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The Tale of Despereaux - Ben Lambert interview

The Tale of Despereaux

Interview by Rob Carnevale

BEN Lambert talks about his work as modelling supervisor on animated children’s adventure The Tale of Despereaux and some of the many challenges involved in bringing the tale of the brave little mouse to the big screen.

He also talks about how he got into animation and effects work in the first place (he’s also worked on Troy, Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire and the upcoming Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), and why the advances in special effects never cease to amaze him.

Q. What appealed to you about The Tale of Despereaux and how did you become involved?
Ben Lambert: I became involved at the start of the show, in 2006. I remember looking at the early concept designs from the art deptartment. The huge variety of characters, sets and props that would be needed in the story was a great challenge presented to the modelling team.

Q. Can you give us a brief idea of what your work involves, as modelling supervisor?
Ben Lambert: On average, we had a team of around 10 very talented modellers throughout the production. They would be responsible for creating the thousands of 3D models and huge sets you see in the film, from the artwork. As a modelling supervisor, you are repsonsible for making sure all the models are created to the best standard possible in the given time, and steering the artists towards their goals. I was also fortunate to be able to do a lot of modelling myself on the show, making Despereaux and Roscuro.

Q. What was the biggest challenge surrounding the animation on Despereaux?
Ben Lambert: In terms of modelling, it was making sure the character models we provided rigging and animation would be able to articulate and talk. They needed to act through a wide range of emotions, whilst keeping their design true. This is always more challenging when every character has their own personailty and style.

Q. At what point did you know what kind of vocal cast had been assembled, and did you attempt to incorporate any slight features of the people voicing them?
Ben Lambert: I believe we were well into the model making on Despereaux and Pea when we heard that Emma [Watson] and Matthew [Broderick] had been cast, so we didn’t consciously change the models to suit the voice actors. Once in animation and rigging, a lot more focus can be placed on expressions and, of course, the dialogue and this is where the personality and traits of the voice actors come through.

Q. How closely did you work with co-directors Sam Fell and Rob Stevenhagen?
Ben Lambert: Sam and Rob would come and sit with the modelling team to review characters and facial expressions, it was great that artists could get their feedback and direction first hand.

Q. What animation inspired you?
Ben Lambert: I think what Disney were doing in the 90’s was terrific (Lion King, Beauty & The Beast, Alladin).

Q. When did you know you wanted to become involved in the world of effects/animation? And how easy was it to pursue that dream?
Ben Lambert: I was either going to get into 2D character design, or animation. I studied a course at Bournemouth and was able to eventually apply these skills into 3D modelling software.

Q. What would your dream animation/modelling job be?
Ben Lambert: Whilst on Despereaux, I was able to model characters, props and sets… a modeller can’t ask for much more than that. I’ve also been involved in many other films and model-making here at Framestore for the past five-plus years, so there’s been so much variety.

Q. Much is being made of the impact 3D is to have next year and moving forward, especially when it comes to animation and special effects driven movies. Are you a part of that revolution and what do you think of it?
Ben Lambert: I think we’re already seeing better and better visual effects and feature films every year, the bar keeps getting raised, so it’s always a challenge.

Q. Are you still amazed by what can be achieved in effects/animation?
Ben Lambert: Yes, every year you’ll see something you never throught possible. I’m sure there will be movies in the next six months that leave audiences stunned.

Q. Can you give us a little insight into what we can expect from Prince of Persia and what your role in the production of the film is?
Ben Lambert: All I can say is that I have been involved in digital modelling on the feature.

Read our review of The Tale of Despereaux or view images from the film