23 January 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Irish Animator Draws Praise For 'Madagascar'
13 Jul 2005 :

Irishman Donnachada Daly worked for three years as supervising animator on Dreamworks latest hit animation feature film, '‘Madagascar', that has opened at No1 in the US box office. Hitting Irish screens this weekend, Donnachada took some time to answer a Q&A before the release.

'Madagascar' is directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath. Ben Stiller (Meet The Parents), Chris Rock (Chris Rock Never Scared), David Schwimmer (TV's Friends) and Jada Pinkett Smith (Collateral) star as the voices of four zoo animals at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Filled with curiosity, the animals escape and head for the big city, but before they can go wild in the streets, they are captured, crated and put on a ship to Africa...to be ultimately set free...it's here their adventure to the Island of Madagascar begins.

Donnachada Daly is one of Ireland's most successful film animators. He began his career working for the Sullivan Bluth Studios on 'An American Tale' and 'All Dog's Go To Heaven' before moving to Warner Brothers Studios where his projects included the live action/animation 'Space Jam'.

Daly is currently a Directing Animator at PDI/Dreamworks where he has worked on the popular animated features 'Antz', 'Shrek' and the soon to be released 'Madagascar'. Still working in the US, Donnachada is currently working on Dreamworks’ next project entitled ‘Over The Hedge’, featuring the vocal talents of Bruce Willis, that follows a mischievous raccoon and his sensitive best-buddy turtle who try to resist the evils and temptations of encroaching suburbia.

Donnachada Daly working on Madagascar

Q: Where are you from and what brought you to DreamWorks?

I'm from Dublin, Ireland and obviously, animation, is what I'm doing and one of the best places to do this is in California and DreamWorks seems to have a bunch of films on its site that are quite different from anything else, that kind of brought me to this company.

Q: When you were in Ireland, did you go to school or are you self-taught? Can you give me a little of your background?

I actually started in Sullivan Bluth studio as a cell painter. And then went on to do in-betweening and assistant work and then becoming an animator in the 2D field. So I was working there for about eight years or so and then came over to the States. And I started working in 2D over here. And eventually made the switch to 3D animation because it kind of piqued my interests and here I am.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you made that transition and are you glad you made that transition?

Yeah, absolutely. I'd been looking at computer animation for quite a while, with what had been done, and there seemed to be just so many possibilities of where I could go to.

I was actually working in Warner Bros. at the time and we were working on a project called ‘ Marvin the Martian in the Third Dimension ’ , which, because Warner Bros. wanted to keep the style of the Warner Bros. animation... they asked some of the animators to do it traditionally first and then help computer animators keep that style. So that was my transition in working with computer animators. And then I learnt the computer from there.

Q: Are there any favorite moments or anything that you've seen so far in the film?

There's a lot actually, the film is jam-packed full of entertainment. The penguins are a huge hit, everybody seems to love what they are doing. One of the things about the characters is that they all have such a different personality but they all blend in extremely well together.

The Penguins in Madagascar


Q: Can you tell us a little more about your animators position on the film?

Well, it's my job to take care of the sequences. An animator would be given a scene by scene to work on. Part of my job is to look more for the whole sequence and make sure that everything is, you know, the art that the characters are developing through that sequence, where it begins and where it ends, and how those characters transition … . It's a little bit of a roller coaster ride for the characters and I have to make sure that all the actor moments and the beats and the comedy are hitting the right places.

Q: And you worked on penguin sequences and Marty sequences in the film, can you talk a little bit about that?

The penguins are great, because they are slightly insane and they just want to get out of the zoo, they've been trying for years just to escape from the place. So they have a definite mission and basically, that's what's behind their drive. Marty, he's got a curiosity about what's happening and it's because of the penguins that he finds himself outside the zoo and really going on his quest.

Alex, he's very much the pampered lion, who loves the attention and is very happy with getting all the attention all the time and he couldn't be happier just staying where he is, but through those misfortunate events, he ends up exactly where he doesn't want to be.

Chris Rock is the voice of Marty in Madagascar

Q: Did you do research by going to the zoos, or did you do research by looking at other cartoons or other kind of animation?

Yeah, everything, going to the zoo, looking at live action footage,, National Geographic stuff, a lot of the programs that are on TV about animals. It all relates to each other. The acting part comes from the actors themselves and what research we can do for, like, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock

...it's a lotof looking at their films and their voice performances and seeing at what we can put into the personality of the characters that we can sort of recognize them in there.

Q: Somebody had mentioned that you guys did a lot with these eyebrows and the crease of his eyes …

Yeah, Ben Stiller has got a very vulnerable look and his eyebrows tend to have more of a softer feel to it, even when his voice is quite angry. He has, you know, this kind of vulnerable quality to it. So that's one of the things that we put into Alex, a lot of his facial work involved that.

Q: And for Chris Rock, he's such a comedian, so how did you work him into the zebra?

You know, we try to get that with his body attitude, the way he moves around the screen, just how he gets from one place to the other and what's his motivation for that. So hopefully all his body movements will feel like the way Chris Rock would. He's got a certain way of moving around the stage when he's doing live performances, so we took some stuff from that.

Q: What was the most challenging thing for you working on this whole project?

It's something that we haven't really done before and something that I haven't quite seen before. It's more cartoony than anything that we've seen so far. We go back to the older values of traditional animation where the characters squash and stretch as they go through the motions. In 2D it looks really, really good... but now, like the computer stuff.... There has been stuff done but we're just trying to push it just that little bit more.

Marty (Rock) & Alex (Stiller) in Madagascar

Q: For animation fans that might be in Ireland, do you have anything that you want to say to them about making an animated film? Especially if they were interested in getting into the animation field, do you have any advice for them?

Just to watch a lot of animation, and also watch a lot of live action, going even back to the old school of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. They were at the top of their craft, and just studying them is you're able to figure out body mechanics and how things

move. One thing they did was weigh the situations that surround them, howthey get in and out of a scene, and basically make it as entertaining as possible. It's stuff that you can look at and analyze and once you get into actually trying to animate that and getting to the essence of it, it becomes a lot of fun …

Q: Do you have any advice for young kids trying to get into the motion picture industry? Like, if there were young animators reading this, is there a path that they should take?

Not one in particular. It seems a lot of people will come in from different directions. Now, because of computer animation, you don't actually have to be able to draw to do animation, which is pretty important. Some of my friends, they have never drawn, but are incredible computer animators. The key to animation really is just timing, body attitudes and really what's going on inside the character. So a lot of it has to do with looking at acting, basically studying some of that...There's so many different ways of getting into animation. One is by drawing becoming an animator; another is by doing storyboards, where you'll basically be drawing comic strips and if you don't draw, there are computer programs out there that you can start on, that will get you to animate, in a way.

'Madagascar' is released nationwide on the 15th of July 2005 thorough UIP.

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