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30 Jun 2009


Sigg Jones (Magic Dunk) Interview

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3D animation rarely gets the chops it deserves. Pixar and the Dis are doing their thing on the kiddie tip, but what if your taste runs more to sphincter-clenching action, topped off with mind-blowing sneakers? Sigg Jones is that film and thanks to the tenacity and genius of three French film students ( Asterokid, MCBess and Motraboy), 3D animation has never looked so dope! Based on a superhero gone postal, the film showcases some of the most hectic battles this side of the Matrix. But forget about the punch-ups, this animation is all about the Magic Dunk! One of the slickest rides we’ve seen this side of the hybrid highway, the Magic Dunk takes the Yeezy to a whole new level! We had to find out more, and luckily for us, the three fellas were happy to give us the 411.

First up, introduce yourselves and give us some background into what you do and how you all came to know each other?
Asterokid: Way back when we had real names and didn't know each other, we were all enrolled at a school in France called Supinfocom. It's an institution that allows you to create your own animation film for graduation. That's where we met and created Sigg Jones.

So who came up with the intial idea?
MC: Asterokid came up with it; everyone had to write a script for our graduation short film. The teachers chose Asterokid's ideas and threw ours in the bin. We had all become great friends so we decided to work together on his rubbish idea!

Can you give as a synopsis of Sigg Jones and what you wanted to achieve?
Motraboy: Everyone can find their own little story in Sigg Jones. Actually, we got lost on the way trying to write the scenario. There were way too many ideas we wanted in the movie but because of time constraints a lot of them didn’t make the final cut. Sigg Jones was more an opportunity to showcase some nice images, action sequences and incorporate facets of film-making that we loved.

A: Sigg Jones tells the story of an Ultimate Fight superstar and his agent. One day as they get ready to enter the ring, Sigg Jones suddenly feels strange. After drinking an energy drink, his evil side rears its ugly head and after stealing his agent’s sneakers, a dual between the two breaks out - all over a mouth-watering pair of kicks. Sports accessories are the main cause of Sigg Jones' corruption and, yet, what sets him straight in the end. One of our goals was to focus on the relationship between the two characters - the agent that has to become the fighter and the friendships made inside a professional relationship. But I think the main goal was to make a personal and entertaining film, rich in action, with a good balance between battle and humour.

Well you've done that. It’s hectic! Can you go through the process of getting it from paper to film - how long are we talking here?
Motra: As we were still students at the time, and pretty much discovering the tools as we went along, we spent quite a long time on every step of the movie. The pre-production part (scenario, designs and storyboard) took us something like four months and had been submitted to perpetual changes throughout production. The actual production part (modeling, animation, rendering) took five more months. So it took a total of nine months, with loads of late nights and weekends at school.

The animation lends itself to many influences from the Matrix stunt scenes, video games and jaw dropping action sequences...
Astro: I think one of our goals was to transpose a lot of elements that we liked into 3D media because at the time we felt they were not done. We wanted to do a film that links to the present, incorporating our own pop culture, instead of trying to aim for universality and immortality like many other 3D films do. Trying to make a classic when using a media like 3D gets old very quickly. Having said that, there were a lot of influences from all over the place, especially with video games - we've been playing them for more than a decade, so that goes without saying. Fighting games like Street Fighter or King of Fighters have been a great inspiration for us as well. Animation is another big one especially with the likes of Dead Leaves, Mind Games, Ninja Scroll, FLCL, Animatrix World Record, Aeon Flux, Samurai Jack and Akira. Some movies have inspired us but realistically there aren’t a lot of Matrix influences in there, although a lot of people seem to make that connection. It may be because the Wachowski brothers themselves were influenced by all the same animation when they made the Matrix films.

What role did you all play in getting this short film made?
Motra: Asterokid came up with the original concept, which eventually changed throughout the thousands of different storyboards we created together. After that, MCBess and I started modeling characters and backgrounds whilst Asterokid took care of the sneakers and rigs (skeletal part of the characters allowing them to move). When Asterokid started the animation, I was doing textures and renders while MCBess was doing a bit of both. Each of us ended up compositing a third of the shots. In the meantime Asterokid was trying to put all the edits and sound together. MCBess recorded some of the music while Philippe Gully did the rest of the music (on top of featuring a Pinback track for the credits)

Sigg Jones from Asterokid on Vimeo.

On the website, there is a disclaimer that states ‘Sigg Jones is no commercial but we like sneakers!’ and you’ve recreated some super-cyber kicks that are off the chain. Obviously you didn’t have any copyright issues with these big brands – have you heard from them at all?
Astro: Concerning copyrights issues, having a specific brand in the film wasn’t going to turn it into a black market commercial, so as far as we know, there weren’t any problems with Nike. Someone from the brand contacted us at one point, but we haven’t heard back from him, so I guess we’re fine!

What importance do the sneakers play in the film?
Astro: Most characters in animation film are often dressed in a stereotypical and impersonal way. We thought it would be a good idea to give our characters their own tastes to define their personality. Since we were (and still are) heavy into sneakers, it seemed only natural our characters would like them as well. Progressively, the idea of the sneakers taking a major part in the film became a way to exaggerate this idea of ‘unnecessary importance on accessories’. That's pretty much how they ended up becoming such a focal point of the film.

The shoes the agent wears once he is inhabited by the power drink are incredible! What are they and how did you come up with such a cross-breed corker?
Motra: At the beginning of the movie, the agent is wearing a pair of Nike Dunk Lows. The superseded version of his shoes you talk about are called the ‘Magic Dunk’. Looking back, we probably could have come up with a much better name! They are basically a mix of some of our favorites Nike features; a Dunk shape with an Air Trainer sole and Velcro strapping, Jordan laces holes and Air Max bubble cushions. To finish it all off we used pink cross prints and layers, highlighting the ‘+’ sign, which symbolized the positive part of Sigg.

What has the response been like for you guys?
Astro: Honestly, when I was done with the film, I hated it. Not only because of all the sleepless nights we'd been through, but also because there were portions of the film popping out like an ugly spot on a pretty lady's face. But fortunately the audience was really excited about the film. We were really happy with all the congratulatory emails we received.

Motra: I've been involved in the creative process of two shorts movies now, and I've realised that almost every time, after working for so long on something, you always end up not liking the final product (even the freshest ideas seem rubbish after six months). But in the end, we got a lot of positive feedback from many different peeps. After a few months you start to think 'okay, maybe it wasn't that bad.'

You’re all working on your own ish now, yet still keep in contact and help each other out where you can – what’s going down for each of you now?
Astro: We are all working at the same company, The Mill but at the same time working on our own projects. Matthieu just released a new short film called Wood. Jonathan and I finished another film called Galactic Mail a few months ago. We are all juggling between our main work in the company and personal stuff. We believe this kind of balance is needed to keep our careers vibrant.

Agreed! Any advice for kids that are looking to make waves in this form of media?
Draw a lot, watch a lot of animations and movies (possibly the right ones - but that should happen automatically) and last but not least, have fun doing it.

Thanks guys!

30 Jun 2009


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