Film director, screenwriter, animator and producer Mark Osborne — best known for animation films More, Kung Fu Panda, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie and The Little Prince — was in India for a Masterclass at the ongoing 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2022 in Goa.
While talking about his journey with Kung Fu Panda, Osborne shared, “From a crew of seven to a crew of 400, I did not know what I was doing. I wanted to make a feature. I was terrified that it was not going to work. I was bringing my own personal journey into the experience. I had to do it. So, that’s what I was communicating often. I was learning to figure out what’s important and meaningful to you. If it is meaningful to you and it’s honest, it’s going to be meaningful to the audience. You’re going to find your audience. It’s honesty that creates fresh takes on things. I had an appreciation for Chinese culture and Kung fu culture and I was able to bring myself into the equation and come up with something unique.”
Osborne also revealed why he didn’t direct the sequels to Kung Fu Panda. “My heart was in stop-motion animation. I was developing a stop-motion animation project. I was still exploring the world of CG. I never expected to get all the way to the finish line with that project. Also, as I was telling the story, I was in the bubble of the story. I didn’t think that there was any other story outside of that story. We were doing a recording session with Jack Black and Jeffrey Katzenberg came in to say hi to him. He raised his hand, gesturing there were going to be five of these movies,” said Osborne.
When asked about the budget of his animation feature The Little Prince, the filmmaker said, “The producers say that the movie crossed a certain amount but it’s hard to know what the truth is. And I am not writing the cheques, so I don’t know. I think they said the budget was about USD 80 million. And I think it was less. It felt like we were making a movie for a lot less. I am not privy to all the conversations. I try to focus on just telling the story.”
Osborne, the primary target audience of whose films are children, was asked whether he thinks about child psychology while developing a movie. Osborne shared his personal experience. “I am not a psychologist. But I come from a place of a creator or filmmaker where I am thinking about psychology. I am not trained to do that but it’s a part of my process naturally. I have two kids, so I have experiences with them and re-experienced my childhood through them. When I read the book, The Little Prince, in art school, one of the things it did to me was that it brought me back to my childhood. So, in essence, I was using a psychological approach to think about my own experience,” he said.
There’s a difference between getting inspired by art and creating your own and simply copying that art. Osborne, who collaborates with a variety of technicians and creative people, said, “When I am reading resumes or wanting to hire an artist, I want to know who that artist is. I want to see the flaws and the things that a person cares about. Those are the important things. If you show me something that looks like a copy, I am less interested. You have to pay great attention to the things that inspire you.”