I've just finished doing an eight-minute cartoon called A Monkey's Tale for a Buddhist cultural center outside of Hong Kong. The Ngong Ping Village attraction (Ngong Ping 360 as they are officially calling it) was built by the MTR Corporation near the world famous Tian Tan Big Buddha. It’s one of two films produced for the attraction, each being housed in their own specialized theaters. A Monkey's Tale is in the, what else, Monkey Tale Theatre and is projected as a triptych by three high-definition projectors, fifteen feet high by forty-eight feet wide, and the basic premise is that it is a little parable about greed, and my handling of it gagged it up considerably. It's produced by Allen Yama****a, who came up with the original story concept, and Oric Scott De Las Casas. Martin Zurauskas was the executive producer and Kaye Robinson was co-producer, and I had on it my kind of core repertory company: Susan [Goldberg, Eric’s wife] did the art direction, Scott Johnston was the visual effects director, and Bert Klein was my lead animator. They all did a sterling job and for a while we were the only 2D employment in town. We had about fifteen animators and about 45 cleanup artists. They'd just come off of Curious George, and were waiting for Enchanted, and we kind of got them from one monkey to the next. We had some fabulous animators but it was very gruelling to do it. The story is that there are three monkeys trying to steal a peach from the hand of the ancient statue of the Monkey King, and the action's all played out in pantomime other than the occasional monkey noise. The monkeys are named Clever, Doofus and Tag-a-long. Clever is the schemer, he's the one who gets the other two to do his bidding for him. To me it's kind of Buddhism gagged up, but the Buddhist monks seem to like it. Clever is in the Sylvester and Coyote vein, and Doofus is a doofus, deadpan most of the time, and Tagalong's like the little brother you can't get rid of. Basically, once we had the premise and there were some rough storyboards done by Dean Wellins, they kind of let me run with it in terms of putting a lot of content into it and really making the characters alive, giving them specific personality. It was a difficult job to do because it was formatted on a sextuple sixteen field, basically six sixteen field pieces of paper comprised the screen, so mechanically it was very difficult for every one to work on. We had to work that large because it's going to be in high definition, so we had to make sure all the drawings were going to be large enough to really hold up, and everyone did a magnificent job. I'm so proud of everyone's work on it and hopefully despite the fact that it was difficult to do everybody came back saying, "These characters are fun to draw." It's kind of a good old-fashioned cartoon in a way of the type that isn't made that often these days. AN:
And that's going to be playing near Disneyland Hong Kong? EG:
Yes, very near Disneyland Hong Kong on Lantau Island. Now, I say "film" but it's environmental, so we have in-house gags like when something gets destroyed there's dust that spews out over the audience, when rain occurs there's actual physical rain in the theater. We've got 360-degree sound. There are gags that go all the way around the theater. And obviously this one is quite whimsical compared to the other film that they are doing, Walking With Buddha, which is directed by my producers on this film, Allen Yama****a and Oric Scott De Las Casas. It’s much more serious, about the life of Buddha. I think they cast me right to do the funny one.