New animated film has P.A. connection

Matt Gardner
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A high-profile animated film that will soon be hitting theatres around the world has a Prince Albert connection.

Professional animator and Prince Albert native Allen LeCorre served as a pre-visualization artist on the upcoming 3-D computer-animated family film, Escape From Planet Earth, which hits theatres on Feb. 14. He is pictured here with the film’s blue alien protagonist, Gary Supernova.

Local son Allen LeCorre, who grew up in P.A. before going on to a successful animation career in television and film, served as a pre-visualization artist for the upcoming 3-D computer-animated family film Escape From Planet Earth.

The movie marks the first time LeCorre has lent his talents to a theatrical release. Since he has yet to see the final cut, the animator is as excited as anyone to see the fruits of his labour.

“It’ll be interesting to see it in the theatres for sure, and it’ll be cool to have my kids go and watch it on the big screen and all that,” he said.

An alumnus of Carlton Comprehensive High School, LeCorre did not always envision a career in animation.

He originally graduated from the University of the Saskatchewan with a teaching degree, but soon found that job prospects in education were few and far between.

“At the time when I … graduated, there weren’t a lot of ample teaching opportunities, unless you wanted to go (somewhere) really remote,” LeCorre said.

“I had a friend at the time who got a software package that did 3-D, and I just started playing with it and got interested in it, and ended up … deciding to take a course at Vancouver Film School in 1995.”

Following a four-month course training him in the use of the software, LeCorre began applying for jobs and soon began an enduring relationship with fledgling computer animation company Mainframe Entertainment Inc.

It was at Mainframe that LeCorre became an animator on the pioneering computer-generated cartoon ReBoot.

“When I got to the company they were just finishing the second season of it,” he recalled. “It was something you saw on TV and then it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, now I’m working at the company that actually makes this stuff.’ It was kind of a little bit surreal, actually.”

Working on the series gave LeCorre plenty of time to perfect his craft.

The methods and skills required for computer animation differ significantly from traditional techniques, where a master animator would draw the key poses while in-between artists handled the intermediate frames.

“In traditional, like hand-drawn animation, you’re physically drawing each frame of the thing and it’s like an original drawing … every time you do it,” LeCorre explained.

“Whereas with the computer, you get a character that’s been modeled in 3-D and then a skeleton rig is put inside of his character, and then you’re allowed to be able to manipulate it. So you’re creating these key poses, and then the computer would extrapolate the movements in-between the poses.”

It tends to be a very open-minded industry, and sometimes we joke that we can’t believe they’re paying us to do this stuff. Allen LeCorre

After his work on ReBoot, LeCorre moved to Costa Rica for six years and taught computer animation there. But he kept in contact with Mainframe (re-named Rainmaker Entertainment in 2006) and did some remote animation work for them.

LeCorre knew the company had intentions of making a feature film and wanted the chance to work on it if the project ever became a reality. That opportunity arrived when Escape From Planet Earth went into production.

Feature film work was a revelation to LeCorre, who learned a great deal from experienced crew members such as cinematographer Matt Ward. He soon found that animation quality standards were far more rigorous on a theatrical release.

“It’s for a more prolonged period of time for sure, and the level of detail is much, much, much higher and exact,” LeCorre said. “There really are no shortcuts. You can’t say something is ‘good enough’. You have to make sure that it’s good, it’s exact, it’s what the director wants to see.

“If you get it wrong, you’ve got to re-do it over and over and over again until you get it right. Direct-to-DVD and television is a lot more forgiving because the quality bar is not as high, so you can get away with a little bit.”

Currently, LeCorre lives in Port Moody, B.C., and commutes to Burnaby for his work at Bron Studios, a smaller company that is producing an upcoming series called Mighty Mighty Monsters.

To his daughter’s delight, he has also served as an animation supervisor on a direct-to-DVD series of Barbie films produced by Rainmaker.

For LeCorre, the very nature of his work means it often doesn’t feel like work at all.

“It is very creative for sure, and you’re always working with a group of fun people,” he said.

“It tends to be a very open-minded industry, and sometimes we joke that we can’t believe they’re paying us to do this stuff.”

Organizations: Planet Earth, Carlton Comprehensive High School, University of the Saskatchewan Vancouver Film School Mainframe Entertainment Inc. Bron Studios

Geographic location: Costa Rica, Port Moody

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