Shane Collins is an animator at Brown Bag Films. He was the lead Animator on Academy nominated short film ‘Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty’. He’s just after directing a sequel to successful viral short ‘Trouble In Paradise’ and he’s involved in Brown Bag’s new project with Amazon.
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What got you into animation?
What got me into animation, hmm; i suppose it was a love of films when i was younger, a lot of comic books, like asterix, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that was another thing i was into as a kid. I was always usually sitting down and drawing my favourite characters from cartoons i would’ve watched.
I didn’t actually go for animation specifically, i didn’t know i wanted to get into animation when i was younger, but i did have a desire to work in films in a way. Any work in stuff like special effects was kind of like the sort of stuff i was interested in.
So it was more along the lines of special effects rather than, say, camerawork or instead of hand drawn stuff you went to CGI?
Yeah, and i used to love the kind of hand drawn animation, watership down and all these cartoons when i was younger. But it was when i got into my teens it was when i started enjoying the Terminators and the Robocops and that was really what captivated me into “oh god, I’d really get into films”, you know?
When I was way younger I had no idea what I wanted to do – I was just randomly drawing pictures and stuff. But it was really more feature films and live action and effects; that was my thing when I was younger.
So, what led you to working in Brown Bag?
Well I was in college studying animation, I studied animation for four years for a degree there, and i did a one-year portfolio course before that. But i had a tutor in my course, Dave Quinn, who was working in Brown Bag at the time teaching. I used to always be picking his brain over 3d and “how do you do this,” and “how do you do that,” and stuff like that, so he seen i was really interested in it, and my 3d animation class, that was probably the highest points i was scoring and he said, “here, why don’t you visit Brown Bag, the studio where i work? You can come in, you can model some props and stuff, talk to the guys in there.”
So yeah he just brought me in, and i started working in there part time, i think it was, in the summer after third year and then through fourth year, i did my degree in fourth year, i was able to use brown bag as part of my practical work, so that was great. I ended up making a short film called trouble in paradise in third year and i was able to get a lot of insights and technical knowledge from some of the guys working in Brown Bag, how to rig up characters in 3D, how to light things and stuff like that, so i had a little bit of a leg up there, they helped me out.
Basically when I finished college i went straight into Brown Bag, and I’ve been there ever since, twelve years ago!
You mentioned there Trouble In Paradise; how long does it take to make a short piece like that in CGI?
Well the original trouble in paradise was about five minutes long and i kind of made that mostly on my own at home. That took most of the working year and when you had holidays and mid term breaks and stuff i was always working on it on my own. So that five minute film with one character, on one set, in 3D, it took me about eight, nine months.
But, when you have a team of people working on stuff that time comes down significantly, so obviously the more people you have working on the film, the quicker it goes, it’s all about the machine!
So being a good team player is one of the best traits to have when you’re in that line of work?
Oh yeah, and i suppose over the years working for Brown Bag i’ve only sort of like, started to understand about, when you start off in animation everyone’s an individual coming out of college and they’ve honed in on their own little thing that they do, like they might be illustrators, the concept artist, modellers or animators; the more time you spend in the industry, you realise that, “jeez, y’know, my stuff would be nothing without their stuff, and their stuff would be nothing without my stuff”.
You start understanding the team dynamic, especially when you start directing stuff as well. you really understand that I’m not really creating any of this artwork, it’s everyone else! I’m just organising and making sure things are syncing up in the right way – Its the team that make it.
Working with a team is one aspect of things, but theres also the costs involved; I remember like what was it, ten years ago, maybe more, that crazy frog first came out and people were saying “Oh my god, this costs over a million euro to make” and stuff like that. In terms of people even experimenting, do you think there’s a bit of a cost barrier to people getting involved in CGI or from little things springing up here and there?
I suppose it would be a lot more costly now in 3D than it would be in 2D. It all depends as well on how much pre-production you do. If you’re making a 2D film then you could spend a lot of money on concept work and concept artist’s work could take up a lot of time but generally when you get into production, 2D production doesn’t have as many technical levels as a 3D production would do, so cost would be pretty high for 3D animation.
I’d imagine if you could come up with a popular idea that works in 2D your profit margins, I’d imagine, would be a lot higher than they would be in a 3D production because theres a lot more overheads.
What do you think that 3D can bring to a project that 2D just can’t?
They both have their places, and 3D brings a certain dimension to a project where 2D is, as free as it is, sometimes you might opt for 3D because you wanna get a bit more depth, you wanna create that physical world so you can walk around.
It really depends, like, in Brown Bag the majority of projects are 3D, and most of the projects are actually derived from 2D illustrated books and that/ I wouldn’t choose one over the other, there’s a lot of 2D work that is amazing as well; it just depends on the type, the style of the show, and what you think would work best for it.
I know that Trouble In Paradise gained around, what was it, 7 million views online now? Does being part of a well known company like Brown Bag help that exposure?
It was actually more of a viral, that went viral by itself, i just posted that up on my own youtube channel after i finished college and for some reason, people loved it for some reason, and i got a lot of comments, there were a lot of parents saying “thanks for keeping my kid quiet while i fed them”. Its just this little crab with these googly eyes just moving around. Theres no talking or anything like that, its a calm and serene environment that he’s in, and i think kids get a bit mesmerised by that.
What were your main goals when you were making it, what were you trying to get at, what was the main…
…Oh what was the drive? I suppose i really liked that scrat character from Ice age, and i think Finding Nemo had come out through the process of me coming up with the idea, but generally, i grew up in Fiji for about 13 years of my life, so, that was a tropical environment, a paradise island with coconut trees and stuff like that.
That was all part of my life. I wanted to do something with that, and i wanted to do something quirky with a little character, and i wanted to throw them around a stage and have a nice little twist at the end of the story, and i suppose that’s what i naturally geared towards.
And, apart from Trouble In Paradise, I’m going on and on about it here, but you’ve been involved in a couple of other really successful projects like; you were the lead animator on Granny O’Grimms Sleeping Beauty, that was featured in the Academy Awards, what was that like as an experience for you?
Well working on Granny O’Grimm was great, Nicky Phelan was the director for that short film and he’s great to work with, he’s a real creative guy and really includes everyone in the project. At that stage we had to transfer his 2D ideas into 3D and he’s got real quirky character design. It was a challenge to create these real weird looking hair dudes, but it was a cool film to work on. It took everyone by shock when it was shortlisted for an Oscar, and then everyone was saying “whats going on here”, it was nominated!
I think Cathal the owner of Brown Bag called for a half day, and we all went down to the pub and celebrated, drinks were on us! It was great fun, and there was a big bunch of us that ended up going over to LA for the Oscars. There was a couple of people that actually ended up going to the Oscars, but there was a big squad of us, people from Brown Bag, and family and friends that went over just to go over and celebrate, to enjoy LA and the Oscars and the whole buzz. It was unforgettable, great.
Do things like that drive you to do more?
Well they say if you’re in the animation industry because you wanna win awards then you’re not on a good path; You never really know what’s gonna win awards and whats gonna win stuff. You’ve gotta work in animation because you love to just create stuff and entertain people and mostly just entertain yourself really! I think most people that are really into the industry stay in the industry a long time because they just laugh at their stuff themselves!
Don’t look at it as trying to create something for purely financial gain, you wanna create something that’s entertaining and that you’d wanna watch yourself.
What are you working on next?
At the moment, i’m just after finishing up on a show called Henry Hugglemonster Season 2, that was directed by Norton Virgien, he directed the Rugrats so it was great working with him, he brought a lot of experience and skills and i learnt a lot from him over the couple of years that I’ve worked with him.
I’m moving on to another show now called Stinky and Dirty, which is an Amazon show, so they’re financing it and we’re making it here in Brown Bag so that’s my next venture! Stinky and Dirty is about a stinky rubbish truck and a dirty JCB and the two of them are buddies and they go around solving problems and they get themselves into all sorts of all sorts of ‘mess’.
Ahh okay, that sounds good, ’cause i have a 4-year-old nephew and I know he will love it!
Oh right, yeah, yeah. Well the whole vehicle thing is really big in these days. I think after Cars and Planes and all that sort of stuff kids have really got back into the whole vehicle thing. I think after Thomas the tank engine a few years ago characters as vehicles took a bit of a back stage for a while, and when all the CG came in it was all about creating these ‘organic’ characters, but now we wanna see cars and vehicles being silly again.
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