Maggie Riley, background colour designer
Maggie Riley is a background colour designer who has been working at Cosgrove Hall Productions for three years. She designed and painted backgrounds for Alias the Jester and is now on Count Duckula. Interview by Ken Clark.
KC: What does colour design entail?
MR: While Paul Salmon is responsible for much of the actual set design work, I am responsible for the colour design. Our aim is to get a nice feeling about the look of the film. To achieve that we use water colour, oils, gouache, anything that might contribute to the ultimate effect. If it works – then it is right.
Our Duckula background drawings are Xeroxed onto cel and overlaid on either flat washes, or shapes cut from coloured card, which imparts a stylised appearance to the set.
Has the use of Xerox changed your approach to background painting?
Using a detailed line drawing and our new Xerox machine permits us to enlarge small parts of a comprehensive set, getting perhaps five or six backgrounds without any extra drawing. One well laid out 15 field drawing or a panorama can prove very fruitful. We can also cheat on close-ups by using a matching colour with perhaps appropriate shading for interest.
Another advantage of having the detail on a cel overlay is it becomes easy to change from day to night by mixing from one background to another in camera. Imagine how carefully you would have to paint two identical pictures with all their detail – it would take a long time. This way, all the detail is on one cel overlay and the transition, sunny colours to night blues is smooth and precise.
Diane Wren, background artist
Diane Wren is a background artist who has worked on Dangermouse, and Alias the Jester during the past 8 years at Cosgrove Hall Productions. She is now working on The BFG. Interview by Ken Clark.
KC: I understand you have been working closely with Bev Bush on The BFG backgrounds.
DW: Yes, we both attended the same course at college, so our methods are very similar, which ensures a degree of uniformity in style and execution. We are working on the Buckingham Palace backgrounds and are about move on – or in – to the Throne Room.
Nick Pratt is in charge of the Giantland section of The BFG. He has been responsible for the overall development of that part from the storyboard stage, he decided the colours and produced the finished paintings. Nick is a great admirer of Ridley Scott and Sid Mead so you may find a touch of Alien and Blade Runner in his work. Ben Turner has concentrated on the Dream sequence.
It must be very inspiring to be given a whole setting to mastermind?
When we are given a sequence of backgrounds we also receive a packet containing animation and background layouts, as we want to know what animation will be needed. We have to know, because there are so many match-lines, people climbing up ladders, putting down dinner plates and such like. Our notes are very detailed in that respect. There is no possibility that all our work could stem from imagination alone – the animation would never fit.
Printed in Animator Issue 17 (Autumn 1986)