Visual Development is one of the key elements of the pre-production and production phases of making an animated film. It involves exploring various designs, color palettes, locations, etc. in an effort to define the visual style of the movie. Art directors Kathy Altieri and Richard Chavez and Production Designer Darek Gogol led a team of nine visual development artists in setting a visual style for the movie that was representative of the time, the scale and the architectural style of Ancient Egypt. Part of the process also includes the research and collection of artwork from various artists that may be in line with the style they are trying to achieve, as well as taking part in trips such as the two-week trek across Egypt that the filmmakers took prior to beginning work on the film.
While the visual development artists were working on the overall look of the film, Character Designers Carter Goodrich, Carlos Grangel and Nicolas Marlet worked on setting the look of the characters. Drawing on various inspirations for these widely known characters, the team of character designers worked on designing characters that had a slightly more realistic feel than the usual animated characters.
Both character design and art direction strove to set a clear distinction between the symmetrical, more angular look of the Egyptians versus the more organic, natural look of the Hebrews and their environments.
The story phase of production is an ongoing part of the process. In the animation process, a script is not necessarily used - the entire story is mapped out on storyboards instead. The Prince of Egypt was "written" throughout the story process. Starting with a beat outline for the story, Story Supervisors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook led a team of 14 storyboard artists and writers as they sketched out the entire movie - sequence by sequence. Once a sequence is storyboarded, the artist pitches it to the directors, producers and story team for approval. The story process is intensely collaborative and is the time when the team can really develop the characters and story points to achieve the strongest and most cohesive story possible.
Once the storyboards have been approved and "green lit," they are put into the Avid (a computerized editing platform) by editor Nick Fletcher to create a "story reel." The story reel allows the filmmakers to view the entire movie in continuity and also helps the layout and animation departments understand what is happening in each sequence.
The Workbook phase consists of breaking the storyboard drawings down into separate shots to define where wide shots, close-ups and other camera moves will happen. Layout Supervisor Lorenzo Martinez, along with the directors, art directors and the production designer discussed each sequence using the story reel and story sketches. The main goals of this phase are to establish the composition of each shot in the movie and how the main story points of each scene can be conveyed properly through the cinematography.
Composer and Lyricist Stephen Schwartz began working on writing songs for the movie at the very beginning of the project. From that point on, as the story evolved, he continued to write songs that would serve to both entertain and help move the story along. Composer Hans Zimmer arranged and produced the songs and then eventually wrote the score. The score for The Prince of Egypt was recorded entirely in London, England.
Once the voice talent had been cast, dialogue recording sessions began. In the case of "The Prince of Egypt," an all-star cast of actors and actresses were assembled including Val Kilmer as Moses, Ralph Fiennes as Rameses, Michelle Pfeiffer as Tzipporah, Sandra Bullock as Miriam, Steve Martin as Hotep, Martin Short as Huy, Jeff Goldblum as Aaron, Patrick Stewart as Seti, Helen Mirren as the Queen and Danny Glover as Jethro. For the most part, the actors record individually in a studio guided by one of the three directors. The voice tracks are the basis on which the animators build their performances.
The animators handle the key drawings and poses for the characters in each scene. Supervising Animators are assigned to each main character, who then oversee a team of animators who are responsible for bringing those characters to life. For example, Kristof Serrand, the Supervising Animator on the Older Moses and Seti characters, would handle the key scenes in the movie involving those characters and then pass on various scenes to his team of animators.
Backgrounds and EFX
The Backgrounds department, headed by supervisors Paul Lasaine and Ron Lukas, oversee a team of artists who are responsible for painting the sets/backdrops from the layouts. In the case of The Prince of Egypt, approximately 934 hand-painted backgrounds were created for the movie. Once the backgrounds are finished and approved, they are checked and scanned.
Checking is the process by which all animation and all other elements of a scene are checked and reviewed for possible errors, omissions or inconsistencies. Checking Supervisors Pat Sito and Shauna Stevens were primarily responsible for overseeing this part of the process. Once scenes and animation levels are approved and final, they are digitally scanned into the system for Color Models and Ink & Paint. Scanning Supervisor Stuart Campbell oversaw the proper scanning of tens of thousands of individual pieces of artwork.
Sound and visual elements are edited into the "work reel" throughout the process, gradually updating the film until the movie is complete. Editor Nick Fletcher oversaw the editorial work on The Prince of Egypt from the earliest story sketch compilation through to the final mix, in which voices, effects and music are balanced against the final picture.
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