Many challenges for '9' animators

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 10, 2009 

Managing costs was one of the biggest challenges for animation director Joe Ksander and his team in making "9."

They wanted to create a movie with the same rich look and texture of other recent CGI movies, but they had a smaller budget than those films.

Ksander wouldn't talk specifics, but he says "9" cost about one-third of what big animation studios such as Disney and Pixar spend.

The film looks at a massive post-Apocalyptic world in which a group of nine dolls, who have come to life, must defend themselves from a mechanical monster, and even the number of explosions was limited because of cost.

"I think the fact we had budget limits made us work harder. We had to think of more creative ways to do a scene," Ksander said in a telephone interview about the film, which opened Wednesday.

Another big animation expense is creating human-looking characters. To get around that, the team used only fleeting or limited images of humans.

A limited budget wasn't the only challenge during the three years of production -- they also had to work hard to create the right perspective.

Eight-inch rag dolls live in a full-size world. Just showing the dolls next to regular-size buildings did not get across the true perspective.

As Ksander said, the buildings did not look large, they just looked far away.

Small items were placed in the foreground and slightly larger items in the background to reinforce the size of the characters.

The design of the dolls, particularly their camera-lens-shutter eyes, was another challenge.

"It is hard to be emotive with those eyes," Ksander said. "We talked about giving the dolls more human eyes but then decided to have them show emotion through the way they moved their heads and bodies. That's different than other animated films."

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