If you remember my article on why more animators are jumping over to live-action, I mentioned at the end that it would be cool to see directors in live-action do animation. As it turns out, my research pulled up quite a few known examples of that being the case. Gore Verbinski with Rango, Steven Spielberg with Tintin, Wes Anderson with Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Zack Snyder with Guardians Of Ga’Hoole, just to name a few.
With that in mind, I complied my own list of directors whose unique directing styles would bring something new to the table in the animation world.
Edgar Wright (Shawn Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World): To be honest, this was the first name that came to mind when I thought about a director whose style would rock in animation form. His blazing sense of humor, clever, genre-related pop culture homages and, in the case of Scott Pilgrim, innovative visual styling makes him the very top choice for someone who would be able to take the medium of animation to a whole new level.
What would we expect if he did do an animated film? I would guess something on the level of Scott Pilgrim (a little more family-appropriate, of course). Just something that would max the animation out to it’s full extent the way Scott Pilgrim‘s visuals were maxed out.
Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi trilogy, Spy Kids trilogy, Sin City films): Speaking of another person with a unique style, Robert Rodriguez is famous for his ‘one-man film crew’ style of making movies, also known as ‘Mariachi-style’ where, as he says in his 1995 autobiography Rebel Without A Crew: “Creativity, not money, is used to solve problems.”
That approach might not be easy to carry over into animation, as making an animated film almost always requires some form of collaboration (with writers, with animators, with storyboard artists, etc).
What he can carry over into the world of animation is his willingness to go after concepts and ideas that wouldn’t get developed otherwise. And while he has yet to do an animated feature, Rodriguez is no stranger to cartooning (he drew a comic strip in The Daily Texan titled Los Hooligans, which ran for three years while attending the University Of Texas at Austin).
He actually had an animated film in development at some point, a new film based on the Heavy Metal magazine, but nothing has materialized since. In 2012, he did form Quick Draw Animation, which would allow him to develop, produce, and green-light animated film and TV projects.
Guillermo Del Toro
Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy 1 & 2, Pacific Rim): Talk about one of the most inventive (and busiest) people in Hollywood. Guillermo Del Toro has a sharp eye for unique visual design and in recent years, he has fully established himself as a genre heavyhitter.
Even though he has yet to direct an animated feature, Guillermo (perhaps more than any other director on this list) has already gained a strong foothold in animation.
He was the creative producer on the Hellboy animated series of direct-to-DVD features (Storm of Swords and Blood and Iron). Then, he set up shop at Dreamworks Animation, where he became the executive producer and creative consultant on films such as Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss In Boots, and Rise of the Guardians. He has also produced this year’s The Book of Life, will return to produce Kung Fu Panda 3, and is developing an animated series based on Pacific Rim.
He actually has a film set up at Dreamworks titled Trollhunters, with Guillermo directing. Hopefully he can find the time in his busy schedule to make his animated directorial debut.
David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network): This is arguably the most out-there choice on the list, but there’s a reason why I choose him, and it all has to do with a comic book titled The Goon.
In 2012, David Fincher and Blur Studios teamed up with comic book artist and writer Eric Powell and Dark Horse Entertainment to create a Kickstarter in order to finance a story reel for an animated adaptation of Eric Powell’s comic The Goon. Previously, they put together some proof-of-concept footage (which can be viewed online) that featured Clancy Brown and Paul Giamatti as the voices of the title character and his partner Franky, respectively. The project was fully funded, but nothing significant has materialized as of recent.
Why have I told you this? Asides from the fact that David was involved in an animated project, it also goes to show that, like Robert Rodriguez, he takes a chance on projects that are outside the norm in Hollywood. Since the mystery/procedural/detective genre is a constant in his films, it would be cool to see an animated mystery film done by him.
Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy, The Adventures of Tintin): My last choice is more on the epic side of things. Peter Jackson is best known for bringing Middle Earth to life with his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. He also got his feet wet in animation as the producer of the Steven Spielberg-directed animated film The Adventures of Tintin.
Again, the man has an eye for epic-scale visuals and storytelling. Outside of the How To Train Your Dragon and Kung-Fu Panda franchises, epic storytelling remains a rarity in feature animation and that’s a shame, since animation is more than capable of stretching those muscles just as well as live-action (case-in-point: How to Train Your Dragon 2).
Luckily, this wish may happen soon, as Peter Jackson promises to direct the sequel to The Adventures of Tinitn, which is currently aiming for a Christmas 2015 release.