they understand and communicate, but at the same time you have to give them something new, a new approach.
AV: You also designed all the animals of the animated sequence of Enchanted. How did you find a way of designing them in the Art Nouveau style?
HS: I was lucky enough to find some illustrations with decorated sort of pages with animals like squirrels and birds and things like that. So, I basically copied their way of doing feathers and fur, you know, with this strong outline, very 2D-like and I tried to meet that with the Disney style and turn them into Disney-like. So, I kind of mixed the two styles and I just spent a couple of days doing all kinds of animals that way and make them look more like sculptures than like real animals.
AV: Is it complicated for a German artist to work with America?
HS: Not so much. You see, Disney people come from all over the world and when you’re in a room having a meeting, there are never two people with you from the same country! It was more complicated when I started out, like in 1994 when there was no internet. In fact, there was an internet but nobody trusted it and they were reluctant to send stuff that way. Now, with the internet, there is no time difference. You can send things real time and you don’t have to fax it anymore, like I did on Treasure Planet. I remember I had to fax hours and hours of drawings, with very bad quality, of course. That’s gone, and now it’s very easy. Actually, I don’t have to leave my office anymore to work for America, which is just great. I think it’s only possible for character design because if I was there, I would have a meeting a week, and I don’t have to be there on a daily basis like you would have to be if you were a storyboarder or a production designer or whatever. Anyway, we would pitch myself only once a week and it doesn’t really matter if you do that via internet or in person.
AV: What kind of memories will you keep from your experience on Enchanted?
HS: I very much appreciated it. The high quality and the clear vision of Kevin Lima’s work, the clear vision that he had when he started on the movie. I’m not going to tell what it was, but I was working on another movie before that and I really missed that because nobody knew what to do, what he was doing.
Then, Enchanted started and it was a great relief because everybody knew what Kevin was looking for. I was very much pleased and I can’t tell you how how much pleased I was with what James Baxter did with the first sketches and how he turned them into the animation. It was exactly what I was looking for. I was very pleased with the final movie. I met the guys in Munich when they were on the press tour and I had the opportunity to hook up with some of the actors and Alan Menken, and Kevin of course. That was great! Enchanted was just a lucky project from start to finish, a very pleasant walk-through. There were no problems, no disappointments, everything turned out right. It was very short, very quick, but it was very pleasant!
AV: Do you have any further projects with Disney?
HS: Yes, I’m working on a couple of projects for them again, but that’s the only thing that I can say. At the same time, I’m working on some projects of my own. There is a TV series for kids where we are trying to say something about global warming and stuff like that, as we did with the Duck series that I have done before. We are very busy with the Duck again since he’s become a UNICEF ambassador and we’re doing a lot of charity work, especially now in South Africa where we’re trying to raise money for an AIDS hospital where the people can come for free. We made some books with the Duck for that project telling a story about children and AIDS that they can talk in schools about. That’s a very rewarding work. Not financially rewarding but it’s great when you finally see that you can make things happen!
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Troy Quane: Chairman Of The Boards
An animator and a story artist, Troy’s no stranger to the world of Disney since he animated some of the Mouse’s greatest characters for Walt Disney Television Animation Canada, a studio he joined just as it opened. He’s also worked for different studios such as Nelvana (Max & Ruby) and Yowza Animation (Osmosis Jones, Spongebob Squarepants, 101 Dalmatians II), before stepping into 3D animation at CORE Feature Animation on The Wild. It is then that he decided to go into story and that’s how he became one of Kevin Lima’s key collaborators on Enchanted.
Troy Quane: Well, Toronto is a very small city and one of the people that were doing the hiring for the new Disney studio was someone that I had known from the past. So, they gave me a call up, I went for an interview and I got the job. Nothing too fancy about that. But, as far as the experience of working for a brand-new studio, it was fantastic! It was my first, real, large-scale job in animation so, for me, it was a fantastic experience getting to work there. We were doing a lot of direct-to-video, so we were going to work on all the classic Disney characters. That early in your career, that was very exciting. That was a lot of fun and I learned a great deal! The first project we worked on there was Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. So I did a lot of work on both Belle and the Beast. That was fun. It was one of my favorite films, so that was great. It was a good experience. At least, frustrating as it is with every small studio starting up, there’s always growing pains but everyone worked together very well.
AV: Can you tell me about the different Disney characters you animated back then?
TQ: I started off with Belle and Beast, I worked on Pocahontas and John Rolfe, which was a new character in Pocahontas II, I worked on Mickey Mouse, which was a pretty big thrill, and on Daisy Duck and Donald Duck, Goofy as well as Ludwig Von Drake, which I think is probably my most favorite character that I’ve animated. He was fantastic so, that was fun. We did a couple of Ludwig Von Drake shorts. I also did Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Piglet.
AV: How did you approach these classic characters?
TQ: When you’re working on characters that people recognize, they’re so well-known that people just know when they’re not working right. Take for example Mickey Mouse. He’s probably one of the simplest characters in design but one of the definitely most difficult to animate, to draw! So, we would go back to the originals and do our best to match as closely to that as possible and, of course, updating them in trying to adapt them for the newer audiences which tend to be a little more fast-paced.
So, yes, definitely, we did a lot of research to make sure we had the right nuance just like you would when you’re working with a real actor. You would watch some of his past performances to try and get his personality that makes that character unique. In order to do that, we, for the most part, would work from video. I mean, animators are huge geeks and we love to collect as much as those stuff as possible. So, we would go back to old VHS tapes and things we had like that. A lot of the time, Disney Feature Animation allowed us to look at some of their old material and they would send us photocopies of animation material when they could. So, most of the time, we would have copies of them with their model sheets and we watched a lot of VHS tapes of the original animation so you can get the actual movement.
AV: You worked on both feature films and animated TV series. What are the main differences between the two in the way of working?
TQ: The biggest difference is usually schedule, which is directly related to budget. Apart from that, it’s all the same, aspects are the same, the physics are the same, you’re doing the same amount of drawings but usually you’re working under a much more highly-pressed schedule and time lines on series. So, you don’t have as much time available to you. You’re trying to do the best job you can within the time alloted whereas on features you’re given a much greater amount time to do the same amount of work. That’s why you see the quality difference. On a feature, you can keep working it over and over until it looks just right, until they like it. On a series, you do it until it’s good enough, you know. “It’s not wrong. It looks good. Let’s move on to the next scene!”
TQ: It was pretty amazing getting to meet him. We didn’t actually have a lot of hands on work with Don himself. A lot of the directing was done sort of behind the scenes. Most of contact was with his lead animators like Len Simon and Troy Saliba. We did a lot more dealing with them. I think they were given more of the task of dealing with the studio I was working whereas Don worked more on hand with his in-house crew. But when we first started that film, myself and the studio owners I was working with were down to Fox for a week, just to sort of get into the project and meet the animators. So, we met Don briefly, and it was, really. We also got to meet Gary Goldman. Gary did most of the interacting between our studio and Fox as a producer.
AV: Was there any difference in the way of approaching animation between Disney and Don Bluth – who started at Disney?
TQ: A huge, huge difference in how they work! I mean, at Disney, you animate in whatever medium you want. If you want to use a big black pencil or a red pencil or a blue pencil, whatever you want, you do you animation and it would then go to the clean-up department who would put a sheet of paper over it and work on your drawing from there, which would keep your original animation intact. The method Don chose to use was that every animation had to use a certain type of blue pencil and work extremely clean. Then the clean-up crew and the in-between crew would actually rub down your original animation drawings and clean up right on your original drawing. So, if a mistake was made, you know, that was it, the animation was gone. That would become a pretty stressful situation, because sometimes you’d do some animation that would go away to be cleaned-up and things have been changed and there was no going back to original animation. You have to re-animate it. So, that was an uninteresting way of working but that was their system.
AV: With The Wild, you came from animation to story. How did that happen?
TQ: Well, actually was a huge film on a number of levels because I went from pencil and paper, like tradition animation. Originally, I was hired on the The Wild as a 3D animator. I was hired at CORE, who was the studio who was doing the animation for Disney on this movie. So, my first instinct to go on The Wild was just that, because computer animation was becoming so popular with Pixar and everything, I figured that I should move into that area, you know. The traditional animation arena was getting very small. And then, we were about a year into The Wild and Disney was getting worried, concerned with how the story starting to shape up for the film. So, they decided to go and re-work the story.
You know, I’ve always been fairly open with my critique of the project that I was working on. On animation, that has always been my frustration: by the time you get your scene to animation, all the story points are locked in. So, there were times when I’d be animating and think: “oh, it would great if we could do this! It’d be be if the character would actually do something different” But at that point, you were already locked down to what the story team had done. On The Wild, I would talk with the producer and say: “it would be great if we could do this or do that”. So, when they came around to wanting to re-work the story, the producer said: “listen, we’ve got this guy. He can draw because he’s one of our animators and he’s got a lot of ideas on the film as far as an animator. Maybe you would like to consider him when you’re going to go with your story crew”. At that point Kevin Lima was brought on to help re-work the story. So, I ended up meeting with Kevin and sat in a couple of story meetings. He ended up liking my ideas and he decided to give me a try on story.
AV: What are the ideas of yours that were retained in the final film?
TQ: There was a couple of characters in there, a mother character and a sister character, who were wonderful characters but the way the story was being locked in, they were taking us off point as far as the story went. So, what I suggested was just to streamline them out. And also, originally in The Wild, Benny, the squirrel-friend of Samson’s, was left back at the zoo, as the other characters went off looking for his son, and I felt that, if my best friend would suddenly be missing, I would hard-pressed to be left behind. I would probably want to go with him as much as possible. So, that was another sort of story point of mine, that Benny should keep with Samson on his journey, even if they eventually get separated. You know, at that point, we had to readjust the story within certain parameters because a lot of animation had already been locked in and Disney wasn’t willing at that point to go back and re-open the budget and the timeline to re-animate certain sections. So we had to really be careful about our story fixes to work within that pre-existing structure, which made it a very tricky job! So, we wanted Benny to go with them on the journey but because there was pre-existing animation that didn’t allow for him to be in a scene, we decided to have him knocked off the garbage truck and then come back with the geese later on.
AV: And your collaboration with Kevin Lima went on with Enchanted!
TQ: Enchanted has definitely been the best experience and the best project I’m proud to have my name on, for sure. As I mentioned, Disney brought on Kevin help fix the story up on The Wild. So, when we went back to retool the story, it was myself and Kevin and two writers who spent a lot of time – five months actually, really six days a week, 14 hours a day – to rewrite the story in a very short amount of time. So, we built up a very good working relationship. You know, as a story artist, you’re always trying to getting ahead of the directors, sort of give them what they want. With Kevin, it seems on The Wild that we tended to share a lot of ideas, very similarly. So, it was a very easy working relationship. So, after The Wild, Disney was really thrilled about the changes we made and Kevin ended up signing on to direct Enchanted. And because of our working relationship on The Wild and how well we worked together, he brought me on to Enchanted to help storyboard it.
AV: What was exactly your role on Enchanted, because you got different credits on it?
TQ: My official title was Storyboard Supervisor. Conceptual Consultant was sort of the title I was under to begin with because they didn’t really have a position that would cover everything I was doing on that project since I had my hands in a number of different areas. So, I was brought very early on Enchanted. We did a lot of story development, story work. I helped do a lot of conceptual design that went on to James Baxter who did the final design. That’s sort of how I got onto Enchanted.
TQ: It depended on certain things. For example, the character of Pip that I ended up developing and design, and then James went over and tied it up. Pip is pretty much the design that I came up with when working on story design. So, that was completely from scratch. The troll came from one of Harald’s designs. He did a ton of designs and the troll is one of the characters he had been working on. So we took his character and extrapolated from there. It was very much a team sport. Harald did a lot of animals as well that James ended up developing from that point. Once James came on, once we hit upon a style idea of going with a kind of Art Nouveau style, James really took the reins as far as the final look of the design on characters and animals.
AV: How did you work with Kevin Lima on story?
TQ: First of all, Kevin is an amazing director. He has a way of taking material and elevating it beyond what you would expect it to be. He demands a lot from the people who work with him and you learn very quickly to sort of thicken your skin and just know that it’s gonna be a lot of working and re-working. Like I said on The Wild, it wasn’t overly hard to get into his head because for whatever reason we have a very similar way of looking at story and how to tell a story. On Enchanted, as opposed to something like Shrek which has a very cynical look at fairytale, we both have a huge love for Disney and classic Disney animation. So, we were both on the same page very quickly as to the fact that Enchanted wasn’t cynical. We weren’t making fun of the Disney classics. This was more of a love letter to them, you know. It’s not about making fun; it’s about, you know, paying homage to classic Disney and showing how much we loved those growing up and till this day.
You know, Enchanted has been a project that’s been around for a while. It’s been through a lot of variations. I think it needed someone like Kevin who had a love for the material and a talent for bringing all these elements together. It was always a very fine line we walked: “is this becoming too cynical? Are we making fun of this, now?” I think it really needed someone of Kevin’s convictions to pull it off properly. So, that made it a lot easier that we sort of were instantly on the same track. We had a very good relationship where we really talked and communicate well. At first, it’s always tricky to try to get into exactly what he’s looking for, but the more we were spending some time working on it, the easier.
The biggest problem, I think, was working on the animated opening. One of my biggest concern was to really nail down that opening because that really gives you the rules if this world. Even when we’re going to New York, these are the rules that these characters live by and that translates very directly to New York when they get to be real people.
AV: You storyboarded the animated opening, but also some live-action scenes. Can you tell me about all that?
TQ: Yes, I did 95% of the animation parts in the film. There had been a lot of talents working on that: the Brizzis, Derek Gogol and Joe Haidar, who did some fantastic work, but as the story progressed, we arranged, we had to rearrange things for budget and schedule and everything, and a lot of their work was not getting incorporated but they gave a good platform. One of the big scenes I did is the one in the kitchen where Nathaniel is talking to the Queen in the soup bowl. Originally, he was talking to the Queen in a toilet bowl but then Disney felt that that was going the wrong way and we moved it to the kitchen.
Basically, everywhere that Pip shows up, I was really focused on those aspects of the story because Pip is a character that doesn’t exist. He was added in later by Tippett Studios. So, Kevin really wanted to clearly set up Pip’s performance and character work in those sections so that he could be very specific with the actors as to what Pip was doing, and the camera crew as well. So, all the sequences that Pip was highly involved in are sequences that I was really key-ly involved with as far as storyboarding out.
And then the ending, the finale with the dragon, from the moment where Narissa turns into the dragon up to, you know, the final cut between Giselle and Robert: I did a lot of storyboard with that. I also worked with Tom Schelesny, the FX lead at Tippett. In New York, the art department had a scale model of the Woolworth Building. We had little action figures and a lipstick camera and we actually shot a really primitive sort of work of how we saw that. A lot of that came to be quite accurate of how the film finally finished actually.
TQ: In some regard, yes. The animation boards have a lot more performance-based posing in them. As animation does, you need that as a guideline for the animators to follow. And for the live-action board, you have your actors there. So, you’re not going to try and draw what they’re gonna eventually bring to their performance. Actually, I was very specific in the performance I would put in my board. I just wouldn’t elaborate with a number of poses for them. I came to find that Kevin likes to use the boarding in live-action more than other directors. A lot of directors would mark up the script with a bunch of little notes to themselves on how they were looking for performance and Kevin tended, I think from his animation background, to use storyboard panels in the same way. So, I would give very specific emotion but I wouldn’t pose out the character work as much because the actors would eventually give their own performance based on that.
AV: How did you “plus” the original script?
TQ: Our hands were tied with the script and I have to give credit to Bill Kelly, the scriptwriter on the film, who was fantastic. He was very open to collaboration. Especially because he’s not an animation writer – he’s a live-action writer – so he was not necessarily used to the process that you use in animation, of re-writing the script as you’re boarding it. But he was actually with us as far as I went. We would take the script as sort of our springboard and jump off from there. So, as new ideas came up, different gags or different settings, we would freely re-work the visual board in order to tell that aspect of the story. I have to give credit to Kevin as well. He is very open to new ideas and different takes on the material. In the end he knows it’s gonna be his final say, but he’s very open to having as many options brought to the table as possible to give the best story that you can come up with. I think that’s a huge compliment to him because there’s a lot of directors who don’t necessarily want that, who are intimidated by that. But he’s more of an open director and he always seems to make the right choice on how to combine everything.
Another huge part of that, in this collaborative building process, was for the True Love’s Kiss song. As we were boarding it, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz were composing that. So, we did a lot of back and forth work with them as well and they brought different variations of that song. We would board that and see how it was playing, and if the message was coming across the way we wanted it to. And when something wasn’t quite working, they would go back and adapt the song. They were very accommodating as well. For example, in one of the first versions of that song, Prince Edward had a whole part that had been cut. He used to sing huge sections of the song. So, they were very easy to work with as far as when we said: “because of the timing, we can’t get this in. And it’s taking us off point” since they were very accommodating to sort of help us by reworking the song as we were working the visuals.
AV: What would be the addition you brought to the script that you’re the most proud of?
TQ: Boy, it’s hard to say because it was such a process throughout. I’m really happy with so many little things, little touches like new lines of dialogue that Kevin would keep in. Mostly in the animated opening, Kevin was very open to how we would change the storytelling around, how we had to compress certain storytelling elements. There was a scene with Prince Edward and the Queen that he really liked, that we really had to remove for time issues. I ended up rewriting the whole section with Nathaniel and the Queen at the edge of the well right before Narissa pushes Giselle. He was really good about keeping that pretty much the way I played it out. Be it Kevin or Bill, everyone worked very well together. A lot of the ego was left at the door. If there were a new piece of dialogue that came up that worked, Bill would leave it. He was very generous leaving all those little bits if they worked.
AV: What kind of relationship did you personally build with the characters of Enchanted?
TQ: You’re spending some many months or years of your life living with these characters that you get very protective of them and even proud of them, like Giselle, for instance, since she’s this wonderful innocent sort of character at the beginning and for me, it was very important that they keep that innocence, that bright-eye look at the world without being silly, if you see what I mean. Because that would have been very easy to translate into that direction. So, you know, one thing I was always protective of was making sure that she never came across like she was dumb, so that people would be laughing at her. And you become also proud of her, especially through what Amy Adams brought to the performance. She just captured wonderfully the nuance in her gesture as she comes to a more realized and three-dimensional. So, you sort of feel very protective in that way.
In the case of Robert, in some way he’s a tragic character. He’s a character that has been hurt by love. He wants to believe, he wants to allow himself to fall into it, but at the same time, he’s been hurt so badly that he sort of built this wall to protect himself. So, at the same time, you wanted to make sure that people feel that pain, that fear, really. It’s what is at the heart of this character as opposed to just being cold and sort of flat. And then, the same thing with Edward, James’ character. He doesn’t stand up to be a lot of comic relief in it but you want to be to from place of sincerity as opposed to, once again, being a dummy. It’s a tricky ending because you have these two great male characters, who are both good people and who are both in love with the same woman, and there’s someone who’s got to loose. How do you take care of Edward in a way that he’s not just sacrificed by the situation but so that he’d find what he was looking for in the end as well, in an unexpected place and in an unexpected way. So, yes, you can become very protective that way. You come to relate to them very closely. And we you see people try to take these characters and treat them a different way, you get very defensive and you really stand up and fight for them! In that regard, casting was everything. I think, they all have those elements in their performance and that’s what makes it so successful!
AV: What will you keep from your experience on Enchanted, and what will be your next “once upon a time”?
TQ: First of all, I’ll keep with me a group of friends and collaborators that hopefully we all be friends and collaborators throughout the rest of our career. We had such a great crew! We all got along so well and loved each other and loved the film so much that, I think, it shows in how the final film came together. There’s a lot of relationship we built on that. So, definitely, that would be part of it. And working with Kevin, I learned just huge amounts of storytelling knowledge, just from him, watching him taking his notes and seeing how he looks at each piece of material. He has a way of taking what can sometimes be a very simple piece of material and elevating it beyond what it was originally meant to be and sort of adding a layer of meaning to something that seemed very ordinary. So, that’s something now in my work and that I look for. How can I raise above what the basic expectation is? So, that’s definitely something I’ve taken with me and will continue to apply in the future.
As far as the future, there’s always a number of things going on. The writers’ strike definitely slowed things down for a lot of us. So, it’s hard to say. I’m actually working on boarding a series for Disney and got a couple of projects in the wing of the possible… It’s funny. Before Enchanted was out, it was like: “oh, you’re a storyboard supervisor on Enchanted? That’s great.” Now that Enchanted came out, that people saw it and sort of fall in love with it, it definitely: “Oh, Enchanted? My goodness! I loved that film!” Now, people are aware of how good it is and so, I think, that’s gonna have some impact on how things will go in the months to come.
Our special appreciation to Harald Siepermann. All artwork ©Disney, reproduced by permission, with our gratitude.
Our special appreciation to Troy Quane. All artwork ©Disney, courtesy of Troy Quane, with our gratitude.