Ben Radcliffe talks about making Shrek come to life
Ben Radcliffe is a coloring and lighting artist for the animated film industry. He’s worked for Walt Disney Feature Animation and for Dreamworks Animation, and you can see his handiwork in Shrek 2, The Polar Express, Veggie Tales, Chicken Little and the upcoming Meet The Robinsons. Right now, Ben’s taking a year off from work to travel in China, Vietnam, and Israel. He likes taking photos, movies and spicy Thai food. He hates video games.
Olga Sherlygina, Russia
"What’s your favorite movie that you have worked on?"
Ben Radcliffe: Shrek 2 was probably the best looking one, artistically speaking. But Chicken Little was the one I had the most fun on. The producers and directors were absolutely crazy. They would come to work dressed up like Chicken Little, and they would run around throwing candy in the offices. They threw huge parties for the whole crew and dressed like Bon Jovi and sang his songs. It was so crazy but fun.
"What different kinds of departments are there in animation?"
BR: Wow, that’s quite professional. There are a few parts. Lighting is what I do and it’s the most important part. It’s like the cinematography part – it’s where we make the film look good. We decide how the final picture comes together and looks.
"When you apply to college, should your portfolio have everything?"
BR: Well, I don’t know. My portfolio for college was pretty horrible, looking back. I mostly did, like, X-Men drawings.
Anisha Chattopadhyay, India
"Where do you get ideas?"
BR: They’re not really my ideas. For animation movies, it’s the director who has the final word on everything. Successful movies are director driven; it’s the creation of one man’s vision. For my part, I take a lot of pictures, I watch movies, and I just kind of consume all kinds of media, paintings, etc. I love art and I am always looking at something. For example, when I was traveling in Vietnam, I was looking for interesting pictures that tell stories. There were a bunch of pictures that I took of Vietnamese cycle drivers when they were sleeping. Who are those people and what are the stories behind them?
Steffie Lehman, US
"What was the hardest movie that you ever worked on?"
BR: The hardest movie was Shrek 2 because I was very young and inexperienced, and I was one of the new people, while most of the crew had participated on Shrek 1. The movie was twice as big as the first one but we basically had the same amount of time and money to do it so it was twice as much work.
Emma Tillberg, Sweden
"How do you get to know about jobs you apply for? Do you have an agent?"
BR: I have an agency that finds jobs for me, but I have never taken any jobs they have given me. Most jobs I got were just random word-of-mouth. When I got out of school I sent like hundreds of portfolios to all the studios. I just kept sending and sending, and finding companies, and then after years it all kind of came back and paid off. For example, I actually applied for the job I got on Shrek 2 two years earlier. A woman remembered me and she got a promotion and became a supervisor, and then she pulled my portfolio out of the closet and hired me.
Shaun Alese, Netherlands
"Has your job become harder as movies have become more complex?"
BR: Computers are becoming so much faster and artists are becoming so much better but it still takes the same amount of time to take a shot. You do have to work harder as computers are getting more and more complex.
Chi Han Yeo, Singapore
"Any really big obstacles you had to overcome?"
BR: Working on movies is kind of like a catch-22. I had to work on some terrible movies to get work on great movies. A lot of artists are just not willing to do that. They have large egos and they think “It’s not for me.” That was probably the biggest obstacle – getting my foot in the door.