(Source: shootonline.com) Daniel Jeannette, who served as animation director and visual effects supervisor on the recently released Spike Jonze-directed feature film Where The Wild Things Are, has embarked on a directorial career, joining San Francisco-area production house Hoytyboy Pictures for spots and branded content.

Jeannette is no stranger to commercialmaking, having been an animator on select ad projects, including a cel animation Kellogg’s job for the U.K. market back when he was at Passion Pictures, London. Years later, upon moving stateside and hooking up with Industrial Light+Magic (ILM), San Rafael, Calif.–where he enjoyed a 10-year tenure, primarily in feature films–Jeannette was animator on a CGI/visual effects/live-action combo spot for GMAC.

“Short form allows for a distinctly different creative opportunity and that’s a big part of why I decided to move into commercial directing,” related Jeannette who added that he gravitated to Hoytyboy for several reasons. “It’s a house that doesn’t limit itself–the company does work representing a variety of styles and disciplines. They have expertise in animation, visual effects and live action and they show the ability to figure out different ways to tell stories by using different techniques. I’m interested in mixing animation and live action but in unconventional kinds of ways. I’m interested in creating characters but not necessarily always relying on the same techniques.”

Jeannette also cited his personal affinity for the work of director Steve “Spaz” Williams, a founding partner in Hoytyboy along with executive producer Clint Goldman. Jeannette was at ILM during the time that Williams and Goldman were there. “I didn’t get the chance to work with them directly back then but I knew of them and their work and now feel excited to be working with them at Hoytyboy,” said Jeanette.

In some respects, joining Hoytyboy parallels past moves by the director in that they have been motivated by the desire “to try something new and spread my wings into new areas.” For example, after a successful 10 years at ILM–which saw him progress from computer graphics animator on Jumanji to character animation supervisor on 101 Dalmatians, lead digital character animator on The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and animation supervisor on Mighty Joe Young, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing–Jeannette decided to go independent. “ILM was a great place to work at and gave me a tremendous constant education. But I wanted a bit more freedom to choose my projects.” This eventually led him to director George Miller whose filmmaking over the years, said Jeannette, “ranges from Mad Max through Lorenzo’s Oil to Happy Feet–stories that are as different as different can be.”
Jeanette was animation director on Happy Feet, which won the best animated film Oscar in 2007. (Animation/VFX studios on the film were Animal Logic, Rhythm+Hues, and Giant Killer Robots.)

Happy Feet also helped Jeannette develop a relationship with Warner Bros, which in turn reached out to him for another project in the pipeline, Where the Wild Things Are, beginning a collaboration with Jonze.

“I knew of Spike, including his commercials and video work but had never met him before,” related Jeannette. “He was great to work with, the biggest challenge of the project being to make it totally true to the book. Our concern was how do you expand the story of Where The Wild Things Are without adding on unnecessary story and elements. We set out to make a movie that relied on the emotional truth of the book and its characters. We wanted to develop characters that reflected the book, making sure they didn’t become some technically driven visual effects creations. We didn’t want the characters to call attention to themselves that way. This was a location movie. There wasn’t a lot of studio shooting. We had the physicality of people in costume on location, some performing stunt work, yet there was still a gestation period in postproduction where the movie had to come together, with faces being animated and moving to match the physical performances and all the creative choices made during the shoot.”

Jeannette oversaw the creative direction and management of the visual effects and animation for Where The Wild Things Are, working closely with the VFX studios that produced the work (Framestore, Iloura, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop).

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