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Backstage Interview Transcript: Animated Feature Film

CATEGORY: Animated Feature Film
SPEECH BY: Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli 


Q.    Disney had huge success with FROZEN last year, so did you guys feel any kind of pressure when you made this film?

A.    (Don Hall) Can we finally say that we did feel pressure?  Because we've been saying that we didn't.  But, no, you know, we were all thrilled by the success of FROZEN because it's a little hard for everybody to understand, but we all kind of work on each other's films.  Chris actually storyboarded on FROZEN and did the voice of Oaken, and we all contributed just like Chris and Jen, the directors of that movie, contributed on this movie, giving us notes and stuff like that.  So we all have ownership over everybody's films.

A.    (Roy Conli) It is such a team at Disney animation right now.  It's an amazing team that works together on every project.  So I looked at it as just an inspiration. 


Q.    Congratulations on sweeping, you're on a roll.  Tell everybody about the challenge for you of doing the first super hero Marvel movie at Disney and this heartfelt story about grief between a boy and his huggable robot. 

A.    (Don Hall) Well, that was the challenge, right?  So our biggest challenge was always, it's always story.  Whenever you're making any kind of film, the story is really the ultimate thing that you're trying to tackle.  And for this one we had this amazing story about grief, about loss, about a 14‑year‑old who loses his brother and a robot who becomes essentially his healer, and trying to reconcile that with a super hero origin story was very difficult and it took the bulk of our time as directors.  We worked at it and we worked at it and we worked at it until we finally found that Baymax himself, the character Baymax, was the link that linked those two stories together.  But in our 20‑year history at Disney I think this was our most challenging film.  But it makes it all the sweeter when this kind of stuff happens.

A.    (Chris Williams) We've all been at Disney, each of us, for about 20 years, and every movie is hard, but they're hard in their own way.  And I think you're getting to the heart of what was uniquely difficult about this one which was taking all the disparate elements and bringing them together.  And there are two distinct genres we were taking on, a super hero origin story, and a boy and his dog or a boy and his robot story and we had to tell one without making it at the expense of the other.  So yeah, I think that really was the most challenging thing is pulling all these elements together.

A.    (Roy Conli) The key issue was that we always knew that the heart of the story was that story about the boy who loses his brother and then is redeemed and actually saved by this incredible robot Baymax.  So that was always the heart.


Q.    Congratulations.  We have a fan question from (name omitted) who's asked, who was your biggest influence growing up?

A.    (Don Hall) Walt Disney.  Yeah, I know it's a boring answer, it's a completely unoriginal answer, but yeah, it was Walt Disney.

A.    (Chris Williams) I'll be sort of boring and say Walt Disney and Charles Schultz.  Those were the Disney movies and the Peanuts comic were the things that made me want to draw and write and tell stories, and it led me on a path that actually takes me here today in this moment.  They compelled me here.  So those are my biggest influences.

A.    (Roy Conli) And I'm going to be totally contrarian.  Mickey Mantle. 

A.    (Don Hall) Well done.


Q.    If you guys can finish this sentence:  What I love about being a storyteller is?

A.    (Don Hall) The ability to move people emotionally.

A.    (Chris Williams) For me it's what I love about being a storyteller and working at Disney animation studios is working with amazing people like Don, like Roy, amazing creative collaborators.  We have an incredible community, and I think that's our strength is our collaboration.  So that's what it is for me.

A.    (Roy Conli) And I would say making a better world.  I think stories change the world, and I know for me one of the first things I remember was a re‑release of PINNOCHIO, it changed my life.  It made me a better boy and it hopefully made me a better man. 


Q.    I met you guys at the Irish Grammys.  Thanks for coming to Ireland for that. 

A.    (Don Hall) That was awesome.  Ireland rocks.  If you haven't been to Ireland you should totally go.


Q.    In terms of over the last few days, we sat down with Cartoon Saloon, Tomm Moore, yesterday and we had a chat just about Oscar week and how collaborative it is, because we were trying to get it out that you guys were in competition and all this sort of stuff, but he said the last few days are just a massive, I guess, mesh of ideas and mesh of the animation community coming together.  Tell us a bit about the last few days. 

A.    (Don Hall) I mean, you know, some of these people we've known for a long time, like Dean DeBlois, you know, we've probably known him for about 20 years, something like that.  And Tomm we just met during this whole press tour, but we've become fast friends.  And the same with the BOXTROLLS guys.  We're a relatively small community in animation, but we love each other's stuff so much, and that's one of my most cherished things, in addition to this, about this whole experience is getting to know those guys and getting to become friends with them and I think it's friendships that will last forever.

A.    (Chris Williams) I had a very strange mix of emotions getting up out of my seat and then walking down the aisle up to the stage because, of course, I was really happy and really excited, especially for our crew who sacrificed a lot to make these movies, it's hundreds of people contributing everything that they have to work on this one thing, so I was happy for them.  But I also felt strangely bad for the other directors who we know very well and they all made incredible movies, all worthy movies, so I felt a little bad for them.  I love all the films that were nominated, and this is one of the years where you can really honestly say it is an honor to be nominated.  So, yeah, we love those guys.  Dean is one of my best friends, and they're all really fantastic filmmakers.

A.    (Roy Conli) And I think the joy of this season has been getting to know all those guys.  It's been a phenomenal trip, and it is the best aspect of this industry is that you don't have to compete.  You're all in it together and those guys rock. 




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