On Saturday, at 9am, children across South Africa will tune in to Cartoon Network to watch Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens, which will see the alien-morphing hero of the Ben 10 television series star in his first computer generated imagery (CGI) movie.
Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens is directed by Victor Cook who is known for producing and developing the television series The Spectacular Spider-Man and Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated. Born in Japan, Cook spent his early childhood in Texas and Florida where he became an avid fan of animation and collector of DC and Marvel Comics. His middle school years through most of high school were spent on Okinawa, Japan, where his love of comics and animation extended to Manga and anime. This fusion of American and Asian comics and animation has influenced him as an animation artist ever since.
After studying at the American Animation Institute Cook attended California State University, Long Beach, where he drew a comic strip for the Daily 49’er campus newspaper. He was also a contributing political cartoonist for The Daily Pilot in Southern California before launching his career in animation.
Now, with Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens premiering on screens across the world, Cook says that as director and supervising producer of the movie he “creatively oversees every aspect of the movie, from script notes, recording of the actors, CG models, set dress, storyboards, color, layout, animation, lighting, music and sound effects, to editing the final picture”.
How did the story for Destroy All Aliens come about?
Cartoon Network Asia really wanted to revisit the original series characters, but present them in a new way in CG. The team brought in Marty Isenberg to develop some possible storylines. Together with executive producer Silas Hickey, we developed and made a CG short. With the short, we developed the CG models for Ben, Gwen, Four Arms and Way Big and the environment of Petropia. It tested what we could do with animation movement and action and was a springboard for the movie.
Did you visit the studio in Singapore which made this movie? Tell us about the experience working with them.
Of course! I really like interacting with the animators and the other CG artists. They are a very enthusiastic team and Singapore is a great place with an all English-speaking crew, so it was very easy to communicate.
Many are into the same geeky stuff that I am into, comics, sci-fi, superheroes and toys. I have some super high expectations in terms of quality output, and the team really rose to the occasion for this movie.
How did the cross-Pacific collaboration work? Numerous conference calls?
The movie was conceived and executive produced by Cartoon Network Asia. Although the CG production was done in Asia, the preproduction was done through Monkey Punch Studio in Burbank. There was most definitely cross-Pacific collaboration with weekly phone calls between myself, executive producer Silas Hickey and the CG studio. After completing the storyboards in Burbank, I was able to view dailies from the CG studio via an ftp site. On a daily basis, the CG studio would send models, set dress, layout, greyscale polish, lighting mock ups and animation for me to view, and give director notes on.
What was the reason to make this movie in 3D?
To be able to show the original Ben 10 characters in a way that hasn’t been done before. The medium allowed for the visual storytelling to be more dynamic and cinematic.
What was most challenging in making the movie?
I always love a good challenge as it ensures the best is brought out in the creative team. First off was translating the 2D designs into a CG world. The CG character models needed to retain the iconic look and silhouettes of the original series’ 2D designs. Being able to decide the textures and surfaces of all the aliens was a fun challenge and I’m really thrilled with the final result.
Believe it or not, making the characters walk correctly was a huge challenge. Sounds like it would be simple, but it was more difficult than setting the explosions and laser blasts! Other challenges were choreographing the action sequences and mapping out the color pacing within a tight production schedule.
The number one challenge is always to push the quality and raise the bar as much as possible in the time available to make the picture. When we started there was only one CG action show on TV. Now there are more. The audience is aware of a certain quality level to expect for action CG for TV which we had to try to meet or top. Oddly, another challenge for me was Tetrax and Diamond Heads’ skin, settling on the texture was strangely difficult for me.
What are you most proud of about Destroy All Aliens?
Definitely all the hard work and passion everyone poured into making this movie. And of course my thanks to Cartoon Network Asia who invited me to be a part of bringing Ben 10’s first CG movie to life. The biggest highlight for me was watching the opening two minutes of footage at the Ben 10 panel at the 2011 Comic Con. Nothing beats watching audience reaction. It’s a real buzz.
Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens, is airing on South African screens at 09:00 am on March 17 and repeats on March 23 at 5.30pm.