Interview with Gary Thomas from Crush Inc.

3 02 2010

I was fortunate recently to get in touch with creative director Gary Thomas. Gary’s recent motion comic adaptation from a Douglas Coupland novel exhibits a clear desire to retain a comic book aesthetic within filmic media. (The video has already been mentioned in this blog) Gary was kind enough to answer some questions I had regarding this new medium. His thoughts on the adaptation and production of a motion comic provide a useful insight into the challenges that face creative talent in the new media industries.

Craig: I haven’t read the book yet, but why is there a motion comic trailer of
‘Generation A’ and was the author involved in the production?

Gary: Without getting into too much detail, the plot involves a group of
characters in isolation together. They begin to tell each other stories
which intertwine over the course of the narrative. We wanted to present at
least one of them in some form, and that particular story lent itself best
to the format. We presented our ideas to Doug, and he would comment on
specific things, but he left us to do what we thought worked best.

Craig: What prompted the motion comic approach?

Gary: The story was lurid and felt like a comic book when reading it. There were
some practical considerations in that we didn’t want to get into live action
and straight animation would, we felt, lose the notion that we were looking
at a book excerpt rather than a stand alone film.

Craig: What are the biggest challenges in producing a motion comic?

Gary: For us, the big problem was the time constraint in making the book’s release
date. Doing the layout, and breaking the piece into that format was
relatively easy. We wanted some animation, would probably incorporated more
if time had allowed but it was a fine line.

Craig: Why did you decide to retain the spatial nature of comic book panels,
rather than adopting a more cinematic approach? (perhaps this question should
be what are the pros and cons of both approaches)

Gary: When you commit to doing something that emulates a comic, you commit to the
notion of panels and on screen type. There is an aesthetic you need to
follow for the audience to understand that they’re seeing a comic rather
than a conventional animated film.

Craig: Pacing – What were the factors that informed the pacing of the animation
(especially as reading is a ‘user-dictated’ process) ?

Gary: The read (narration) dictated the flow. It had to move at a pace that worked
with the spoken word. We needed to add no voiced panels both to advance the
story and to give the piece intensity. If it is too linear it almost becomes
a Karaoke video.

Craig: Reading/watching/listening process – How did you balance the audio/visual

Gary: It was a fine line. We did a rough storyboard, laying out the basic visual
flow, edited the original story, removing some of the descriptive passages
made redundant by the artwork, and then paired the two elements. As the
piece came together we chopped lines and added additional panels when we
felt the two components were becoming disconnected.

Craig: Artwork – I presume there was no original comic book version of the story.
Did you therefore have to create the artwork as a digital comic book layout and then use them for the animation?

Gary: That’s exactly what we did. One of our designers, Yoho Yue, designed the
frames and another designer, Stefan Woronko, helped to give it the style and
layout that would make it easy to register as a comic.

Craig: Visual style – How did you approach image-making in the context of this
motion comic and Douglas Coupland’s work?

Gary: Doug’s work is very visual. He is an artist himself, with a keen eye for pop
culture. In all our collaborations we’ve looked for ways to represent his
writing visually. Doing things in a banal, pop style sometimes makes a nice
visual contrast. We had several other sequences which also highlighted
passages in different ways. We look for contrast and also for balance. The
visual pieces are also intended to support the book rather than become
entities in themselves.

Craig: Motion comics often contain much more information than conventional
animation. How did you approach this in the production process?

Gary: We embraced the medium and chose it for that reason. We do sometimes do
traditional animation here as well, so we knew what we were choosing and
why. We also like to incorporate type into our work. Motion comics afforded
us an opportunity to do both.

Craig: Audio – Getting the right voice talent/soundtrack and sound fx.

Gary: We were lucky in that we had someone working for us, who fit our voice
requirement perfectly. The character who tells this story is a girl in her
mid twenties who has a certain theatrical quality, a little darkness. Tammy
had all of those qualities. We wanted the sound to be discreet and not
overpower the visuals. We struck that balance here.

Craig: Any final thoughts on the motion comic medium and how you think in your
professional opinion it might evolve/change.

Gary: I think it is underutilized. As more people develop their own work, the line
between print and motion blurs. It isn’t a major leap for artists to think
of their work as films. Comics/graphic novels have a cinematic quality
already. Guiding the viewer’s eye through the story is something they do

Craig: Finally … Comic books have ‘the gutter’. A Space between panels that
enables the viewer to make an imaginary connection between them. Is there such
a device in animation?

Gary: The frame is that element. The edit of moving footage takes that place as
well. Some animation has embraced the format but I think not often enough.
There is a tendency to keep the eye focussed on one image so as not to lose
the story thread. A print piece can deliver huge complexity because the
reader sets the pace of the story’s flow. A moving piece doesn’t have that.
It commits to a pace and must communicate its story within the confines of
that pace.





2 responses

3 02 2010

Great interview! This sounds like a really bizarre project – could be a strangely fitting adaptation of Coupland’s novel – which is one of my favourites. Look forward to checking it out.

30 07 2010
The Illustrated film vs the motion comic – Is there a difference? « Motion Comics

[…] of motion comic adaptations such as ‘Batman Black and White: Perpetual Mourning’, or Crush Inc’s ‘Death of the Channel Three News Team‘. In summary, the illustrated film, like the motion comic, is capable of conveying almost any […]

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