Interview with Michael Bengtsson (Meindbender)
Meindbender is an animation company based out of Sweden that has been kicking ass and winning awards for the last four years. Some of you may recognize their short pieces for Cartoon Network featuring Meindbender’s signature characters. Below is an interview with their founder and director Michael Bengtsson on myths, techniques, and why European cartoons suck.
Daniel Rolnik: How long did it take you to go from not knowing how direct to working on your first commercial piece?
Michael Bengtsson: Some of us actually started directing before we left university. The quality bar has hopefully risen since then though.
DR: Was the Pirate piece for Cartoon Network all CG? What programs did you use to create it?
MB: Yes it was. We primarily used Maya in combination with Maxwell for the rendering. We also used were Photoshop, Modo, 3d coat, Mudbox and After Effects.
DR: What was the most challenging aspect of the animation of The Pirate?
MB: There were so many challenges. We wanted a curved world and creating that presented its fair share of problems. The water, or rather the simulation of it, required us to have a centered gravity to the piece. In the end though, we simulated it using a plain vertical gravity and just bended the result with lattice, inside Maya.
DR: How do you make your CG animations look like they’re made out of clay?
MB: We’ve always been interested in pushing ourselves,. There’s really no magic behind it, just a combination of texturing skills, a dose of stubbornness, and a really great render. The benefit of using Maxwell is that while the actual rendering may take longer compared to many other programs, the setup is extremely easy, everything works in scale, and lights behave like their real counterparts.
DR: If you had the opportunity to make an original animated series what would it be about?
MB: We’ve been working on a full-length feature script based on an idea that made us form Meindbender. It would probably be about that, but in a series format. I know, tell A but not B, I’m allowed to be just a little secretive right?
DR: Is the company still only comprised of four people?
MB: Our core group is only six members, but currently Meindbender is a network of 25 people across the globe that can expand dynamically depending on the project. We’re all looking at the long term goal though, to make the best feature film we can.
DR: What’s a tip you have for young animators?
MB: Say goodbye to everything else other than practice. On a more serious note though… no, changed my mind, I’m sticking to my original statement
DR: What were some of your favorite European animations as a kid?
MB: I’m 33 now, so my childhood memories of the European animation industry is more or less, well, nonexistent. After passing the question around to my colleges it’s clear that it has nothing to do with amnesia - unless we all suffer from it. There simply wasn’t anything good being produced in Europe, that’s something that we hope we can contribute to some day.
DR: What’s a myth you want to start about your company?
MB: Elvis is indeed alive and he works at Meindbender!
DR: What are you most excited about releasing in 2011?
MB: I dont know yet, hopefully something cool though.
Questions by: Daniel Rolnik
Answers by: Michael Bengtsson (Meindbender)