The Wall’s Peter Scarfe takes on “American Dream”

King Camera has just completed work on a 90 second take of the famous show-stopping production number, “American Dream”, created and designed by highly acclaimed Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” illustrator and satirist, Gerald Scarfe for Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s new touring show of the legendary musical “Miss Saigon”.

It was directed by High Eagle’s Geoff Dunbar and produced by Jacqui Davies. Using cutting edge visual techniques, “American Dream” no longer involves the smooth Cadillac but now interweaves animation with a glitzy gala Hollywood opening.

King Camera’s Chris King first worked with Gerald Scarfe over 20 years ago when he filmed Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in 1982, with Scarfe designing and directing the animation. Gerald Scarfe, working alongside Sir Cameron Mackintosh, conceived the whole project. They then approached Geoff Dunbar at High Eagle Productions with full designs and storyboards. “I was delighted with everyone’s participation – including, of course, King Camera’s!” stated Gerald Scarfe.

Subsequently King Camera worked briefly with Richard Purdum Productions on Disney’s “Hercules”, where Scarfe was the Chief Art Director. “To work with such talents as Gerald, Geoff and Jacqui again is very exciting and it is an exceptionally interesting high profile project for us to be involved in.” enthuses Chris King.

The touring show of “Miss Saigon” has just been staged in Plymouth and will be touring across the UK over the next two years. It is one of the biggest touring show in the UK, with a company of over fifty actors and musicians. “Some of the machinery used during the London run of Miss Saigon was too big and heavy to be used in a touring production and Cameron wanted something new. The animation – the first I’ve done since, “The Wall” – is going to be run at the back of the stage to complement certain scenes.” stated Gerald Scarfe.

Producer at High Eagle, Jacqui Davies, arranged for King Camera to be sent costume samples from Costume Designer, Andreane Neofitou for the animation of the “American Dream”, in order to match colours to the characters; namely, The Engineer, played by Jon-Jon Briones, and Kim, played by Miriam Valmores Marasiquan and Jennifer Hubilla. King Camera’s Senior Digital Artist and Compositor, Tim Barter, created a number of purpose built modules within Toon Boom Animation’s OPUS to recreate the “Ink and Water-colour” style of Scarfe’s model sheets. As Tim reveals, “It’s a fairly daunting task to try and emulate the work of someone with as formidable a reputation and talent as Scarfe’s, and then to hone it to Geoff Dunbar and Jacqui Davie’ exacting requirements! At times I felt like the forger trying to impress the old master. It was compounded by the usual budgetary restraints, meaning that I not only had to create compositing modules that output in Gerald’s style but did so automatically; with little need for further adjustments. This meant I had to pre-visualise every variation on how the animation might be delivered to me and therefore build the resultant module structures before a drop of animation arrived!

Changes in drawing and field size would also mean that the many effects for each character would need to be readily adjustable between key frames. Thankfully Toon Boom’s OPUS now allows the use of expressions so I was able do design a single control that would automatically talk to and adjust each and every effect in a network which saved a great deal of time.

I’m glad to say that with the guiding force of Jacqui Davies, coupled with the superb work of High Eagle’s Konrad Welz in Final Cut Pro, both Gerald and Geoff were particularly happy with the result.”

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