Animation has changed from its early days. Were there certain themes that you had to make sure you included in the film to solidify its relevance in the digital and advanced world we live in today?
The biggest thing that we wanted to take seriously and make sure we hit on was that people do actually believe in them. We didn't want to date it by using anything particularly relevant to now, as many of these characters have been around for hundreds of years. We want this movie to have an immortal life span. We decided to pay attention to what people loved about the characters and what they really mean.
What’s your personal connection to this story?
When I was a kid, I believed in these characters and I have great memories of the thought of them from my childhood. It’s also about pure creativity. Imagination makes real-life dreams come true.
You’re the first African-American to direct a big budget computer generated feature. How does that feel?
It feels great, almost surreal. After working on it for several years, I read my first press piece about it and the tears started to roll all of a sudden. It was a great feeling. It speaks to not giving up and believing in what’s instilled in you.
What’s the biggest lesson you've learned, being a self-taught animator?
The importance of being able to think on your feet.
What emotions do you hope people leave the theater with?
I hope they leave with a sense of their role in making magic and their role in remembering that it’s imagination that gives us some of the best things in life, like hope, memory and dreams. Those are the only things we have to hold on to. Otherwise, life can just be full of despair, fear and bad feelings.
Which was your favorite character to develop?
I feel in love with each character along the way! It’s like kids, and who can pick their favorite kid?
If there were one story or book, specific to the African-American community that you could produce through animation, what would it be?
Wow! There are so many that would make incredible stories, but I would love to see a definitive great film on the Harlem Renaissance. I don’t know if it could be pulled off through animation, but dreams do come true. I’ll be thinking about it!