Garden gnomes need love too. Today, I get the chance to interview director, writer and voice actor Kelly Asbury. Kelly answers my questions about his new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet”, movie-making, Ventriloquism…and much more.
On… Kelly Asbury:
Welcome on Veronika Asks, Kelly! Thank you for being my interviewee. You’re a director, writer, voice actor and illustrator. Did you achieve everything you wanted to or is there something else you’d like to try?
I’d like to keep doing it all again and get better with each try!
Which animated movie made you want to become involved in this industry?
I saw Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES when I was about 7-years-old and that was that.
Which one of the movies you worked on is your favorite?
I”ve enjoyed them all to a large degree, but, as of now, GNOMEO AND JULIET is my favorite!
In most animated movies, the hero often gets help from a fairy godmother. Do you have a fairy godmother?
My high school art teacher Mrs. Minnie McMillan is as close to a fairy godmother as I’ve ever come.
On “Gnomeo and Juliet”:
“Gnomeo and Juliet” is “an epic tale on a tiny scale”. The making of the movie too, must have been epic. Could you share your best and “worst” “Gnomeo & Juliet” memories?
My best memories are too many to mention here, but suffice it to say that I loved working with all the brilliantly talented artists and technicians I had the priviledge to be surrounded by. My worst memory is when it was all over and we had to say “goodbye for now.” It was like parting with family.
Fairytales often teach us valuable life lessons. What about “Gnomeo and Juliet”? Is there a moral behind the fun?
Don’t judge a gnome by the color of his hat!
Are there other classics you’d enjoy “gnoming”?
Been there, gnomed that.
On Animation and Movie-Making:
You’ve worked on amazing animated movies such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Shrek”, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”, “Beauty and the Beast”… What do a storyboard artist, assistant art director, story artist and director do exactly?
A storyboard artist works closely with the director to tell the story in still drawings, much like a comic strip. The storyboards serve as the blueprint from which the entire movie is planned. An assistant art director helps the production designer and art director develop and design the look of the movie from the environments to the colors and lighting for a given scene. A director oversees and shepherds all the creative decisions from the start to the finish of production.
What is the difference between a “good story” and a “story worth turning into a movie”?
All stories are worth turning into a movie and all stories are only as good as the teller.
Once an idea is born, how is an animated movie made? Could you briefly describe the movie-making process, taking your new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet” as an example?
Idea + script + storyboards + editing + many revisions + designs + voices + animation + surfacing + color + sound + sound mixing + final print = animated movie. A process of usually no less than 4 years.
I’ve heard it will soon be possible to “revive” dead actors thanks to the new technologies. Does that mean it will soon be possible to see new movies with those long-gone stars? How far do you think special effets may go?
I think the sky is the limit, but the stories have to be good and the characters have to be engaging or none of it’s worth a hill of beans.
On “Dummy Days”:
You wrote a non-fiction book titled “Dummy Days: America’s Favorite Ventriloquists from Radio and Early TV”. How and when did your passion for this incredible art form start? Have you ever considered becoming a ventriloquist yourself?
I was given a toy ventriloquist dummy as a kid and never was very good at actually being a ventriloquist. Still, I’ve always loved puppets and magic and those interests remained into my adulthood. After searching for a good book on the history of ventriloquists, I became frustrated and decided to write one myself.
Who is your favorite ventriloquist? And the greatest dummy of all-time?
My favorite ventriloquist is my good friend Mr. Jimmy Nelson, who’s famous for those old 1960s Nestle’s Quik commercials featuring his dummy Danny O’Day and the singing dog, Farfel. The most famous ventriloquist dummy of all time is Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy, who, in the 1930s and 40s was as popular as Mickey Mouse.
Do you think there’s room for another Golden Age of Ventriloquism?
There’s room for anything!
Hero: Walt Disney
Favorite Animated Movie: DUMBO
Favorite Animated Character: Mickey Mouse
Favorite Actor/Actress: Marlon Brando/Meryl Streep
Motto: There’s always something new to learn.
Dream: I’m living it
Favorite Food: Fried Chicken
Favorite City: Los Angeles, CA
Favorite Music: Anything that makes me want to sing along.
Hobby: Deep sleep
Bonus Question: You’ve found $100. How will you use that money?
I’d first try hard to find out who lost it, in the hopes of getting it back to them. If that failed I’d throw a KFC block party.
Thank you, Kelly!