JENNIFER M. CONTINO Michel Gagne is just one of
the comic creators/animators who got to be a part of the new
Pixar feature film, Ratatouille. He told us what
it was like getting the call from Pixar to work on the
project, how it was different from Iron Giant and what's
coming up in his comic book toils.
Pixar seems to be doing one amazing project after another. How
long have you been working at the studio?
GAGNE: Actually, I worked on the project on a freelance
basis and was able to create all the work I was contracted for
in my home studio in Washington.
THE PULSE: What
did you think when you heard about the idea for Ratatouille?
GAGNE: I thought it was a fun idea, but what
really sold me on the project was the fact that Brad Bird was
THE PULSE: You told me you did some
animation for that feature. What exactly does that mean? What
did your job entail?
GAGNE: I was contacted in the
Fall of 2006 by the producer of the movie (Brad Lewis) who
asked me if I was available to create some animation for the
new Pixar movie. I told him that Iíd love to do it. A few days
later, I got a phone call from Brad Bird. He described a
couple of scenes in the film featuring some abstract visuals
that he wanted me to design and animate. I did a lot of the
effects on The Iron Giant which Brad Bird also directed, so we
have some history together and he knew my interest in doing
My task was to create the taste
visualization experienced by the two main rat characters, Remy
and Emile. I first came up with some color concepts. These
were reviewed by Brad Bird and shown to the music composer for
inspiration. When the music was composed, I was then given an
audio track to sync my animation to.
Once I broke down
all the music on a detailed exposure sheet, I proceeded to
traditionally animate all the various parts on paper. I
scanned, painted and composited all the drawings using Animo
and Photoshop software. Once everything was approved by Brad,
I sent the final files to Pixar via internet for final
compositing with the characters. It all worked out very
THE PULSE: How long did it take you to
create your work for Ratatouille?
GAGNE: I worked
on the project for about 11 weeks to create roughly 1 minute
PULSE: What were some of the biggest challenges working on
something like this?
GAGNE: Working with Brad Bird
is demanding because he always expects the best out of his
crew. The challenge is to deliver something that lives up to
THE PULSE: How is creating for
animation different than your own comic projects and
GAGNE: In a way, a lot of the same
principles apply to comics, animation and illustration, such
as composition, design and color sense, pacing etc. Because my
background is primarily animation, I always think of comics
and illustrated books in an animated way. Itís funny how a lot
of artists look at my comic and illustration work and tell me
how they can practically see them as animated
THE PULSE: Speaking of your own projects,
what's coming up in ZED?
GAGNE: I recently
completed the 8th issue of ZED and this one deals mostly with
the loudest band in the universe, Krah, and their devoted
group of alien headbangers. Itís a pretty explosive issue with
a big space battle and tons of action. Iím happy to see how
the series is progressing and getting closer to the grand
finale of the overall story. ZED #8 is currently soliciting in
Juneís Previews - spread the word!
PULSE: What do you enjoy the most about working on that
GAGNE: ZED is my playground. I love
everything about it. Itís fun to draw, fun to write, it makes
me laugh. Itís a form of therapy. At one issue per year, itís
a relaxed schedule - no stress. I probably would not enjoy ZED
if I was doing it for a living, and had to cater to a market
and answer to editors. I do ZED out of love and thatís the way
I like it.
THE PULSE: ZED is so much fun ... have
you had anyone approach you about doing something outside of
comics with the character?
GAGNE: Yeah, I get
approached quite a bit about movie rights but nothing ever
comes out of it. Iím in no hurry. Iíd like to finish the whole
story in comic form first before going the movie route. Then,
I might start being more aggressive about other medias.
PULSE: You said you're working on a short film with Paul
Plimley and Barry Guy. What is this about?
This is a project Iím hoping to premiere at the 2008 Vancouver
International Jazz Festival. Itís sort of a mini Fantasia that
will feature 3 short films synchronized on improvised jazz.
Iíve already done some of the animation for it and the footage
Iíve screened has gotten great reaction. Iím currently going
through the grant process to raise money for production and
everything is looking very promising. You can see a short
teaser at this link: http://www.gagneint.com/Final%20site/Animation/jazz/Sensology.htm
PULSE: What's it like seeing one of your films on the "Big
Screen"? How does that feel?
GAGNE: Sometime itís
great, sometime itís depressing. Depends how good the movie
THE PULSE: What other projects are you working
Iíve got the next installment of The Saga of Rex coming out in
Flight 4 in July and Iím working on the one after that for
We havenít signed the papers yet, but it
looks like I will be doing some art direction for a classical
opera (Dvorakís Spectreís Bride) which will premiere at the
end of October in Victoria, Canada. It will be a massive
spectacle with 80 singers and a full symphonic orchestra. This
is a completely new arena for me and Iím happy as a clam to
have the opportunity to spread my wings in such unexpected
As usual, Iíve got books and animation projects
in the works but I think itís a bit too soon to discuss them.
Iím going to have a big announcement in the next few weeks so
keep checking my website at http://www.insanelytwisted.com/