Steve Hicknet and Simon Smith on Bee Movie

Recently I had the chance to speak with Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith of Dreamworks about their upcoming film “Bee Movie” during their promotional stop in Seattle by Gareth Von Kallenbach (GVK)

GVK: How hard was it directing actors who are used to doing a lot of adlibbing?

SH: Jerry was with the cast the entire time, and we had a really good experience in creating the characters, plus we have a great script so that really helped.

SS: Since the star of the film was also the writer, we did not have to worry about his performance.

GVK: What were some of your visual influences in making the film?

SS: In the film we deal a lot with relationships and we attempted to find a middle ground for this bizarre story of a talking bee that has a friendship with a human, who happens to own a flower shop. With “The “Incredibles” you had comic book style and with “Shrek” you had fantasy elements so we tried to blend the two.

John Kerlhi of Christian Hotspot asked what influenced them.

SH: Charlie Brown, The Wizard of Id mainly. I had a teacher who introduced me to animation and it really inspired me after I saw how to create movement with pictures.

SS: I was always more of a fan of the cinema and in many ways working with CGI is a mixed bag as it lets you do whatever you want, but it can also be a danger as well as a blessing.

Sara Fetters of asked about the changes that have happened since the early Dreamworks films.

SH: I still have a picture from the start of the company where all 35 of us are in it. Despite the company growing as large as it has, there is still a personal touch, and I contribute this to Jeffrey Katzenberg,

SS: Jeffrey inspires you and reminds you that what you are doing is very unique. I think we at Dreamworks have found a rhythm now to our animated films, as the projects we have in the works are simply outstanding.

GVK: Directing the cast as they record their dialogue seems to be similar to conventional directing, but how hard is it to direct a scene that has to be visualized and may be weeks before you see a completed process?

SH: We start with storyboarding and we do have new programs that makes this so much easier as we can do so much more with things while in storyboard phase.

SS: We then have to do the layout, and block the camera and edit the scene. This is followed by adding some of the detail.

SH: There are lenses in the computer, and like live action, spacing is limited so you have to be mindful of this factor.

SS: As the animation progresses, you have your rough sets and characters which is replaced by more details. You have to block the actors and add lighting, textures, and more detail. All said the process takes about 5 weeks.

SH: So you have to have a good idea of what you want to do ahead of time and be consistent.