Let's Talk Animation - An Interview With South African Animator Quentin Vogel

We sit down with South African animator Quentin Vogel to find out more about a local guy with a global dream.

Nearly four years ago Quentin Vogel and I met. We both attended the same Mixed Martial Arts Training Academy in attempt to be the next ultimate fighters. Aaah, those were the days. I still recall Quentin’s flawless headlock hip toss. Little did I know at the time that Quentin was one of the top CG animators and illustrators in the country. He has worked on adverts that you will easily recognize, as well as two major animation films; Zambezia and the upcoming Khumba.

Q: Most kids want to be police officers, firemen or astronauts. When was the first time you thought, “When I grow up I want to be an animator”?
A: When I was little I drew all the time. I also played with my action figures and pretended that my eyes where a camera and played out action scenes from my favourite movies and cartoons. Back in the day doing art was just a hobby and it never occurred to me that one can make art or cartoons for a living, until I saw films like Jurassic Park and Toy Story. This was the first time I realized that this could be a career. After school I went to The Open Window – school of visual communication in Pretoria and that is where it all started.

Q: As an animator, who has been your source of inspiration?
A: I have been blessed with parents who have always supported me. Mom and Dad have worked very hard in life for me to be able to be able to live my dreams. They are my main source of inspiration and I want to give back to them and make them proud.

I am inspired by the world around me. Since being involved in sports such as rugby and mixed martial arts I learned a lot about physicality and how the body moves. Animation is something that takes a lifetime to master. As an animator and artist you have to be constantly aware of the world around you and how things relate. It is very inspirational to know that you are creating a character and bringing something to life. An animator is ultimately an actor, and to some degree what you animate is an extension of your own personality and life experiences. Through this you create your own interpretation of an idea, which is uniquely your artistic identity in the content that you are conceiving.

Living in a place like South Africa is also great since, not only do we have a beautiful country, we have so many different cultures and stories to draw inspiration from.

Let's Talk Animation - An Interview With South African Animator Quentin Vogel

Q: How long have you been animating for?
A: I have been involved in the animation industry working as a CG generalist for about 10 years and have only started specializing in character animation for the last 6 years.

Q: A major step for the local animation scene was Zambezia. How did you become involved with working on that movie?
A: I worked in Johannesburg as an animator in the short film and commercial industry. In 2009 Triggerfish started employing artists from all over the country and, since working on feature films was my dream, I applied and was lucky enough to get employed as a lead animator to work with some of the most talented people in the country.

Q: What are your thoughts on Zambezia. Has it done as well as you expected it to?
A: I am very proud of what we accomplished as a team. None of us had an idea how big this film was going to turn out. Since it was the studio’s first feature film we had to learn very fast and there was no room for error. The budget was also very small in comparison to the bigger studios and we had to work extra hard to be able to compete. In the beginning there where many concerns that we bit off more than what we could chew and we might not even be able to finish the movie not even to mention making it look good.

The amazing producers and management at Triggerfish did well to keep everyone motivated and everyone knew that we were working towards something big. People worked extra hours out of their own will to make this thing happen and through that dedication we were able to finish. Since then Zambezia has done extremely well in the box office around the world and it became the biggest top grossing film in South Africa in the last 30 years after “The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)”.

Let's Talk Animation - An Interview With South African Animator Quentin Vogel

Q: When we last met you were on your way to Annecy 2013. What is that film festival all about?
A: Annecy animation film festival is the biggest and most prestigious animation film festival in the world. It is where the world of animation go to meet. From studios like Pixar, ILM down to the individual freelancer and student. Over 7000 film makers, producers, artists and animators get together and celebrate animation, talk business, meet investors, sell content and employ. I went there with others from Triggerfish to represent our upcoming film “Khumba”, which was selected in the feature film competition. South Africa also had the biggest delegation ever with over 40 representatives representing their respectable studios. Which I believe is a huge milestone for the South African animation industry.

Q: I believe that Khumba was screened at Annecy 2013. How was the reception of your latest work?
Khumba was the first South African film to ever get selected in this prestigious festival and it was received very well. We got a standing ovation from the audience after the jury screening so that was a great honour for all of us, especially knowing how hard we all worked to make this film and how much we grew as a studio since we started working in film.

Q: For the readers unfamiliar with Khumba, could you tell us about the film plot?
When a half-striped zebra is blamed for the drought, he leaves his herd in search of his missing stripes. He is joined on his quest by an overprotective, sassy wildebeest and a flamboyant, neurotic ostrich, and has to defeat a sadistic leopard who has been terrorizing all the animals of the Karoo.

Let's Talk Animation - An Interview With South African Animator Quentin Vogel

Q: Who is your favourite character in Khumba?
Hmm, it’s a tough one but I would say Phango. He is the sadistic leopard mentioned in the plot above. He was one of the most fun characters to develop for me. And I guess I always liked scary bad guys in film.

Q: I see a long list of Hollywood voice actors on Khumba’s IMDB profile. Did you get to meet any of them?
No, unfortunately not. The voices were done remotely from overseas and the director Anthony Silverston and the producers were lucky enough to talk to them personally.

Q: When can we expect Khumba to hit our local cinemas?
Khumba will be released on the 25th of October everywhere in South Africa. You can visit our website to view the worldwide release dates at: https://www.facebook.com/notes/khumba/worldwide-release-dates/10152140285008849. Please also like the Khumba Facebook page and spread the word.

Q: I believe that you want to get involved on the comic scene. Who is you favourite superhero?
I am interested in getting involved in other mediums of storytelling such as comics, children storybooks and graphic novels. I am trying to improve my skills as an artist and illustrator, so I can perhaps get more involved in visual development, storyboarding, concept and creature designing.

When it comes to my favourite super hero I would say He-man. Just because he was one of the first action figures I ever got and one of the things that inspired me to become what I am today. And he has cool hair. And if I have to choose a DC or Marvel super hero I would go for Hulk.

I also like Batman, but that guy has issues, man.

Q: What other projects of yours can we see in the near future?
I am currently working on some fun character driven commercials for overseas clients and am not sure if it will be released in SA. Other than that I am working on some personal artwork which I will upload on my personal website when I’m done.

Let's Talk Animation - An Interview With South African Animator Quentin Vogel

Fun stuff

Q: I know that you are a big Ninja Turtles fan. Who is your favourite turtle and why?
Wow, these questions really shows my age. :) I am a Leonardo and Raphael fan. Leo because of his leadership qualities and Raph just because he is a bit of a rebel and a bad ass.

Q: What other fun things do you like to do when you are not busy animating?
I like to exercise, do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, draw, paint, hike, watch movies and play with action figures (just because it comes with the job). ;)

For more information on Quentin and his works feel free to visit: http://quentinvogelart.weebly.com/, http://kwintinart.blogspot.com/. Also Follow him on Twitter: @qvogel

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