We spoke with you last holiday season about your fantasy comic book ‘The Adventures of Valiant’ which was inspired by your nieces and nephews. Tell us about the latest adventures in the Valiant universe.
That first book was a lot of fun, and being a no-pressure Christmas surprise for my family back in New Zealand, it got to be all about them and their toys. But the book got such a positive reaction from so many people, I felt there was an opportunity to do something a little more challenging! So I wrote another story based on our dog Laika and her namesake, the soviet space-dog who’s tragic story inspires Valiant and her friends to action.
This time I made sure I did this with the approval of my nieces and nephews at every phase of production, ensuring the story was making sense and the creative vision stayed on target. I learned a lot from my mistakes on the first one too. I became a lot more efficient in the technical as well as creative aspects of production, and found some interesting lighting techniques borrowed from years of compositing CG lighting passes that enabled me to get really creative with the complexity of the illustrations.
When we spoke with you last, your intended audience hadn’t seen the final result yet. What was the reaction when your nieces and nephews in New Zealand received the comic book for Christmas?
Fun fact… with the pandemic slowing down shipping, they didn’t actually get them until mid-January! But they loved it anyway, and were all very proud to see their fluffy friends given voices. They’ve all become avid critics though.
Have you created any other comics outside of the Valiant world?
While I have been continuing with one off special illustrations for Halloween and Christmas and such, outside the Valiant world I’ve been writing more sophisticated stories and screenplays that I’m starting to develop in a different medium to Valiant.
I have to admit I miss getting my hands dirty with actual pencil and paper.
Speaking of Christmas, you recently collaborated with Starbucks and Big Spaceship on four festive films for Starbucks’ latest holiday campaign. Can you walk us through the brief you received from the client and how the team approached the project creatively?
It was really great to collaborate with Big Spaceship and director Bianca Poletti on these really warm and heartfelt holiday spots. But like many jobs they start with the big question of “how do we do this?”
I personally revel in finding creative ways to utilise the best of what practical FX and digital FX can do. With this project we got to work closely in the pre-production phase to develop an approach that gave us and Bianca the flexibility to control the level of magic and snow in camera and out of camera.
I think Andre Vidal, Seon Crawford and their teams did a great job in realising the holiday vision, and I’m really proud I got to be a part of it.
What aspects would you say make up a perfect holiday spot?
The best spots are those that manage to tell a real human story in such a limited format as a commercial. But I also think this is a special time of year that brings families together (whatever that looks like to you), and it reminds people of what’s important in their life, especially after the few years of forced introspection we’ve been living through.
If we can create that feeling in what we do then I think we’re on to a winner.
What is currently inspiring you inside and outside of work?
I’m always inspired by the people around me. We’re so lucky to be surrounded by amazing and creative people, and it’s easy to forget that when we’re not physically surrounded by them. When I push myself to connect I always walk away more inspired.
Away from work I’ve been revisiting my old “The Cure” collection, reading Steven Pinker’s “Rationality” and learning Mental Canvas, an iPad app that lets me draw in a semi-3D space, (which has been a lot of fun).