Open Season: Scared Silly, the latest movie in the series of adventures starring Boog and Elliot, is out now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD. This time Elliot makes up a scary campfire story about a werewolf, Boog believes it’s true and it just so happens that it is true.
David Feiss was the story editor of the first film back in 2003 and he returned to the direct the fourth film in the series. He talked to us about how he got his start in the movie business and gave us advice for young veterans who are looking for a career in animation.
You worked on the first Open Season film and then you came back to – I hate the word, what’s a better word than franchise? What brought you back to the series?
Well, it is a franchise. They consider it a franchise here because people like the characters. And I was here working at Sony. I directed some shorts for the previous release of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and when Home Entertainment here at Sony said that we want to do another Open Season, they looked to me because I was here and they knew I could direct and they knew that I was very familiar with the series.
For the kids who are already fans, what happens in the story this time?
Well, it’s Boog and Elliot, you know they’re still out in the woods. All the animals are out there, and Elliot is a storyteller at camp fire time, although it’s not fire, it’s fireflies. They don’t have the fire technology.
Elliot tells a story of a werewolf out in the woods, but it’s just a story, and everybody knows that Elliot makes up stuff. But Boog, who was not raised in the woods, believes the story to be true and he’s afraid of the werewolf out there. Now Elliot has to convince his buddy that, no, it’s all cool, there’s no real werewolf.
But there actually really is a werewolf. Shaw the hunter, who was in the first movie, gets wind of it. Now there’s a werewolf that needs hunting. He convinces the sheriff to reopen open season (because it was closed in the first movie) and maybe he’ll have a chance to hunt that bear and deer that ruined his life ten years ago.
You have a director credit on this film and you’ve done a lot of different things in the animation film business. How did you get started?
I started when I was 19 years old at Hanna-Barbera. I started making 8mm movies as a teenager. I finally made a sound 8 millimeter movie with a Beatles song. I animated that and got an interview at Hanna-Barbera and was hired based on that film. That was back in 1978. And I’ve been working in the industry ever since.
I worked as an animator for the first 15-20 years, did my own TV series, I created my own show called Cow and Chicken with Cartoon Network and then a second one called I Am Weasel.
You may not have thought about it, but a lot of our active duty military people now grew up on “Cow and Chicken.”
That’s true, isn’t it? It came out 19 years ago, so they would have been small children. That’s right. That one was purely mine. I worked as an animator on other people’s films, but this show was mine. This was a story and characters that I created and it was the highlight of my career at the time. I look back on it very fondly.
Up and to that point, I worked in television. In 2003, I started at Sony. That’s when I was hired as the Head of Story on their new division to do feature films at Sony. The first project was Open Season.
Before that time, the only other feature experience I had was animating on the 1980 Heavy Metal movie. Then I animated some Chipmunk movies and I animated on the Jetsons movie and a couple other Hanna-Barbera animated features, but mostly my experience was television.
Sso in 2003 I moved into feature and so I’ve been there ever since, although I did take a break in 2010 when I created a TV series with Flavor Flav , who was my neighbor at the time. It was this weird, strange thing where I moved in across the street from Flavor Flav. We became friends, I loved his voice, loved the character, and cast him in a TV series. It aired in Australia, England, and South America on Cartoon Network Latin America. And then I came back to Sony in 2012, back to features.
It’s been over a decade since the first Open Season movie. How has the technology changed for your work?
The technology of Open Season 1 was CG animation, which we’re still doing today. It’s just that the cost has dropped dramatically. People are so comfortable with the technology and the price has dropped so dramatically that you can make these films much more economically. Our film is something like 1/10th of the budget, but it looks as good as the original movie and the animation is as good as the original movie.
For preproduction, we don’t use much paper these days. I work on a Wacom Cintiq, where I’m drawing on a computer screen in Photoshop so I can use my animation drawing skills. And they translate electronically and I can move the drawings. I can create multiple storyboard panels when I create a story reel for the movie.
If a reader is getting out of the military and can use the GI Bill to go to school, is there an education they should pursue to get into your business? If someone comes to you at 22 and says, I want to do what you do, what’s the best path in 2016? Do they go to school or do they go apprentice somewhere?
22 is a perfect age to start. When I was coming up, there wasn’t much animation schooling available, but today I think even most community colleges offer courses in animation. If you wanted to be a computer animator, they are even courses in some high schools now. Community colleges would definitely have courses in computer animation.
If you want to get into the story side, get into writing classes. You can be trained as a writer in college, in community colleges. There’s even technology to make your own movies with your iPhone. You don’t need to have expensive equipment. Photoshop is a few hundred bucks and you can draw on a computer screen much like I do for not a whole lot of money.
You can go online, explore the technology that’s out there, but if you want to learn to write, take writing classes. If you want to learn to animate, you can go take computer animation classes.
When a young person comes in to interview, is it the portfolio or the degree? Can you come in with a portfolio and no degree and get hired?
Absolutely. You don’t need a degree. I’ve never asked for a degree when I’m looking at people’s portfolios. Fortunately, they didn’t ask for a degree from me because I didn’t have one.
It really doesn’t matter. In fact, it would be such a bonus to be able to have a veteran come in, to tell you the truth. I think everybody would be honored to be working with a veteran. I admire what they do. So, it would be based on your portfolio. People will see if there’s talent that can be developed and say “we could use them in the background department” or design or whatever. If your portfolio reflects talent and people see there’s promise, absolutely, that would be an avenue to get started.