Friday, May 18, 2007

The History of Lucky — Part 5

Our benefactor was very excited to hear of the decision to produce Lucky as Legacy’s first short. “I love Lucky, and it has great character potential!” She wrote in an email. “Personally I love the inanimate characters (such as clovers)- but then I am a puppeteer!”

Our agreement with her was to complete the preproduction in six weeks — at the end of that time we would have initial visual development and a story reel put together. Our crew was small due to the budget. John Hurst was the first animator I brought in and I cannot say enough about how talented he is. His character designs helped to set the standard for the show and his enthusiasm the spirit of our endeavor. John was having fun and that’s why we all got into animation in the first point.

Kellie Lewis did some character designs from her studio in Ohio. Rusty Stoll contributed to clean up designs. And Broose Johnson contributed to story.

I was reluctant to ask people to work without pay (as there was another animator in town who was infamous for this) however there were some who rose to the occasion and contributed work pro bono. I think some of them realized it was an investment in our cause. Seung Kim created some amazing cg models of Victorian homes. Joe Sandstrom also created some cg models and sets. Dan Gracey contributed some beautiful clean-up of one of our characters.

But some of us were too distracted by the press attention of Legacy to do much on the show. David Nethery spent most of his time chasing down leads on animation jobs for the studio— putting together budgets and estimates (and learning on the job I might add). I was bombarded by the media asking for interviews and especially my opinion on the Roy Disney war against Eisner and the Disney board of directors. I had no interest in getting into the politics of the big boys and turned down most of the requests (although one local reporter virtually stalked me, calling my home constantly and hanging around in the hotel lobby waiting for me to show up. I never used that entrance.).

Soon we realized that the distractions were keeping us from our original goal of making a short, so we decided to go back to “plan A” and devote our resources to Lucky. Besides, most of the leads we were getting were from people who want everything for free.We told our benefactor of our new focus.

“I agree with you in getting back to Plan A.” she responded. “Please think about Plan A, Lucky, as your priority. It sounds like *****, *****, and the likes are just wasting your time. Believe that you are financially secure to create Lucky, please go forth. Please feel confident that I am eager to put more backing behind this company as things solidify. Please don't feel "this production can't afford ______".

With new confidence we blazed forward. We started a production blog — a virtual “fishbowl” (like the one we once had at the Disney-MGM Studios) where the world could watch our progress. We didn’t have money for marketing so it was our decision to make the best of the attention we were receiving. None of the big studios used the web like this in 2004. This was before Peter Jackson’s video production blog on King Kong or Pixar’s podcasts on Cars and Ratatouille. The web had great potential as tool for guerilla marketing.

Our benefactor reacted very favorably to the blog at first:

“The Lucky notes on the animation production site look great. I love reading the various artists personal entries. Kelly and John are great in this whole thing. Love David's message as well. I love the personal feel to the whole thing. Great Job!!! SO EXCITING!!”

I made another press release regarding our short film, emailing them to the media and posting one to the Internet animation community on In it I made the statement: “Short Films are widely considered the best calling card for aspiring moviemakers looking to move into features. This holds true for animated films as well as live action. Even the undisputed leader in feature animation, Pixar, continues to hone their artists’ skills by producing short films.”

A week into preproduction on Lucky, I received this email form our benefactor:

“Do you think it is better for people to find this information if they search
it out themselves, then if they have it thrust upon them like this? What is your objective with a release like this? What effect do you hope to gain with this? AN is a very personable bulletin board. It is not the place I often see press releases. It feels to me you like you are only asking for others to complement you. It seems a bit boastful on the board. The Pixar lines sounds like you worshiping them.

The whole thing makes me nervous... Oh boy.

Contrary to what I just said last night, You don't have that money in the bank to deliver yet. I also wonder if this will effect (sic) unlocked-down commitments- like distribution. Of course, above all, there is also a question of safety in the protection of the concept and art. This is a real issue.

We had to keep moving.



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