Rango, a quirky, delightfully unique and inspired animated film, was released in cinemas back in March where it made quite the impression, grossing an estimated 2M worldwide and kick-starting this years awards buzz.

Gore Verbinksi’s quirky, delightfully unique and inspired animation film, featuring the voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin and Ray Winstone, hit DVD/Blu-ray in the UK on July 25.

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Maia Kayser, one of the lead animators of the film. During our phone chat, we talked Rango, animation techniques, blockbusters, 2D vs 3D, how Jurassic Park inspired her career choice and what she’s up to next.

HeyUGuys: Firstly, I’d like to say how impressed with Rango I was. Congratulations on a terrific film.

Maia Kayser: Thank you. That’s great to hear.

What was your inspiration behind the character of Beans?

Generally, a lot of the inspiration came from Holly Hunter from the movie Raising Arizona. Gore [Verbinski] always liked that kind of feistiness in the actress, so we were kind of going for the feeling in Beans. Also, I have to say, as far as reference for Beans, a lot of it was from Isla [Fisher], because she put so much power in her voice for Beans, which really helped us as animators. We also got great reference from her, so we used a lot of cues and guidelines from her and that was really helpful to have to interpret Beans in that way. Along with those, as well as references from Gore himself, we were able to build up Beans’ character.

So it was very much a collaborative effort then?

Oh, definitely. The whole movie was a collaborative effort between a ton of artists, the director and the cast. It was basically like an entire team collaboratively working on everything.

Were you able to bring any of your individual traits to the character of Beans?

We definitely used a lot of Isla’s work, because we had great references clips from her. Sometimes we would shoot our own reference, and subconsciously there’s always something that we put in about ourselves so we can recognise our own work, mannerisms, etc. But it’s usually just a little bit here and there.

Obviously you’ve worked with Gore [Verbinski] before on the Pirates of the Caribbean films animating Davy Jones. What was it like to work with him on a full animation film?

Well, it was different in the sense that it was a full collaborative effort, rather than the animators coming in towards the end, like we did with the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Did avoiding 3D offer any advantages of disadvantages in the overall animation process?

I think that 3D is still a developing technology, that’s continuing to improve and to evolve, and it is an exciting time for film media. It’s great when it’s used effectively, it can be a very exciting experience. That said, I’ve also seen a lot of 2D animated films that felt a lot more dimensional and rich than some 3D films. 3D, it can be a tricky thing. I mean, if you don’t get it right or the film isn’t designed with the format in mind, it could be distracting, so I don’t necessary think that filming in 2D took away from the movie.

Has there been any talk of a sequel? Obviously the first film was very successful, and there’s even been some talk of an Oscar nomination down the line.

I have no idea. I mean, we’re all hoping. We all loved working on this this project, so we’re definitely all hoping. But I have no idea what’s in the works with ILM and in the future, with regards to a sequel.

Is there anything, in terms of animation, that you’d like to try in the future?

I’ve done visual effects now for ten years, so this was a very different and new experience for me. But I love the whole creating a character from scratch and making that character come alive. So this experience was really amazing because that’s all we were doing. We had all these great designs that we all loved, so that was definitely a very exciting process. I would love to continue doing that. Beans was a neat experience because I’d never animated a female character before.

Do you have any projects currently in the works?

I just finished up with Transformers: Dark of the Moon this week, and I’m just about to start on a new project, but I’m not allowed to talk about that one yet.

Do you prefer to work on a more contained film or a big-budget blockbuster?

It ultimately depends on the story and the designs that makes one project more appealing than another.

Is there any animation films in particular that you like or wish you’d been a part of?

There’s definitely a lot of movies that really fascinate me, or somehow inspire me. One of the movies that really inspired me was Jurassic Park, because I really loved the idea of creating this whole world from scratch. I also enjoy other animated features that have realistic characters, for example Up.


Thanks to Maia for her time. Rango is on sale now!