The Spine of Night interview with Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King

We’re in the midst of covering SXSW and there is one animated feature that is going to blow our audience away. Especially if you miss films like “Heavy Metal”, “The Spine Of Night” features that throwback vibe with a spectacular voice cast including Payton Oswalt and Lucy Lawless.

AJ: So how did this fight night come about? Because the animation looks like it’s heavily influenced by heavy metal.

Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King:
For sure. Yeah. I mean, we were both huge fans of heavy metal and, you know, the Ralph Bakshi films of that similar like late seventies, early eighties era. I guess it came about in that I I’ve been, I was a fan of the thing. And that was working on your short films for a couple of years, sort of trying to reproduce that look, in my own process. And then eventually Phil saw the, exhorting them short film that I had done and we sort of worked from there. Yeah. I mean, that’s really the, the origin is, is that, the short film and me seeing it and then me approaching Morgan and saying, Hey, let’s do something else crazy and fantasy. And that’s like heavy metal in Bakshi and cone and all that stuff that we love. So that’s really, you know, the seed from which it grew so to speak.

AJ:
And I’m always interested in the process of directing animated films. So how does it look like directing animated films rather than a live action film?

Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King:
This, the answer to that question would be this film, the director of this film would not really be the standard animation directing process because of the rotoscope way that it was made. So, you know, we shot originally live action motion, reference footage in a warehouse with actors, and that was Morgan and me both on set, um, you know, sort of taking turns, taking point with the direction and, and discussing like what sorts of visual elements were needed to capture in that process. Um, and, so that was one whole aspect that, that resembled in its broad contours live-action direction, right? Because it was like a camera, it was blocking, it was not so much lighting, but we needed to turn lights on so that we can capture the footage.

Continues:
It was, you know, like more like a live-action process after that was done. We cut all of that live action footage into like, uh, you know, what a traditional animation film might call. Um, uh, I’m sorry, I’m forgetting the term of it now. Like, um, I can’t remember the name, but, you know, like the, the thing they put together before they actually started doing the reality real animation. Um, I’m so sorry. I blanked on what that’s called. And at that point, you then went to Morgan to sort of, um, oversee the animation team and really begin the process of the, the animating of it, which I can let Morgan talk about if you’d would like

Morgan:
Yeah. Uh, taking the, you know, having the fully edited live action thing to work as a basis was like, um, it was fantastic and that we could sort of like target areas where like, okay, we’re going to work on animating this section here. And then this section there, and really sort of start with like the most important stuff and work our way backwards into like, getting full coverage of the entire, uh, live action film in terms of actually drawing it. Um, you know, like the, the visual reference, you know, we export it all out. It’s like individual frames, the project animated at 12 frames per second. And so the, um, you know, that sort of works as a baseline for when you’re doing like the original key frame. And then the video sort of becomes less important as you work out from that initial key frame in a much more traditional onion skin frame by frame hand drawn manner.

AJ:
Right. And let’s talk about the cast and a little bit, you got the Patton Oswalt and you got him playing a villain, and this when steam doesn’t really do, and you got Lucy Lawless and you got Joe, and then along with Larry, so how was it like casting all of these genre icons

Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King:
I will say this, I think Patton should play a villain. And more often I think that he, uh, I don’t want to talk out of turn, but I think he relished being able to deliver lines cruelly, uh, and certainly, uh, seemed to seem to be enjoyed it. And I, I think he’s a great villain, so I’m hope I hope this leads to him to change, to play more simpering sadistic, uh, many Kings. Um, but yeah, the process of casting it was was great. Um, you know, we didn’t, so I guess, to, to sort of tag onto the end of your last question, you’re like, we didn’t cast the bigger names until the animation was almost complete. Right. So we were able to show Richard and Lucy and patent and Joe and Larry, what the movie looked like. So they weren’t just like, what is this weird live action?

Continues:
Like, why would I want to do this? Right. So we could show, we could show them what it’s going to look like. We could say to them, you know, it’s like heavy metal. It’s like, it’s like Backstreet, it’s going to be in the spirit of these movies. Um, and then we really tried to go, you know, we’d really tried to approach actors who we thought would, uh, get what the movie is, you know, um, like Joe certainly, you know, exists in the D and D extreme genre kind of world Patten, you know, clearly has an array of nerd interests. Um, Larry is just awesome. I just love Larry Fessenden. And so I don’t, I think he’s still a little bit confused as to why we approached him, but we really like he needs
Continues:
Yeah. But I mean, I don’t want to say we typecast him, but I, I also think that he should play a prophet of doom more often. He was so perfectly suited for it. I think it does it so well, I, for a while was saying I was going to turn him screaming doom into my ringtone on my phone because he does it such a it’s really just, he just a perfect prophet of doom. Anyway, it was, it was so much fun casting them and we’re so to do it, to have the assembled, the people that we have. Yeah. They were great.

Continues:
I mean, I can talk about Larry Fessenden all day. I think that guy is he’s. He was, it was sued as we were talking about, uh, who, you know, like cat casting, cause this role is not huge, but there was no question in my mind that Larry Fessenden today must be the prophet of doom. Uh, yeah. I mean the whole cast is tremendous. Like it’s an religious honor to have been able to have such an amazing group of talented people work on this film. It’s beyond my wildest expectations.

AJ:
And with this film, they sang at South by Southwest this year. Unfortunately you wouldn’t have the biggest audience for it, with this being virtual in this year, but then again, you may get people like me who won’t be able to travel out in places like Texas so often. So how is it like having this be at South by Southwest this year versus other years?

Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King:
Um, yeah, so, I mean, I’ve made a couple movies that have done the festival circuit. I’ve never actually had the chance to go to Austin or at all, or to be in South by Southwest. So I can’t speak specifically about how the festival be different to here, but, um, I don’t know. I mean, I, I’m kind of excited about it. It’s sort of fun to be involved in a virtual festival. It feels very much like a kind of like a fun, interesting. I mean, it’s not the traditional experience, but that’s all right. It’s 2021. There are a lot of traditional experiences. Everything is weird, you know, you might as well embrace it. So I don’t know. I feel excited about it. Um, yeah, I, I don’t really know what it will be like, but I think it’ll be great. You know, it’s been great so far. Yeah.

AJ:
And again, just, are you guys looking forward to just like the reception? Cause some people might, may have already seen it, but when it premieres, when people can finally access the online library, are you looking forward to seeing that, um, [inaudible] the film may get,

Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King:
Oh yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s been such an internal project for so long. Like, you know, we’ve been drawing it for almost seven years and it’s been, um, it’s uh, yes, I’ve lived so much in my own head and in the, you know, in the every minute detail of every frame for so long that finally being able to, you know, have anyone else witness the thing that we’ve, we’ve been toiling away at is, uh, it’s, it’s surreal and very exciting to finally be at that point.

AJ:
Well guys, thank you so much for joining infamousrs. com today. It’s been really fun and congratulations on the spider night. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

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