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美国梦工厂动画艺术家迪恩·迪布罗斯

  • Update:2012-12-04
  • 叶风
内容摘要
【访谈者语】迪恩·迪布罗斯(Dean DeBlois)是动画影片《花木兰》的总监,《星际宝贝》和《驯龙高手》的导演兼编剧。这三部影片在美国动画史上堪称经典作品。2014年,迪恩·迪布罗斯将推出《驯龙高手2》。今年夏天,我在梦工厂动画工作室考察时,与迪恩·迪布罗斯进行了数小时的访谈交流。他给我留下的印象是:思路清晰有序、不紧不慢、为人诚恳。他对动画创作的把握,就如他的身形一样,健壮有力,有气势却又十分敏锐。

 (为忠实访谈者原意,以下内容为英文)

        My name is Dean DeBlois. I am a Canadian filmmaker and I went to school at Sheridan College just outside of Toronto, a town called Oakville. I took the classic animation program from 1988 till 1990. It was three summers. When I graduated I went to work for Don Bruce Studios in Dublin, Ireland. When I was there, I worked on three feature films. The first was A Troll in Central Park The second was Thumbelina and the third film was called The pebble And The Penguin, which I left just after the beginning of preproduction. I left because I landed a job in Disney. And that first film was Mulan. So I was hired by the Florida Studio, but I came here to work on the preproduction of the process. Hired as a layer artist, but I ended up doing storyboards instead. They liked me in the storyboard department so I kept working. We learned a lot on that film, certainly how to do things well and how not to do things (laugh).

        Eventually I replaced the head of the storyboard department, who was Chris Sanders. And he went off to prepare a film for pitch. He was going to be directing the film as his next assignment. They did not know what film that would be. So he began to develop a few ideas and one of them became Lilo & Stitch. And we worked on that during lunch hours and after work unofficially for a while. But when our boss decided to make the film, asked me if I would join Chris Sanders in writing and directing the film.

        So that was our first writing and directing assignment. We tried to do as many of the jobs as we could to avoid what happened on Mulan where there were just too many people in many powerful positions but nobody agreed. So it took a long time to get a film that was working. So without for better or worse, we were going to try to write it ourselves, direct it, really spend time with the editors, storyboard it. I think by having just a couple of consistent minds working together, it had a very unique voice. Then after Lilo & Stitch, I left to try to sell some live action movies to write and direct. And I sold three of them. Two of them were to Disney. And I wrote several screenplays for each one. Then I set up a movie at Universal. Same thing happened there. And so I was waiting on an answer from Universal Studios when I got a call from Chris Sanders who was working at DreamWorks now. So I joined Chris Sanders. I was living in Seattle at the time but I came here to work with him right away from the first day when we sat down with Jerry Katzenberg.  

 

         采访人、清华大学美术学院博士研究生叶风与迪恩·迪布罗斯合影

 

Q: How To Train Your Dragon was adapted from a children’s book, and the character of Toothless as been modified. Were there any considerations that you make this adaptation? Are there anything marketing considerations?

A:   Well, How To Train Your Dragon was our first attempt and adaptation. In this case, we read the book, and also read the previous screenplays that were adapted from that book. And we could see where they are having problems because in the book there is a confused relationship with dragons. On one side, the Vikings live with dragons and they raised them from eggs to make them almost like pets like cowboys and horses. On the other side in the same book, they are fighting dragons. So we have to make a decision and that is part of the problem of why the film had not been working before that. So Chris and I talked about it and we thought there were several requirements giving us by our boss Jeffery Katzenberg. He said that he wanted a father-son story. He wanted a big Dad and son, a little guy against the biggest thing that has ever seen. And he wanted a tone similar to Harry Potter. And he said beyond that I do not care what details you keep from the book, and it will be called How To Train Your Dragon. And we have characters named Hiccup and Toothless. But he said the narrative is not working. And they tried very faithful adaptations before Chris and I came on to the film. We read the material they had, and we read the book, and we decided that if they want a big fantasy adventure story, the biggest story to tell is the one where one Viking takes the chance, and makes friends with an enemy. So he becomes the first Viking to cross that barrier and changes the world. It gave a real structure to the story and gave us an idea that he would have to keep a secret from his own people for a long time. So there are a lot of ideas that falls into that direction. But we also realized that we would have to change the dragon from that book, because if he is going to take a risk and befriend an enemy, it should be an impressive enemy. And the size of the dragon from the book is the size of a dog, which is not very scary. So we created a new dragon that would be the right size for him to fly it, but kind of dangerous, a dragon that no Viking has ever seen, but also capable of seeming like a big pet sometimes when we want him to be cute. And that became the new Toothless.

        At that time, they did not tell us about any other marketing considerations. I think they liked the idea that this was a book out there because that creates a fan base. But they did not seem too concerned with being true to the story of the book. So even when the author of the book came to visit the studio, we felt very nervous to show her what we have done to her creation because it was so different. But she is an artist as well, so she liked that it was different, that is was not just the same as the book. So I think that they have the benefit of there is a series of book that is popular and people know about them, but also a story that is new, that surprise audiences. 

 

 

Q: In How To Train Your Dragon, there are two themes. One is a little boy overcoming overwhelming task, and second is the combination of a normal kid and a powerful partner. These two themes seem to fit in with a lot of animation films. Why do you think such a combination is favorable to audiences? And what are the features of this kind of narrative?

A:   I think when you are beginning a story, you have to look at the audiences. And in this case, for young audience, there are certain themes that seem to be very universal and very resonant. It is the idea that somebody who is very plain, regular and kind of uninteresting, not very special suddenly becomes very special because often times they have very interesting, very powerful experience. So sometimes it is a creature, sometimes it is discovering a supernatural ability, or like in Harry Potter discovering the regular kid with a bad life turning out to be the most powerful wizard that has ever born. Those ideas are what we call wishful fulfillment. Try to find a thing that speaks to the audience everywhere. It takes the imagination and for a moment you can live the experience with the character that you relate to, going through an extraordinary experience. Those are the kind of story that I love because I grow up with them. So sometimes it can be very realistic or grounded in reality, for example, a movie called Black Stallion. There was just a horse but a very powerful horse that becomes the boy’s best friend for a while. And I love movies where there are something that are supernatural like E.T. A boy who’s best friend is an alien from another planet. It is a common theme. It is historically very successful. And it appeals to the core belief that even though you may not be anything special, something could happen to you that would transform all of that.

        I spent so much of my childhood wishing something really interesting would happen. That could be a part of secret or something supernatural like I could fly or so. We have to be careful that it is very easy to do something that feels too familiar, which feels a little bit cliché. So when we were talking about this film, Chris and I felt that as a movie element, dragons can be kind of boring. There have been so many dragons in movies like Dragonheart or even Harry Potter and Dragon  is just an example of an plain story and everything felt very expected. So we realized that if we are going to have dragons in this movie, we are going to do something new and interesting. Both Chris and I are big fans of Hiromi Azaki, so we started talking about if there are something we can do with the story that can give some imaginative spirit to it. And one idea that I had was yes he flies a dragon because that was part of a wish fulfillment, but maybe it is a damaged dragon so he has to build an apparatus that makes him symbiotic with the dragon. So he has to be part of the flying. It was a neat idea because it combines the natural elements of this dragon with mechanics. It is an Azaki-like idea to us. And it made it a little more interesting than just a kid flying a dragon because he has to be a central component to the fly.

Q: Compared to the complicated design of other dragons, Toothless seems to be more less minutia. Are there any reasons for designing a character like this?

A:   Yes, we recognize the same thing that all the dragons are very pushed, very cartoony. We just want Toothless to stand out, to be a very different kind of dragon. So part of it was trying to do something that make it like a mammal instead of a reptile. There are other designing influences including we wanted it to be strong, muscular and very flight worthy. So we looked at the design of like a sparrow, the proportion of many of the birds, with big wings, short neck, small head and big long tail. And that was a shape we had not really done with the other dragons. We wanted him to be a very good flyer so that was part of it. The black color was just a choice because we thought that there is something cool about this dragon that it hides in the night, only attacks at night. You never see it. You only see the blast, kind of like a ghost in the Vikings. It just makes him a little more special. And a lot of the design choices like making him a little more blunt and smooth and not so many big spikes was all about trying to make him feel very design-wise different and flightworthy. But I think if Nicole had designed Toothless, he probably would have been more in the world with the other dragons. So it is arguable that Toothless is some kind of outside of the design language of the film. But there are something very refreshing about that too, because it makes for a very unique character in that line. It really stands apart.

Q: Did you worry about these two different styles?

A:     It did not seem to be a problem. People never really talked about it, there were certain cues like the eyes that tied him to the rest of the dragons. And the rendering of it brought him into the world.

        Toothless is intentionally different. I think the reason we went to Takao Naguchi and Simon Otto was because that the dragon we were getting from Nicole at the time just felt too similar to the other ones. It did not feel different enough. What we were doing with the second movie The Dragon 2 has the opportunity to blend it a little bit more. There is one dragon that we designed that is halfway between what Toothless is and what the traditional dragons are. There is one of them that has four wings and it is a dragon that his mother rides. It is really a cool dragon. It has Toothless’ mammal-like face combined with an owl as the reference for its look.

Q: Will we see animals of Toothless’ kind in the second movie more often?

A:   We are playing the idea that he is a very rare kind of dragon, maybe the last of his kind. But there is a moment in the third movie where toward the end we will reveal that there are more.

 

 

Q: The story of the dragon is in the Norwegian territory, Mulan is in China, Stitch in Hawaii. Is it important to apply cultural elements to your films to attract the audience?

A:     I think the consideration for the studio is not just the story of what is unique about it, and I think location is often times one of those elements. I know that with Mulan, the Disney have not done a film set in China before, so that was an interesting and exotic location and a whole new culture to explore with different visual flavors, that was exciting to them. It was funny with Lilo & Stitch. We found it tiring to have to spend so much time learning about a new culture, so we wanted to do a simple story that can be set somewhere in America like Kansas. But Chris said “no, vacation to Hawaii”. It is interesting because it is American culture mixed with Island culture and a rich history of its own. That was almost the hybrid, you know, a familiar American family in a so pollination culture. With How To Train Your Dragon, I think that was a part of the attraction for the studio. This idea of this larger than life Nordic world of Vikings and dragons seemed interesting.

        For me, I would like to set stories in places that I would like to visit. So with Dragon 2, I really want to go to the Arctic. I always wanted to go to the North Pole so I wrote that into the story. I think it is fun that a movie has been transported to a different world and if it is a culture that is rich, interesting and visually appealing. It makes it all the better. It makes the story much more special.

Q: Besides entertaining and making profit, do you think animated films have any other functions?

A:   Yes! I think every film should aspire to touch people and to have meaning in their lives that either helps them in their tough times or inspires them to do something exciting or inspires them to create something themselves. As for me, there have been films that are the reasons I do what I do. And they have great meaning to me. So I think the film is a very powerful medium because you get people in a dark room and you get their attention for two hours. I get frustrated when people waste that opportunity with a bland, generic story or like Transformers where it is just noise, explosions with a lot of money but no meaning. Everybody has their favorite films. I certainly have mine, but there are films that have changed my perspectives on life. So I think there is great power in that medium and if you are lucky enough to be able to make movies, it seems like a real waste to not try to do something that is going to touch people emotionally and may be transform them.  

Q: In making a movie, are there any restrictions other than the budget that keep you from doing whatever you would like to do?

A:   Yes. There are restrictions of budget and the pattern of success that has come before you. For example, if a film did not perform very well at the box office, everybody is trying to analyze why. And they take that into the meeting in your film, say, we think that one fail because it did not have enough jokes so you need more jokes even if it is not appropriate to your film. Or we think that film failed because it was too dark and scary. So you cannot have too many dark and scary scenes. You get to play with someone else’s money, which means they have a very strong opinion about how you are spending it. So I think it can be difficult balancing the way you see something and the way others expect to be. I think that is a real balance because if you change too much to suit them, you will lose the sense of clarity in how you are directing. But if you do not compromise at all and stick to your vision of it, you will get fired (laugh). 

Q: What are the ways that you find your inspirations?

A:   The way that I find useful is to get together with people whose ideas you really like, and just to say, without restriction, what would you think is exciting? Or what are the cool ideas? What would you pay to see? And just let the ideas come. Maybe it is just a visual image or feeling. I would love to have the feeling that I had when I watched the Star Wars for the first time. I think it pull from different inspirations. There is no one source. Just clear you head and let it come to you, and then see once you have these different elements then you can arrange them and see if there is a story. I think for me, it sometimes comes from a dream or music. Sometimes I put on some music and see what images come. I try not to base my ideas on other movies as much as I can because you are always going to be influenced by other films. But if you can make a conscious decision to base it on something real, like an experience you have had or place you have been, an article you have read in newspaper or story somebody told you once or a piece of music, you know, everybody gets inspired in different ways. But for me, it usually starts with an image or just a feeling I get from a piece of music.

【访谈者后记】 在我看来,把动画创作看成不食人间烟火的“艺术家”的思想载体,或是认为动画只是“巧妙营销运作”就能成功的“商品”,都是不会成功的。其实在好莱坞,有许多精心运作而最终失败的电影作品。迪斯尼的动画电影在20世纪90年代中期至最近的不断衰落,就是因为太过于把动画创作当作“商品”,太过于强调迪斯尼的“动画语言风格”,遗忘了动画艺术得以与人内心相互照应的文化本质和动画艺术应该有的“自由灵性”之美。

        当许多人努力试图在迪斯尼那些曾经成功的影片里寻找成功的规律,如:在《狮子王》或《阿拉丁》这些影片里计算有几秒钟的歌舞片段、有几个高潮、有几个插科打诨的配角和动作的弹性节奏如何如何,甚至女主角的服饰花纹和有几层眼皮的时候,皮克斯和梦工厂的一些动画艺术家却找到了新的动画语言,创作出属于这个时代动画片了。迪恩·迪布罗斯便是这群优秀动画艺术家中的佼佼者。(当然,我在迪斯尼的时候也发现,迪斯尼也在大力改革,在创作主题,艺术风格和人才上正在旧去新来,我相信,我们很快可以看到面貌焕然一新的迪斯尼动画电影作品了)     

        感谢我的朋友ChenYi Chang(《花木兰》美术设计总监),让访谈和考察如计划进行。我的朋友朱倩云和张猛花费很多时间来协助整理访谈文稿,在此鞠躬致谢。

 

注:克里斯·桑得斯(Chris Sanders),《狮子王》的艺术总监,《花木兰》的故事板设计总监,《星际宝贝》《驯龙高手》系列的导演,与迪恩·迪布罗斯(Dean DeBlois )从《花木兰》开始合作至今,成为美国动画界有名的天才搭档,如ChenYi 所说,克里斯的激情四射,与迪恩的理性稳重相得益彰,打造出一部部动画精品。

 

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