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Jennifer M. Contino
Member # 9885

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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.

THE PULSE: Pixar seems to be doing one amazing project after another. How long have you been working at the studio?

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?

I thought it was a fun idea, but what really sold me on the project was the fact that Brad Bird was directing.

THE PULSE: You told me you did some animation for that feature. What exactly does that mean? What did your job entail?

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 abstract animation.

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 smoothly.

THE PULSE: How long did it take you to create your work for Ratatouille?

I worked on the project for about 11 weeks to create roughly 1 minute of animation.

THE PULSE: What were some of the biggest challenges working on something like this?

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 his expectation.

THE PULSE: How is creating for animation different than your own comic projects and properties?

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 films.

THE PULSE: Speaking of your own projects, what's coming up in ZED?

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!

THE PULSE: What do you enjoy the most about working on that character?

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?

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.

By the way, if youíd like to see ZED animated, you can check out a little fan made movie, which was done by Dean Dodrill, at this url:

THE 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:

THE PULSE: What's it like seeing one of your films on the "Big Screen"? How does that feel?

Sometime itís great, sometime itís depressing. Depends how good the movie is.

THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?

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 Flight 5.

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 ways.

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

PULSE readers can learn more about Zed here:;f=36;t=005292

Posts: 19182 | From: PA | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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