Ernesto Bottger – Free Birds

November 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

As a lead animator working in Hollywood, Ernesto Bottger says he has to be an expert at the responsibilities he is trusted with, especially when overseeing the animation of an entire character. In “Free Birds,” Bottger, is assigned to the character Myles Standish (voiced by Colm Meaney), a hunter who is looking to bag the film’s two lead turkeys (voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) for Thanksgiving dinner.

During our interview, Bottger, who is originally from Peru, talked about how the Thanksgiving holiday fits into the film’s narrative, and shares with us the kinds of cartoons he watched growing up in Lima.

As an animator, do you try to design the character around the actor or actress hired to voice the character?

Well, first of all, [actor] Colm Meaney’s voice is amazing, so we definitely wanted to build the character around the characteristics of [Colm’s] voice. Physically, the character was not based on [Colm], but his voice added a lot to the character. You design the character and then when you add the voice it just makes the character richer.

How much does the holiday of Thanksgiving play a part in the film?

The movie itself is not about Thanksgiving, but it just happens around that time. It’s definitely a family movie. I think it will even do well internationally for countries that don’t have Thanksgiving. In Peru, where I am from, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But this movie is more about finding yourself and finding something that is greater than you.

Growing up in Peru, were you able to see a lot of American-made cartoons? What would you watch?

Oh, yeah. I watched a lot of “Looney Tunes,” “Smurfs,” “The Flintstones.” Any cartoons you watched, I probably watched, too.

Was that when your love for animation started?

Well, I always liked to draw since I was little. As I grew up, I wanted to become an animator, but there wasn’t really an animation industry. So, I majored in film, television and advertising and worked in the advertising industry for four years. But then I realized I really wanted to pursue my goal as an animator.

Looking forward, what do you want out of the animation industry? Can you see yourself doing this for a while?

Oh, yeah. What I’m doing right now is a dream come true. I definitely want to continue working on films and keep growing as a professional.

Even though you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving yourself, what would you say you’re the most thankful for this year?

A lot of stuff. I have a baby, who is just going to turn two years old in November. And then, of course, being able to work on “Free Birds.”

I have a two year old, too, so I get to see a lot of cartoons. What does your two year old make you watch with him?

He was into movies for a while, but now he’s watching [the new animated series] “Batman.” That’s fine with me because I love that character. The look of the series is really dark, but he loves it.

You must be excited about him growing up and learning what daddy does for a living.

Yeah, I can’t wait to show him a movie and say, “Hey, your daddy worked on that.” It’s going to be awesome.

The Damned United

December 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Michael Sheen, Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall
Directed by: Tom Hooper (TV’s “John Adams” miniseries)
Written by: Peter Morgan (“Frost/Nixon”)

It’s one thing to see a sports obsession coming from rowdy fans in the stands of a soccer match, but it’s an entirely different story when the mania is coming straight from the sidelines in unhealthy doses. In “The Damned United,” two-time Oscar nominated screenwriter Peter Morgan (“Frost/Nixon,” “The Queen”) adapts author David Peace’s nonfiction novel about English soccer coach Brian Clough and his desire to prove his worth in the professional English football league no matter how many enemies he makes.

Brian (Michael Sheen) has always been a cocky son of a gun, but when he gets the opportunity to coach the top-rated soccer team Leeds United after he leads a once-lowly second division soccer club out from the bottom barrel, his claws come out. The problem is, up until actually accepting the offer to coach Leeds, Brian was a strong critic of the championship team and their iconic longtime coach Don Revie (Colm Meaney). Not only does Brian hold a grudge with Don for an unintentional snub in the past, he publicly voices that he thinks the team only wins championships because they cheat. When he gets to Leeds, he intends to bring “good, clean, attractive football” to the area.

It won’t be as easy as it sounds, however. The players aren’t thrilled that one of their biggest detractors is now their coach and is trying to change the way they play the game. Brian has also never coached a team without his scout and assistant Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall), who is angry with his friend for sticking his foot in his mouth one too many times. His outspokenness is one of the reasons his last boss Sam Longson (Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent) never supported him when Brian would go behind his back to recruit players and act like he owned the team.

As Brian, Sheen does a masterful job turning this talented coach into a hybrid character. There are times where Brian’s sheer enthusiasm for the game is contagious. Other times, Brian’s “mad ambition,” disregard of humility, and his ongoing rivalry with Don make it hard to sympathize with him. “Fire is good,” someone tells Brian, “but sometimes fire destroys everything.”

Still, this is what the character calls for. Sheen, who also portrayed characters written by Peace in “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen,” really accentuates the ugliness of the sports world through his personal vendetta with everyone who chooses to disagree with him and his inattention to his own faults as a human being.

Along with his performance, “The Damn United” is an engaging film that isn’t just for fans of soccer. It could have followed any other sport or other life situation and built these strong characters and themes around that and it still would have been a relatable story. Credit Morgan’s script and director Tom Hooper (“John Adams”) for crafting something that could have been ordinary into an unbeatable sports drama.