How did this project come about?
The Otherworld film was something I'd been wanting to make for a very long time. I started producing animation in 1982 and like every junior producer I suppose I had to earn my status, I had to get a back catalogue going, and there just came a time when it was something I could propose. It was a big project and I suppose I had the capability, my company had the capability, I had the right director and Cartwn Cymru's reputation was sufficient to tackle a project of that size and really take something inherently Welsh and offer it to the world that might not understand the Welshness but could accept that it was a fine animation project.
Tell us what the story is
To tell the story of Otherworld/Y Mabinogi in a few short sentences is virtually impossible! The central issue that we deal with is that there are four main branches or strands within the Mabinogi which kind of loosely means "tales of young men, of young sons" and what we've done is pull out three main characters. Rhiannon is a young woman, Lleu is a young man and Manawydan, or Dan for short, is another young man and what we do is we find them in live action with their contemporary, 18 year old problems, and we take them into Otherworld where they become animated characters, they become characters within the world of the medieval text. There they grow and develop as characters through the medieval stories and eventually their stories are resolved and we bring them out into the live action and we have closure on their live action stories.
How easy/difficult was it to blend live action and animation like that?
There's a cast of thousands in the Mabinogi therefore a conscious decision was made that we needed to pull out our main characters and we just felt that to start in live action was a way of arresting the audience and drawing their attention to them ... these are your heroes for the whole story. But technology exists now in animation, in post-production to really blend the two quite seamlessly and it's something we've done before. In the Miracle Maker, we blended 3D stop-frame puppet animation with drawn animation, so in fact you can do anything quite seamlessly now.
Tell us about John Cale's involvement ... how did he get involved and what is his role?
The director Derek Hayes and I selected John Cale a the composer because we felt somehow he was perfect. He has this Welsh background, he was born and brought up outside Swansea and apparently didn't speak a word of English until he was seven years old so he's got that background of knowing about the Mabinogi since the time he was a young boy. He left home and he's now a Welshman in exile and that's what he'll always be - he chooses to live in New York but he's always kept his ties with Wales and worked on Welsh projects where he can and he still speaks Welsh and is keen to work with Welsh artists. Apart form that it was his whole musical background - we knew that he'd started off as a classical musician, trained to play the classical viola, and he had in fact played in the Welsh National Youth Orchestra. Then he went to Goldsmith's University and he'd come through a more avant-garde approach to music, then the Velvet Underground combining rock music with that avant-garde classical and that really brought everything that we wanted because the Mabinogi is a strange, otherworldly kind of backdrop and that's exactly the kind of sound backdrop we wanted - some classical, some folk / Celtic, some avant-garde, some electronic, just really that whole eclectic range and John was the man.