Animated Shorts: Lauren Montgomery Takes First Flight

GL: First Flight Premieres @ SDCC

Just how fast is the rep of Lauren Montgomery rising?

“I will tell you, we borrowed her talents,” admits former Marvel Supervising Producer Craig Kyle. “Her boards alone were so beautiful to look at, the way they were drawn and directed, you can tell she is madly talented.”

If praise that high from the competition isn’t enough, go out and get her latest directorial effort, Green Lantern: First Flight. If that isn’t proof enough, then you should have your eyes, and maybe your head, examined.

Even more amazing, Montgomery is the “baby” of the DCAU’s sterling staff of directors. At 29, First Flight is her third film in nearly as many years.

“When I first met Bruce (Timm), Alan (Burnett) and Andrea (Romano), I was sort of intimidated at first,” she admits. “Luckily, they are all incredibly kind and helpful. They’re all intelligent beings. They don’t push their egos around. Nothing’s gone to their heads. So, the intimidation factor kinds of wears away when you realize what good people they are. That makes it easy for me to work with them.”

The admiration apparently is mutual. Burnett sang her praises in the last column, as had Timm in the past. What’s even more interesting she’s finding the work getting easier with each project.

“Definitely,” she concurs. “It’s really a risk the first time out, but once you’ve done it, it really becomes easier. Then again, we really try to push the envelope each time. Then every time we try to do something new, we wait to see how the audience will react to it.”

She should expect quite a positive reaction to First Flight. As Burnett stated, the film is about 95% set in outer space, making this the first real space opera of the DCAU. What he forgets to mention is as soon as Hal Jordan leaves Earth, the pace gets faster and faster, darker and darker, until one quite explosive finale. Montgomery gives a lot of credit to her storyboard artists for this, and realize Kyle said she’s not exactly a slouch in that department either.

“It’s my favorite part of the creative process. It’s where we get to lay down the visuals, tell everything that’s happening. I had a number of board artists,” she says. “I pulled them from a number of people who I worked with on other projects. Off the top of my head, there were Keo Thongkham, who worked on Doomsday with me; Brandon Vietti, who also directs and worked with me on Wonder Woman; Ethan Spalding; who worked with me on Avatar: The Last Airbender. When Avatar came to an end I immediately snagged and brought him on over.

“It was pretty fun! These are worlds we’ve never seen before. Old rules don’t apply. We can create the whole world. We don’t have to follow all the rules of Earth. It opens up all kinds of possibilities for the creatures, planets and environments. We get to not only play with the designs, but the color schemes, let the layout artists and designers go crazy. The sky’s the limit in this case. We don’t have to necessarily make it recognizable because nobody’s ever been there before.”

And being in space provided Montgomery with some possibilities she couldn’t do on more earthbound settings, the ability to move her characters freely in all three dimensions. If anything, this is one film that begs for the possibilities of Tru 3-D.

“We did use a little 3D, mostly for space ships,” says Montgomery. “I guess being out in space and not having to tie your camera at all, it would have been nice. I can see where we could have completely been able to rotate around go crazy with the camera moves. Whenever there’s some human character involved, I tend to not want to go the 3D route, because not many people can make it look as good as Pixar can.”

Yet with a D2D budget Montgomery does do quite a lot. Further, when all is said and done she remembered one very important thing.

“When it comes to Hal, the Corp and the Guardians; if it’s been done in the comics, we try to keep as close to them as possible,” she admits. “We didn’t go completely out of our way to make things ridiculously different. It’s still fan friendly. Where we went wild was in the background characters and the other environments.”

So how does she feel about the final product?

“I’m incredibly satisfied. I know a number of people around the studio have seen it and I’ve got nothing but good feedback. In fact, a few of the people around here are die hard Green Lantern fans. There’s one named Derek Wyatt. He’s worked on Transformers: Animated and was the designer on Teen Titans. He gave me the thumbs up after he saw it. That really counts because he is a huge, HUGE Green Lantern fan.”

As for her next project? She’s been told not to tell, at least until San Diego. What she can say is she’s staying at Warners.

“The nice thing about Warner Brothers is they are keeping a number of artists busy right now. If they recognize talent or like the work that’s been done, they keep them around. Believe me, I appreciate having some job stability.”

Considering her track record so far, her next WB/DCAU project will be something to keep one’s eye out for.

MARVEL GOES ANIME…SEE IT AT SDCC

Marvel announced it is going to unveil its own anime-based programming, and it’s put no less than that glorious basterd Warren Ellis on the job.

That’s right, true believers, Marvel Entertainment Inc., has partnered with renowned Japanese animation studio Madhouse (Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers) to create four all new anime versions of classic Marvel Super Heroes. Their first glimpse will be at the Marvel Animation Panel o Friday, July 24, and will include an exclusive first look at official teaser trailers for two of these new series, hosted by writer and multiple-Eagle Award winner Warren Ellis, who will appear to discuss writing the all new adventures of these re-imagined Super Heroes.

These Marvel Anime TV series are being created as a way of merging the beloved Marvel Super Heroes of western culture with the bold animation tradition of Japan. The resulting product will be four visually groundbreaking anime series featuring popular Super Heroes redesigned and repurposed as emerging from the fabric of Japanese culture. The series is expected to begin appearing on the Animax channel in Japan in spring of 2010.

An autograph signing with Ellis will follow the panel at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth #2429.

ANIBOOM POSTING CONTEST SUBMISSIONS

As regular readers of this column know, AniBoom has two different contests going for up-and-coming animators. The site now reports it will begin posting submissions.

The first is the Fox-Aniboom Holiday Animation Challenge, which began May 27th and now officially begun posting submissions they’ve so far received in search for Fox’s next primetime animated holiday special.  Entries, which are two to four minutes in length, are all holiday-themed--from Halloween to Christmas. The deadline for submissions is at 11:59PM PT on August 31, 2009. Beginning today users can log onto Aniboom and check out some of the early submissions and begin thinking about who they’d like to vote for when the voting process begins on September 1st through September 31st.

Also beginning today is Aniboom’s collaboration with The History Channel and The People Speak film, which begins airing later this year. The content creation competition is asking for animators from the Aniboom community to submit animations based on 10 historic recordings featured by the celebrity talent in the film. Below you will find two links which feature the promotional spot that begins running online and on-air on History today.

60 second spot: https://rcpt.yousendit.com/710966920/47380408217704c94a7500d721d250f3

30 second spot: https://rcpt.yousendit.com/710966920/47380408217704c94a7500d721d250f3

B clicking the link below, you can log-in to the Aniboom community and check out some of the submissions that have so far been created for the Fox-Aniboom Holiday Animation Challenge:

 http://www.aniboom.com/Competition/fox

 www.aniboom.com/competitions/Fox/380528/Trick-or-Trick/

 www.aniboom.com/competitions/Fox/380417/Back-To-Life/

 http://www.aniboom.com/competitions/Fox/376635/Edgar-Allan-Poe---Tales-of-Mystery/

 http://www.aniboom.com/competitions/Fox/374246/The-Dangers-of-Halloween/

SYFY RENEWS ANI-MONDAY AND MORE

We may wonder why the SciFi channel changed its name to SyFy, but one thing that was a no-brainer is it has renewed its Ani-Monday block for a third season…in fact, they’ve even expanded it.

The new agreement renews the weekly Ani-Monday programming block on Monday nights from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am. eastern. This month marks the beginning of a new season of Ani-Mondays and a new, two-hour programming block on sister channel, Chiller that will air horror-based anime programming on Mondays from 9:00 to 11 pm eastern will be added. Ani-Monday and the Chiller anime block will feature a collection of movies, series and shorts from Starz Media's anime distribution arm, Manga Entertainment.

Ani-Monday showcases new content including the recently launched season two of the popular Gundam 00 series from Bandai Entertainment. This joins a lineup geared towards anime fans and enthusiasts, including Gurenn Lagann, RaveMaster and motion comics based on the popular Street Fighter series. The Chiller anime block will air popular, blood-thirsty titles including Blood: The Last Vampire, Ninja Scroll and episodes of Descendants of Darkness.

 “Ani-Mondays have become appointment viewing for anime lovers, now entering its third year on Syfy,” said Thomas Vitale, senior vice president, programming and original movies. “With more anime programming coming our way and an opportunity for cross-promotion with the new programming block on our sister channel, Chiller, we are very pleased that this summer is shaping up to be an exciting one for our viewers.”

 “Starz Media and Manga Entertainment are blessed to have a deep and loyal fan base for anime and such a terrific partnership that allowed us to renew and expand our relationship with Syfy and now, Chiller,” added Marc DeBevoise, Starz Media senior vice president, digital media, business development and strategy. “Anime fans – new and old – will now have an unmatched opportunity to enjoy their Mondays.”

Many of the programs in the block will be made available for rental and download on digital platforms through Starz Digital Media’s network of distribution relationships after their airings on Syfy and Chiller, with clips and additional information available at www.manga.com.

Next Column: Who’s the bright young cameraman who’s turning heads over at Dreamworks? Meet Gary H. Lee and his ten-minute creation, Hector Corp..

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