What was your initial reaction upon being invited to direct this project?
When I was first asked to get involved with it I was quite excited by the idea because I had seen some of the development work as the script was being done and I really liked the idea of coming back to 'home territory' because I had been doing the "Miracle Maker" which is all set in Palestine and I wanted to get back to the rain and grey skies and the background which the Mabinogi had.
In what way does the Mabinogi lend itself to screen adaptation and in what way is it problematic?
The Mabinogi is really a perfect set of stories for film because on the one hand it's full of fantastic incidents and it's got magic but it's also got a real grounding in real life because the stories are actually about people's interaction. Even though they've got giants and magical transformations and babies being born in strange and magical ways, they're still all about how people work with each other and relate and fall in love and how they do bad things to each other and how they get recompense and revenge. That's the great side of the Mabinogi because it's full of interesting things to do on film. It's very visual as well and there's all kinds of things which are, in a way, left a little bit nebulous in the actual story e.g. they talk about something but they don't describe it so it's great for a director because I can just come along and say "I think this is going to look like this". For example in the story there's something that comes and steals a baby and tries to steal a foal and in the story it's just described as a "thing" so I had to work out what this "thing" was going to look like. Only then the difficulty of the Mabinogi is that they're very odd stories so they're based on the tribal morays of the 6th and 7th centuries and people do things for reasons that we can't actually work out or at least we're not sympathetic with and there's a lot of tribal things which I suppose a lot of tribes who are still existing in the modern world would actually understand because it's to do with the relationships of small groups but nowadays with our great levels of laws and customs we're very far from those things so you get all kinds of non sequiturs - something happens and somebody's reaction to it is completely weird to us and for me I've got to work that out, I've got to make it appear normal so that we can understand why people do these things.
Apart from yourselves (Cartwn Cymru), who else has been involved in the production of 'Y Mabinogi'?
From the beginning we realised that it was quite a big project and knew we couldn't actually do it all here. Because of the type of animation that it is - we've got realistic human characters - it's quite difficult to find good animators who can do human characters. You can find a lot of fantastic animators who are very good at cartoons but it's quite difficult to get ones who can actually work on human beings so we had to cast around to different places to try and get the team together. The people in Moscow (Christmas Films) have got a great range of people there and they've got a fantastic number of very well trained, classical animators who can actually draw very well, so they took over the bulk of the animation and in the end they had about 2/3 of it. Other things like special effects and CGI (Computer Generated Images) have all been done in MPC in London.
Tell us about the different animation styles called for in the script
The idea in the script was that we start out with some live action of the three main characters who exist today. The thought behind that was to take three contemporary youths who could lead us into the world of the Mabinogi. They've got concerns in the real world which are mirrored by some of the incidents in the Mabinogi so I knew that we had to have live action and we were going to go into animation. I'm never very keen on films where you have a cut-off point between two styles and you go straight through from one to the other, so I wanted to try and, if I could, keep a little bit of complexity of the real world in the animated world, so I've taken some photographic elements and some live action elements and some CG elements and put those in the 2D of the animated world. To do that a lot of it we've done here, partly in Photoshop and partly in our own 'Animo' computers, but a lot of it, especially the 3D CG stuff has been done in MPC. I've worked with MPC for quite a long time now, they did all the effects work on the "Miracle Maker", and they took on the whole thing. So part of it for example is the 3D backgrounds, and the idea was that I wanted to be able to move the camera more than you would normally be able to do, and get some real three dimensional space into it, so they built 3D environments which were based on our background paintings and this is another thing that I always want to try and get into the animation which is a completely homogenous look. I want to make sure that what we're seeing doesn't give us any kind of break between the animated characters and the backgrounds, I want them all to exist together, so when we get CG into it and when I put the photographs into it it's all got to come together so that there's detailed elements in foreground and background and on the characters and it all really works together. Therefore what MPC had to do was quite a difficult task and that was to make the computer animation work with our 2D animation and our painted backgrounds.