Quest for Camelot: About The Production

Buy this video from

Books from
Buy The Book.

Music from
Buy The Soundtrack.

When Warner Bros. created its new Feature Animation division, it was inspired by the possibilities of telling full-length stories through the medium of animation. States Max Howard, President of Warner Bros. Feature Animation, "There is almost no type of movie that carries the stamp of its filmmakers as indelibly and uniquely as animated films. The artists are the storytellers, the actors, the stunt people, the special-effects crew, the production designers, the costumers and the directors of photography. Their point of view, as well as their talent and technique, creates the style and magic of the story.

"We were thrilled by the opportunity to create and tell a full-length story in a personal style representative of Warner Bros., with its rich legacy of animation as our inspiration.

"Through our heritage of the Looney Tunes," continues Howard, "we've enjoyed a reputation for really pioneering work and a tradition of making the greatest animated shorts. And one of the reasons I think millions of kids and adults have so enjoyed them is that there was a special nature, an irreverence in them. Now our goal is to bring that irreverence to our filmmaking, to try new things in storytelling as well as in graphic arts."

The first order of the day was to select a project on which to focus the energies of the new division. Although many projects vied for attention, the filmmakers kept returning to a story set in the early days of King Arthur's reign over Camelot.

Frederik Du Chau, a young Belgian animator and writer who had trained and worked with a number of prestigious animation companies, had joined Warner Bros. Feature Animation with a script of his own that he hoped to make. However, he, too, was intrigued by the dramatic possibilities of pageantry, dragons, brave knights and danger-fraught journeys &emdash; intrigued enough to want to be a part of the effort to bring it to the screen.

Says Du Chau, "The attraction of these stories of knights, villains and enchantment is almost limitless. We immediately realized that there were a million exciting possibilities, and we thought we could bring something new to the genre that would make it our own."

Du Chau was chosen to direct the project and writers began adapting the material for the screen. Says Du Chau, "When you work on an animated movie you know you're going to be committing several years to your project. We all felt that this was something we could stay excited about for that complete period of time."

Creating the Characters

The story of "Quest For Camelot" was loosely based on a book called The King's Damosel, written by Vera Chapman, but producer Dalisa Cooper Cohen and director Du Chau had several ideas about contemporizing the story without destroying its medieval flavor.

What they knew right away was that an adventure story, no matter how exciting, can only succeed if the audience can really connect with the lead characters. So the filmmakers and lead animators spent months creating leads &emdash; and many supporting characters &emdash; who were interesting, appealing and ready to spring to life on the screen.

They worked closely with Kirk De Micco, William Schifrin, Jacqueline Feather and David Seidler to develop a story that had at its core a feisty, adventurous young woman whose desires and goals were not those of the traditional courtly maidens.

Says producer Dalisa Cooper Cohen, "We've created intriguing, unconventional characters who prove that the unlikeliest of heroes can win the day through intelligence, courage and humor. Kayley, our female lead, is a strong-willed, agile and principled young woman who's not afraid to plunge into a haunted forest or take a swing at a villain if the situation requires it. She wants to be a knight, something unheard of in her era, but she's not so single-minded that she's immune to the charms of a handsome young man who comes to her assistance, either."

In addition to creating a physical presence for Kayley, a process which took several months of research and experimentation, a voice was needed to bring her to life. Many possibilities were considered. Explains Du Chau, "The voice of a character is vital to the way an audience will respond to him or her. It also has a major effect on the way we draw and animate the character, because certain qualities from the speaker actually change the way the character's face appears when it's speaking."

The voice of Kayley came from not one, but two sources. Her speaking voice is provided by Jessalyn Gilsig and her singing voice is courtesy of Andrea Corr, a member of the Irish singing group The Corrs.

Reveals Dalisa Cooper Cohen, "Creating a character's voice is an interesting exercise for a live-action performer, because they can't rely on body language, facial expression or mannerisms to convey information; it all has to be in the use of the voice. Although this was a new experience for many of our voice actors, we were lucky enough to attract several very talented stars, who brought the perfect combination of distinctive sound and expressive characterization to their work."

The lead animator on Kayley was NASSOS VAKALIS, a veteran of several feature animated films for Don Bluth. Vakalis stresses that, particularly with a female lead, the voice actors are an essential part of creating the visual presence of the character.

"We tape the actors as they record their parts and it's very helpful," he says. "Sometimes it's just the way they move their eyes or a twist of their mouths that conveys a certain emotion, and we can translate that into our drawings. You have to be especially careful with a character like Kayley, because she's a strong person, especially for a young girl in medieval times, but we always want her to be appealing, so we have to be subtle in the way we draw her facial expressions. She needs to be someone audiences can identify with."

The male lead opposite Kayley is Garrett, a blind former stable boy from Camelot who lives deep in the Forbidden Forest. Grudgingly at first, he becomes Kayley's partner in her quest to recover the lost sword Excalibur. In the process, Garrett faces some of his own fears and learns to overcome them.

Says Cooper Cohen, "Garrett is someone who changes a great deal during the story. He's bright, talented and strong, but he's turned away from the world because of an accident that changed his life. Meeting Kayley gives Garrett his first reason in years to consider rejoining the kingdom of Camelot. The transformation in him is inspiring, touching and sometimes very funny."

Cary Elwes, who first rose to stardom as the hero of "The Princess Bride" and later starred in the spoof "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," creates Garrett's speaking voice. His singing voice is provided by country star Bryan White.

In order to meet the special challenges of creating a strong, capable and yet realistically blind character, the creative team of "Quest For Camelot" and the animation team for Garrett, headed by CHRYSTAL KLABUNDE, met with representatives of Los Angeles' Braille Institute, who explained the "dos and don'ts" of portraying the blind onscreen.

They explained that a blind man living in the wilderness would need a staff or walking stick to help him navigate without tripping. They said that the blind often feel that their eyes are vulnerable, choosing to wear sunglasses or a hat to conceal them; the animators responded by partially concealing Garrett's eyes behind his unruly hair. And finally, the Institute's representatives stressed the difference between the appearance of someone born blind and someone who has lost his sight &emdash; a difference that the animators strove to represent in their work.

Klabunde enjoyed the artistic challenges faced in creating Garrett. "My style of animation has always been very focused and eye-oriented," she says, "so I had to remember for myself, and constantly remind my team, not to lead with the eyes on a turn, not to focus on anything. The Braille Institute recommended that we meet Lynn Manning, a martial-arts champion who's blind. He came into the studio and made some tapes for us, so we could see how an active, independent and highly physical person who's not sighted would move. That was very useful."

Every great adventure must have its villains as well as its heroes. "Quest For Camelot" has an unforgettable villain in the deranged Sir Ruber, voiced by acclaimed actor Gary Oldman. Frederik Du Chau recounts, "We created a terrific villain in Ruber &emdash; someone's who's genuinely evil &emdash; and completely nuts! Animation allows you to visually express so much emotion in your characters &emdash; Ruber is almost literally deformed by his own wickedness. And we were very fortunate to get Gary Oldman as the voice of Ruber &emdash; he brings tremendous drama and humor to the role."

ALEX WILLIAMS, the lead animator on Ruber, found the key to his character's image in Ruber's mental state. "He's a lunatic. He's mad. He's insane," laughs Williams. "So I've given him a twitch &emdash; an eye twitch that he reverts to in moments of emotional intensity. It came to me when I was thinking of Herbert Lom and the Pink Panther, but it really works for Ruber, to suggest that he might go over the edge at any moment. And of course Gary Oldman was very helpful in the studio; I just sat and drew him while he worked, and his delivery worked very well to inspire the character's looks."

Among the most entertaining supporting players is Devon & Cornwall, a two-headed dragon voiced by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, and Don Rickles, whose insult-laden humor has made him a comedic institution. Devon is a snooty and cultivated dragon; Cornwall is earthy and crude. Each despises the fact that he and his opposite are ruled by one body from which both of their heads sprout.

Their constant arguing has made it impossible for them to enjoy any of the "perks" that other dragons are allowed, such as breathing fire and flying &emdash; too much of their energy is consumed in hilarious bickering. But when Devon & Cornwall come to the aid of Kayley and Garrett, they learn an important lesson about overcoming obstacles, while providing a comic underpinning to the adventure story.

DAN WAGNER, who was the lead animator on Devon & Cornwall, strove to match the facial expressions of his character with the world-famous voices of Rickles and Idle, but he based the body and general movements of the dragon on studies of a Komodo dragon and a frill-necked lizard. "Even with a fantasy character, there has to be something familiar that audiences can connect with, if only on a subconscious level. When something talks, it has to resemble other talking beings. When it walks, it should move like other things with that shape. So we looked to several sources for our inspiration and came up with a character who, we hope, is even funnier because he's a blend of all these elements."

Additional actors bringing dimension to the characterizations onscreen include Pierce Brosnan as King Arthur; Bronson Pinchot as Ruber's evil ally, the Griffin; Jaleel White as the hapless Bladebeak, a creature formed when Ruber's magical potion fuses a chicken with an ax; Jane Seymour as Kayley's mother, the gracious and lovely Lady Juliana; Sir John Gielgud as Merlin the Magician; and Gabriel Byrne as Kayley's noble father, Sir Lionel. Lead animators on these characters include CYNTHIA OVERMAN for Lady Juliana, STEPHAN FRANCK for Bladebeak, and MIKE NGUYEN for Ayden, a beautiful and noble falcon who comes to the aid of Kayley and Garrett.

"It was stimulating to create the dramatic characters, but some of the most fun was inventing the supporting ones like Bladebeak," says Du Chau. "We could let our imaginations run wild with those &emdash; they're really the comic relief in the story."

The Animation Process

Outstanding animation artists from all over the world joined forces to bring "Quest For Camelot" to life, creating vivid characters in a uniquely beautiful setting. Classic animation techniques, combined with the latest possibilities in CGI (computer-generated imagery), bring dramatic presence and storytelling power to the action in the film.

Artists working on the scenic backdrop for "Quest For Camelot" traveled to England with the film's production designer, STEVE PILCHER, and visited ancient Celtic sites to incorporate images from thousand-year-old stone carvings into the visual themes of the movie.

Along with the timeless look of a classic adventure, the filmmakers wanted to continue breaking animation ground technically, as they had with their hit "Space Jam."

Two advances in computer-enhanced animation were particularly noteworthy, says Wendy Aylsworth, Vice President of Technology at Warner Bros. Feature Animation. "Computer software has helped us make tremendous advances in the way certain things appear on the screen, but every production and every team of artists needs to adapt the capabilities of the software to the style of the project they're working on."

The animators used Cambridge Animation's Animo software to assist in automated registration, known as "regging." Regging is used when a single drawing must appear both in front of and behind another drawing &emdash; such as when a character's hand wraps around a sword, or pulls back a drape that hangs partially over the hand. It can be used to show two characters interacting, or a character interacting with a background. Since traditional, two-dimensional animation normally works in separate layers, it is difficult without automated regging to create the illusion of interaction, but the use of computer software brought a new reality to the animated images in "Quest For Camelot."

The other major visual effect used Silcon Graphics' Alias Wavefront software to create the illusion of three-dimensional images in certain parts of the film, most notably in the creation of a rock ogre, a circle of stones similar to Stonehenge, and in King Arthur's Round Table room. KIT PERCY, head of CGI effects, combined two-and three-dimensional effects to join fantasy and reality on the screen.

"The software that we used was developed for live-action effects and it gives an extremely realistic look to certain textures and surfaces," she explains. "When you adapt that to an animated picture, you have to manipulate the software to represent a drawing style that's consistent with what's already been created by hand. We wanted the effects to be an integral part of the story, just as the mist, fog, and every other visual effect blend in; our team did a great job of adapting their tools to make this happen."

Warner Bros. Feature Animation was a brand-new company as it began work on "Quest For Camelot." Artists from all over the world had come to the studio's Glendale, California headquarters to share ideas, animation techniques and artistic styles as they brought the movie from concept to reality. And at the same time they were working in Glendale, the Warner Bros. animation studios in London, England, were also gearing up on "Quest For Camelot," taking responsibility for several aspects of about 20 minutes of the finished film in their studios.

Under the leadership of JOHN McKENNA, who headed the London offices, approximately 100 animators communicated daily with their counterparts in the United States, sending art back and forth via high-speed fiber-optic transmission lines and conversing on interactive video. Says Dalisa Cooper Cohen, "Animation has become such a global effort with these technologies; we were able to solve problems right on the spot even when teams of artists were separated by thousands of miles."

The filmmakers also worked with A-Film in Denmark, under the auspices of ANDERS MASTRUP. Frederik Du Chau says, "A-Film has a great reputation for doing the whole front end of the process, from layout through rough animation, background and cleanup. We thought their work was compatible with ours and they were excellent partners. We communicated through video conferencing, which ultimately worked quite well."

The completed film combines a muted color palette with the imagery of medieval England, bringing together a collection of characters audiences can identify with and others created to celebrate the excitement and humor of artistic fantasy.

Adding the Music

When Warner Bros. released "Space Jam," its single, "I Believe I Can Fly," became a worldwide hit. For "Quest For Camelot," the filmmakers wanted a whole collection of songs that would stay with audiences long after they left the theater. To make this goal a reality they went to Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster, two of the music world's most talented and successful songwriters. Bayer Sager is both a Grammy Award-winner (for 1986's "That's What Friends Are For") and the recipient of an Academy Award for "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)," and Foster has been, as producer or composer, the recipient of 14 Grammy Awards. They were inspired by the spectrum of emotions and characters in "Quest For Camelot" and quickly became part of the project.

Explains Bayer Sager, "It's exciting to write songs that tell a real story. In a musical, which is what this is, the songs flesh out the characters, their desires and personalities. It makes our work an important part of a greater whole, which made it a lot of fun."

Adds director Du Chau, "Our songs are not directed or staged like musical theater. We've got some great song and dance numbers, but, thanks to the choreography of KENNY ORTEGA and the insight of our creative consultant, Broadway's MIKE OCKRENT, we've been able to handle them differently. I think that some of the best parts of the movie are the way songs are staged and how they bring this world to life. They keep moving; they don't stop the story."

Asserts David Foster, who also co-produced the soundtrack with Carole Bayer Sager, "We've been very fortunate to have attracted some of the most gifted and popular recording artists to perform our music for this movie, including internationally recognized tenor Andrea Bocelli, LeAnn Rimes, Andrea Corr, Celine Dion, Steve Perry and Bryan White."

LeAnn Rimes sings "Looking Through Your Eyes"; the song has already been released as a single and is quickly climbing the pop-music and adult contemporary charts. Andrea Corr of the Irish singing group The Corrs performs "On My Father's Wings" and duets on "Looking Through Your Eyes" with Bryan White, who also sings "I Stand All Alone." Celine Dion will perform "The Prayer" both in the movie and on the soundtrack; Andrea Bocelli's version will appear during the end credits and on the soundtrack; and Steve Perry performs "I Stand Alone" and "United We Stand."

Back to "Quest for Camelot"

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.