Tell us about your role on La Noria and how you first became involved.
Carlos: My role on La Noria was as the art director, leading a group of concept artists and set designers during pre-production; designing the environments where the story takes place, and helping to give shape to Carlos Baena’s vision of this dark tale.
Aurora: I was concept artist on La Noria. My role was exploring the mood, design and lighting of this world, conveying all these concepts in paintings.What was it about the project that drew you in as an artist? How is it unique from other short films?
Carlos: I was quite surprised when Carlos B. pitched me the story for the first time. I couldn’t imagine someone from Pixar directing an animated piece in this dark tone – I immediately got into it. Eve Skylar, the production designer, and Sasha Korellis, the producer, had been already developing it for a while. Aurora joined us weeks later.
Carlos Baena’s storytelling has multiples influences from the live action fantasy, dark and horror cinema. He also has a unique perspective and take on these genres; that’s what make this film very interesting: you have not seen something like it either in animation or in live action. Translating the tone of those films into animation is easy: animation is not a genre, is an art form. You do not have any limitation for the tone because of the technique you use. You can use the same language. What is required is the decision to do it, even when nobody else is doing it.
How as working on this type of project different than your experience at bigger studios?
We had more creative freedom. We did not have the same amount of resources that we have at DreamWorks Animation or Sony, but we approached it the same way we do when we work with a big studio to make it look as sophisticated as Carlos B. had in mind.
We like storytelling, no matter if it’s a Hollywood studio project or a smaller one, that is what drives us now. That is exactly what we are doing as Tale Twins: developing our own projects, and collaborating with independent projects, like La Noria.What were the most important aspects of the art direction that you tried to maintain throughout the film?
Realism: I (Carlos) was lucky to work with Guillermo [Del Toro] on Pan’s Labyrinth. For the look of the sets, Guillermo wanted realism, texture, attention to the detail. That’s important when you want the audience to believe in the world of a fantastic story. Carlos B. wanted the same for his movie. The first layer of realism is in the time period: Spain, at the end of the Civil War. We did research on the period (architecture, decoration, toys, costumes, etc.) to find inspiration to make it look believable and unique, not generic.
Stylization: At the same time, Carlos B. personal vision on the genre, required a more stylized approach, and we did it with the shape and proportions. We extrapolated the proportions of the main character to the entire world of the movie, keeping the realism and detail in the surfacing.
We came out with a consistent look and, using Aurora’s concepts, a 3D maquette and references, we provided the rest of the artists with a base to develop the final look of sets and props. That was the best way to keep the consistency while working with different artists.
During pre-production, our team was small compared with the other departments: Aurora Jimenez was concept artist; Wendy Chen, John Korellis, Kam Cheung, Carlyn Lim, Rachel Ito and James Pascual were set designers. Many of us lived in San Francisco so that made it easier to have art department meetings on the weekends and work remotely during the week.
Working across departments was more challenging but Sasha Korellis, the producer, and her team made it feel smooth. I started using 3D tools to design the entire set very early. Sharing this virtual set with the other teams and the collaboration with the PreViz department, (directed by Pepe Valencia) was key to define the focal points on every scene in the early stages. Weekly online meetings with the rest of the department leads were crucial to get the latest updates on each side.
The biggest lesson was given by Carlos Baena through his tenacity and persistence to tell his story: make it real. Our advice for other artists is: have fun, experiment! Do not look too much at what others are doing in animation. Think of it as an art form, not a genre, and use it to tell your own stories.
To contribute to the creation of La Noria, visit the Indiegogo campaign page.
To follow the film, visit www.lanoriafilm.com
For more information on Carlos Zaragoza and Aurora Jimenez, visit www.taletwinsstudio.com
For more of Carlos Zaragoza’s work, visit his Zerply Profile.
Image Credits: La Noria Film Production Crew