Film: The Adventures of Ledo & Ix
Directed and Animated by Emily Jane Carmichael
An Interview with the FilmmakerCan you explain the process of animating? I make all the sprites, dialogue and backgrounds in Photoshop. I create tiny files and zoom way in, so every block the characters are made of is actually the size of one pixel and I don't have to bother drawing a grid. To animate them, I use Flash's ability to nest timelines within one another. So for example there's what's called a "movie clip" of Walking Ledo, which is nested into the larger timeline of the scene. I can give her blocking -- places and times to start and stop walking -- and Flash will just repeat the images of her walk cycle until I replace that clip, for instance with Standing Ledo. (Ledo has a three-part walk cycle, Ix a two-part one.) Sometimes I describe the film as 8-bit, but the look of the film is often more 16-bit. I try to limit my palate but I draw the characters and backgrounds in a full RGB environment, so even if I only use maybe 32 colors in a scene, they'd probably all be impossible in the 48-color palette of 8-bit game systems like the NES. To maintain that early video game look it’s hard to have animated characters that are very expressive. Did you find it difficult giving emotional range to characters that don’t even have movable mouths? Well I know from playing the video games of that era that tiny sprites can be very powerful. Maybe it's because we can project a lot of emotion onto them, or maybe because they're small and they have big eyes and big heads like children. I don't know. And there are certain simple gestures that read really well--for instance lots of early RPG characters could hang there heads. When they did this in moments of decision, hesitation or grief, you always knew exactly what it meant. The big thing I learned is that not every expression "clicks" in that way. Just because the look is very rudimentary doesn't mean you can do whatever you want. For example it took me a really long time to get Ledo's head-down gesture to look right... and I'm still not sure I'm going to use it very much; I think in future episodes she may just close her eyes. I've also added a lot to their range for the subsequent episodes--in episode 2, for instance, Ledo can roll her eyes and Ix has a whopping THREE facial expressions. What is the relationship between Ledo and Ix? Friends? Relatives? Lovers? As is traditional for adventuring companions in this genre, Ledo and Ix have been thrown together by circumstance. Some people see it as a relationship of unrequited love--I'm going to keep quiet on that and let the audience see what develops in future episodes. How did you come up with the dialogue for Ledo and Ix? I think I've had a conversation similar to the camping scene at the beginning. I used to have this comic in the school paper called Whiz Kidz, and writing Ledo and Ix is pretty similar, since each scene is sort of like a comic. It's um... you know, you kind of just walk around and collect pieces that are funny, and assemble them together..... You have a sense of what the rhythmic structure of the scene is like, and you kind of try to make sure each beat comes off really well. I mean, you just try to make it really good. It's hard to describe. Were there any other obstacles or villains that you toyed with putting into the film? I made the decision early on that at least in this first film, Ledo and Ix should fight nothing and meet no one. Just when it seems like they're about to encounter something eventful, it turns out to be nothing at all. I did have a bunch of ideas that didn't fit that requirement--there was a really great sea monster, for instance--but I think they'll find their way into subsequent entries in the series. Ledo responds to Ix that they have “like a billion” points. Is this meaning to say that Ledo and Ix beat the game long ago and now are just roaming around living the easy life? Ledo and Ix are on an undetermined quest whose goals are only vaguely understood. I wanted that sense of lieu vague, a term that Wikipedia has just told me describes the "nonspecific setting" of Waiting for Godot. Even the vagueness is vague, no one says, for instance: "It's weird we don't know where we're going, and we should perhaps consult some sort of reference material." I wanted to give the characters very little foothold in terms of understanding the world around them--sort of like when you're dreaming, and you can't think clearly enough to even phrase a sensible question about what's going on. We will start to learn more and more about where they're going as the series progresses--but at each step we learn more just how little we know. One of the main things Ledo and Ix are up against is a world which is anti-climactic at every turn. The ending leaves the audience wondering what happens to Ledo and Ix. How did you decide where/how to end the film? You know--gee. I guess the big event, the "what happens" of the first episode, is that Ledo has an experience that makes her question the world for the first time. So once that's happened, the story is over. People vary in how much they track that through line versus just enjoying the world and the relationship, though. I guess the overarching theme of the movie is the terror of existence, which is why it ends it in this cult-of-nothingness kind of way with the two characters just staring at each other. Did you play a lot of RPGs growing up? What is your favorite classic video game? I've always been a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series. FFII was the first one I played and it still does something special to me--hearing the Crystal Theme (theme song of the series) as it's rendered in that game just turns some little key in my heart. For Super Nintendo I also really liked Link to the Past (the Zelda entry for that system.) In Street Fighter II I was really good as E Honda and could sometimes beat my older brother (I stress "sometimes," as my brother is naturally amazingly coordinated.) F-Zero was the only racing game I've ever truly got a handle on, though no chance of beating my brother there. There were a lot of good games for that system! I don't think the regular Nintendo made much of an impression on me, although I did like playing Duck Hunt at point blank range. Going back even further in time, we had a much loved TI-99 and I really liked Hunt the Wumpus. What are you working on now? I'm working on more episodes of Ledo and Ix, and my producing partner Josh Hetzler is exploring ways to bring the series to a large audience. Our production company Kid Can Drive currently has a live action short called Play/Stop in post production, and branching out to create cool, short advertisements for young companies. www.kidcandrive.com
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