La Luna: Interview with Director Enrico Casarosa

LA LUNA is a beautiful, animated short that plays before Disney/Pixar’s BRAVE. Last week, us bloggers had the chance to interview LA LUNA Director, Enrico Casarosa and the following is what we discussed. Enjoy!

Q : Can you tell us a little bit of the backstory?

EC : Yes, um, my, um, my dad and grandfather, um, never quite got along and, um, when my grandmother died, we moved in, you know, with my grandfather in kind of a small apartment.  So, uh, uh, that kind of, you know, that memory of just feeling, uh, a little bit stuck between the two, it would be long dinners, where, uh, one would be on one side and one on the other.  So even visually, I tried to establish that, as much as possible.  Um, they would talk to me but not to each other, so they’d be like, hey, I was, uh, school today?

Oh, pretty good.  Hey, how was school today?  So it was just like this very kinda uncomfortable, memory and, um, and so I thought that that would be a good, a good place to kind of tell the story of, of, you know, coming of age.  How, how do you, which way do you go when someone’s telling you go this way, go that way, you know, and it seemed like an interesting kind of core.  We really care about finding personal connections and, and something to say.  Um, I also cared really about, um, telling something positive and meaningful.

I mean, I really think that we have a responsibility as filmmakers, you know, when you’re in front of a Brave kind of a movie, you know so many kids are gonna see this.  And so I wanted to give something nice, and I hope it comes through as like follow your guts, you know, follow your intuition and so, hopefully, that comes through for, to the little kids, you know?  And then on, my own other way, hopefully, that, you know, maybe was a bit of therapy of my own, I made them get along for a little bit.  Um, but, uh, then that, I coupled that history of, and that memory a little with more of my love for the fantastic and, uh, I mention Italo Calvino as a writer because he’s, he’s done wonderful stories.

One about the moon, people going to the moon, and they were getting milk off the moon.  I always loved The Grand Day Out from Wallace and Gromit.  I don’t know if you remember that, but that was like, they’d go and have crackers.  The moon is made of cheese.  I always love these strange myths, um, made up stuff.  So I, I wanted to do something like that, so I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to just come up with my strange idea of how the moon works.  So those things kinda came together.

Q : Why did you make it to where the characters do not speak?  What gave you that idea?  You can still understand what they’re saying.

EC : Yes.

Q : What gave you that idea?

EC : Yeah, gibberish, right?  Yeah, we, we, um, I, I kinda grew up with some- a lot of cartoons that I had to have, and even, then nearly there was a specific one called La Linea, um, and you can look it up on You Tube.  It’s this wonderful idea where an actual hand would come down and, and draw this one-line character.  And he would start, he would be always, like, asking for stuff, and he’d talk like this, and it was like [GIBBERISH].  He would get really mad and it was very, uh, universal, but very Italian because he was gesticulating, so that’s the thing that I thought would be a win, and that’s why I wanted it in the short, um, because it could be completely universal but also have that flavor of Italy.

Um, and, so that I knew that we could animate some, something funny, juicy, silly gesticulating with them.  And, um, and also I wanted to just a tiny bit of that texture.  I think if it was also musical, you wouldn’t feel a little bit of this, kind of this pressure that is too, you know, taller, bigger guys put on this, um, little boy.  So that’s one of the reasons and, um, and John Lasseter didn’t love it.  John Lasseter’s the Executive Producer of the short, so he really mentors you through this process and we checked in with him every other month.  And so, it took me a while to convince him because it, it took us actually a while to find the right tone.

Uh, at first it was me and the editor trying to be, you know, uh, it’s our temp voices, we called them scratch.  Um, so that was kind of a, a process.  We looked, we looked for some performers that were good at gibberish, but then they weren’t quite right yet, I think because they didn’t embody the characters.  They actually had to go and find a grandpa and a big barrel-chested papa that felt true to the, to the characters, you know, so the two, the two performers are a lot like our characters.

Q : What are some of the challenges of telling a story especially one with a powerful message in a condensed version?

EC : Yeah, there, there’s always a bit of a challenge of the timing.  I mean, um, they told us we, we had budget for four and a half minutes, and, and I made story reels which were, like four forty-five.  And, um, I kinda knew that there was, it was compressed.  Uh, the thing we did is, is honestly, instead of saying, like, not give me more money, I would- I need to make this six or seven minutes, that we slowly made it longer.  We, we have different steps in the process.  One is layout, for example.  In layout, we take our storyboards and start really putting it in the computer with all our assets.

And, and we’re planning the camera.  So that got the minute longer, [LAUGHS], and they were okay with that.  I’m like, I’m gonna do it with the same budget.  It’s gonna be all right.  Then we went into animation and, and animation, uh, again, I, that’s another place where I felt like, come on, this needs the time.  It needed to breathe.  So the challenge that w- was kind of to convince everybody that we could make a six, uh, minute, fifty-one, so it’s almost seven minutes with the budget for four and a half.  And I think we made it and, and, uh, you know, if we had asked for more money, they probably would’ve said no.  But we, we were able to make it, uh, that way.

So my concern was, like, for it to be, to have a little bit of breathing space and, and be lyrical, I think it needed at the time.  Um, I think, with a different kind of, uh, short, it would’ve been different, you know.  But it’s amazing, you know.  Our production actually costs less, depending on many shots we have.  So we have, as much as it’s long, it’s actually our longest short, theatrical short, but as far as shot count, it’s among our least shot counts.  So it cost us less to, f- for our shot to be there longer, yeah.

Q : Was there something with this film that was technically challenging?

EC : Yeah, we, you know, we did not have new technology.  Unfortunately, all the wonderful things you’ve probably heard about Brave, we were looking from across the hall, like, oh, I wish, I wish I had that.  Um, in fact, with our hair, and, and, uh, uh, you know, facial hair, it was very difficult for us.  That was one challenge because, um, at first I thought, like this is going to be so cheap, we don’t even have to model teeth, and tongue, and mouth, you know.  It’s gonna be great.  Well, it turns- we’ve done a lot of mouths, we haven’t done a whole lot of talking beards.

So the, the moving of the hair was very problematic.  So usually, without getting into technical, usually the hair is based on the surface, and our, the computer calculates, well, you have a hundred hair, and it’s so much information on the computer and it needs to help us with this.  But it, this was not a good control for us because the, the mustache, you know, we would move the, the skin, and the hair was just do crazy stuff.  So we needed to kind of control it and give our animators control to really kinda have the right kind of, uh, feel.

Um, that was difficult.  Um, in general, I think we, we’ve been doing shorts mean and lean a little bit, you know?  We- we had our, we were working on Toy Story 3 technology, um, and we, we really try and look for a different, within that limit, I wanted a different look.  So we did it by scanning a lot of actual artwork, we brought in a lot of watercolor texture, pastel texture; I was really interested in bringing some, um, some warmth and imperfection from, from traditional media.

My beginning picture was only watercolors.  I then, you know, uh, like, we call them story beats, you know.  I kind of pitched the idea with twenty-five images.  And that kind of inspired us to wanna bring some of that texture to our computer world.  That can be, I think, normally, a computer can go toward a colder feel, so we were kinda trying to fight that a little bit.  Also because it was such a storybook kind of idea that we thought it would be supported by something that felt a little bit like an illustration.  So we, we cheated around a lot of things to make, to make it feel different.

Disclosure: Disney/Pixar sponsored travel, accommodations and activities during my stay in Los Angeles. Thoughts are my own.