Ethel & Ernest's director Interview: A chat with Roger Mainwood

Other | Friday 4th November 2016 | Francesco

During the London Film Festival Afternoon Tea, we had the chance to interview one of the most talented animation film directors, Roger Mainwood. He presented his Ethel & Ernest at the London Film Festival. This is my interview with the director.

When I watched the trailer of the movie for the first time, it immediately reminded me of an incredible opening scene of a movie called Up. Do you think that there are similarities between these two movies?  In what way is Ethel and Ernest unique? 

Funny that you should say that, quite few people commented on the fact that it's like a feautured film version of the first 10 minutes of Up. I mean there wasn't any conscious decision because the book was written and drawn in 1998, way before Up. It happens to be a similar story, but Ethel & Ernest adds something unique. 

Why did you to decide to adapt the Briggs book?  What attracted you to this project?

I adapted many of Briggs' projects before, he is famous in this country for The Snowman that airs every Christmas on Channel 4, and there have been adaptations of The Bear, When the Wind Blows and Father Christmas. The company that made these movies was called TVC Studios and produced the Yellow Submarine feature film and John Coates way back in 2007 contacted me, and he said: 'come for lunch with me and we will discuss an interesting project' and then we had Briggs bliss. We have been chasing Raymond Briggs for some time, because he was really anxious and concerned about this film because it is one of his most personal projects. From that moment on, I got the storyboard and for a long time we chased the money but unfortunately, during that period, Coates died in 2012. Lucas Film took over with Camilla Deakin heading the project, and we had co-production partners in Luxemberg and Cardiff as Cluster Animation that did the 3D work and the compositing and the painting.

The current state of animation is so complex and multilayered. Disney is not producing 2D movies, there was the case of James Lopez that decided to crowdfund a 2D movie called Hullabaloo. What is your point of view on the matter? Do you think that we are destined to lose old-school animation? Or is there hope?

Absolutely, there is. It has been a period (especially over in America ) when Disney  handmade animation has been out of the job, in Europe they kept it going. But it is true that in the UK, we didn't have a hand-drawn animation feature for a long period. I can't think of the last fully hand-drawn animation movie, maybe it was 20 years ago. It was one of Graham Chapman's, and it was a mixed medium. Lucas Film is trying to bring back the arts of hand-drawn animation feature films in particular, in the UK. I mentioned Yellow Submarine and I started my career at the Halas and Batchelor Studios which made British Animated features like Animal Farm based on George Orwell's book. There is something special about the connection between the brain and the arms that is unique and inspiring, and this kind of animation connects with the audience in an unique way.

What is your next project? Can you share with us what you're working on?

Lucas Film is doing a project which is called Going on a Bear Hunt based on Michael Rosen's book, I'm just doing, fortunately, a little bit of animation as well and I am promoting Ethel & Ernest, which takes more work than I thought.

We have already reviewed Ethel & Ernest, have a look at the trailer: