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The Secret of Kells - Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart

DVDTalk Interview: The Secret of Kells

Director Tomm Moore and Art Director Ross Stewart

In town to attend the New York Comic-Con in support of the DVD and Blu-Ray releases of their Oscar-nominated animated film The Secret of Kells, director Tomm Moore and art director Ross Stewart sat down on the crowded Comic-Con exhibition floor with DVDTalk's Francis Rizzo III to talk about their animation history, the value of DVDs to would-be animators and what didn't make it onto the discs.


DVDTalk: Growing up in Ireland, did you have a lot of access to older animation on video?

Tomm Moore: For me, it was the Don Bluth studio in Dublin, when we were kids. He came in 1984, I think, around then, but growing up, it was interesting to me, because having an animation studio in Dublin kind of made animation seem accessible. When we were abotu 14, we visited Don Bluth's studio and had a tour and decided we'd rather make comics.

Ross Stewart: We were also big into comics. That was one thing we didn't have were the comics in Ireland, but we did have the animation. We didn't get the independent stuff though. We didn't see much of that. We had more of the Disney stuff. My cousin came back from Canada in 1989 with a big stack of American comics and that was like "Whoa, what's the stuff?"

DVDTalk: Now we have DVD, where you can pause and look at frames and see how things are done. What would it have been like to have that growing up?

TM: That would have been amazing. I remember on video trying to pause and figure out, go frame by frame, but it was impossible on the old video players we had, the old VCRs we had.

RS: The jog shuttle was a big deal.

TM: Going back and forth, that was a big deal. There was an article in the back of a magazine I was reading where they showed how they did animation and all this secret information you were getting. Now with all the features you're getting on DVDs, I guess kids will have more an understanding of how stuff gets made.

RS: And also, now w/all the cheap software, kids can make their own animated films like that. It's so easy.

TM: When we were kids, getting your hands on a film camera was a pretty special event. Now they all make films on their phones.

DVDTalk: Did you have a lot of involvement in putting the DVD together?

TM: Ross and I, when were making the film, we put together a presentation where we showed loads of artwork and we used that for a couple of festivals. What we did was make a condensed version of that for the DVD, and he and I recorded a commentary. [The film's] been in development since were in college, so we thought people might be interested to see the evolution, just in the spirit of that, showing other people who might be interested in making their own films.

DVDTalk: What's it like to record a commentary, watching your work on screen and having to talk about it?

RS: It was a bit weird for me. I think we'd try to make it a bit funny, so that people are entertained by it. Try and get some humor into it, but I failed miserably (laughs).

TM: I haven't listened to it, because I can't stand the sound of my own voice. But we just wanted to tell everyone as much as we could in 75 minutes, but we could probably talk for three hours.

DVDTalk: Anything you wanted to say but held back on?

TM: I thought we should have done a couple of runs and edited a decent one together.

RS: I think what we got in the end was good. We gave a lot of history.

TM: I think a lot of people have listened to it and are quite fond of it.

RS: I think it reads like a credit listing (Both laugh.)

TM: You have to mention everyone. We worked with so many people in different countries. It was an international co-production, and there's a bit of a sense where you want to make sure you give a shout-out to everyone.

RS: There's like three stories to each film. There's our story, then there's the story of the people who worked on it. They all have their feelings about it. Then there's the story the audience sees. There's three different sides.

TM: I think anyone who's watching with the commentary is going to want to know a bit more about what went on behind the scenes.

DVDTalk: Anything you would have liked to have included on the DVD that didn't make it?

TM: I wanted to put the animatics, the whole storyboard, because I love on the [Hayao] Miyazaki DVDs in the UK, you can toggle between the final image and the storyboards. But unfortunately, the quality of our storyboards were low quality, and wasn't good enough for Blu-Ray release, and also we used a lot of unlicensed music as scratch tracks. It was a compressed into one Quicktime, so we couldn't do that.

RS: And also the art. We have so much artwork from the development. So we had to pick and choose. There's so much more that we couldn't put on.

TM: On the American DVD that's not on any other releases is the trailer for Brendan, which is the original concept trailer we made in 1999. That's three or four minutes of animation from 10 years ago now, and I thought that was really good to have people see that, rather than it mold away on a VHS tape in our studio.

DVDTalk: One last question... have you ever heard of The Critic?

TM: Yeah.

DVDTalk: Something that's struck me since I saw the film are the similarities between the facial structures in the movie and the show The Critic.

TM: I don't think I've ever seen the show.

RS: It was like The Simpsons, right?

(At this point, I showed them a picture from The Critic.)

TM: Yeah, look at that. I see what you mean. Look at the nose.

RS: Yeah, we took inspiration from other things.

TM: No one's ever made that connection before. We were looking at a lot of other stuff, but not that.

DVDTalk: Thanks for putting that mystery to bed for me.

The Secret of Kells is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.


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