Alex Ortoll – Legend of the Guardians

September 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Making movie magic has been part of digital effects artist and compositor Alex Ortoll’s professional career for more than 20 years.

Originally from the Canary Islands, Ortoll moved to Los Angeles in 1992 where he worked for a number of digital effects companies. While in L.A., Ortoll contributed to the digital effects of films such as “Black Hawk Down,” “Minority Report,” “Catch Me If You Can,” and “Master and Commander.”

In 2005, Ortoll moved back to Spain to be the Visual Effect Supervisor for a number of live-action feature films. He was nominated for a Goya Award (Spain’s equivalent to the Academy Award) in 2008 for his work on “The Heart of the Earth” starring Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Because of the prestigious nomination, more opportunities came to Ortoll. He moved from Spain to Australia in 2008 to work for the company Animal Logic. The first films he worked on with his new company were 2008’s “Australia” starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman and 2009’s “Knowing” starring Nicolas Cage.

Most recently, Ortoll joined the compositing team for the film “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” It was the first animated film of Ortoll’s career. “Guardians” tells the story of a young owl who must defeat an evil army with the help of a group of legendary warriors.

During an interview with me, Ortoll, 42, talked about working with director Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen”) and what he considers the most satisfying part of his job.

What are you doing way over there in Australia? Isn’t L.A. where everyone wants to be making movies?

Well, my whole career has been a series of accidents. One thing led to another and I got this opportunity to work for this company in Australia. So much talent is here under one roof. I won’t ever rule out ever going back to L.A., but the opportunity was there and I took it and I don’t regret it in the slightest bit.

As an artist, who inspires your style and work in the film industry?

Actually, the art director who I worked most closely with on this project is Grant Freckelton. For me, he is one of the most talented people I have ever had the opportunity to meet and to work with. He knows what he wants to achieve visually at every single moment. It was a joy working with him especially because he gave me so much creative freedom creating some of these scenes.

Did the fact that director Zack Snyder was behind this film make it more intriguing to work on?

After seeing “300” who doesn’t want to work with Zack Snyder? Zack is like a big kid. He would come into the studio with so much energy. This energy was so contagious to the rest of the team. He made everyone want to give 110 percent and push the limits on everything we were doing.

One of the major components you worked on in the film was creating an energy field known as a “fleck field.” Describe what you wanted to accomplish with its design.

When I first read the script and learned about the “fleck field” I had absolutely no idea how we were going to put it on screen. Grant had a clear idea that he wanted it to have a mixture of light and magnetism. A lot of effort went into the look of the “fleck field.” We wanted it to be something beautiful and menacing.

What is more satisfying to you: the work or the final product?

This job is very technical, very artistic and very emotional. This job is very frustrating at times, but once you get the final product to look like what you envisioned it is so rewarding. The final result is totally worth the effort. But as you’re working on a film you go through a love/hate relationship with it. That’s what makes you want to push the boundaries father and father every time.

Are animated films something you would like to continue to work on now that you’ve gotten a taste of what it takes to make one?

Yes, I think I have been converted to animation. It was one of the most creative projects I’ve ever worked on. We’re creating something from nothing. To see it come to life is such a very rewarding experience.

Legend of the Guardians

September 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren, Ryan Kwanten
Directed by: Zack Snyder (“Watchmen”)
Written by: John Orloff (“A Mighty Heart”) and Emil Stern (“The Life Before Her Eyes”)

The sharp visual style of director Zach Snyder transfers over surprisingly well into the animated genre in the filmmaker’s first attempt with “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” Not without its narrative flaws, “Guardians” is still a darkly-imagined technical wonder and a rare case in recent animated films where 3-D actually adds to the experience.

In “Guardians,” owl brothers Soren (Jim Sturgess) and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are kidnapped by a flock of evil owls led by their queen Nyra (Helen Mirren) who is eager to turn them into slave laborers. The brothers go their separate ways when Kludd finds honor in serving the queen, while Soren escapes to search for the mythical Guardians of Ga’Hoole, warrior owls who are the only answer to defeat Nyra and her army.

Adapted from the first three books in a series written by Kathryn Lasky, there are points in “Guardians” where the names of characters and locations can be a bit difficult to follow especially for the young demographic Warner Bros. is aiming for. It’s evident when the trailer mentions the film has the same producers as “Happy Feet” but doesn’t include Snyder’s past accomplishments: “Dawn of the Dead,” “300,” and “Watchmen.” Also, the soundtrack includes grating music by the band Owl City.

With “Guardians,” Snyder is still able to work with the elements of fantasy that were his calling card in his more graphic projects. Instead of zombies, Greek warriors, or superheroes, he is able to make these majestic birds come to life in the same way.

When the incredible attention to detail emerges is really when the film takes flight. Add to that a classy British voice cast to give life to all these beautifully-rendered birds and “Guardians” becomes an animation like none you’ve seen this year.