Q&A: Highways Contributor’s Book Series Becomes Animated TV Series

dinotruxChris Gall is a frequent contributor to Arizona Highways. Lately, he’s been our go-to illustrator for J.P.S. Brown’s essays (and he’s got another great one slated for our October issue). Gall’s other projects include several children’s books, such as his Dinotrux series, which features dinosaur-truck hybrids. Recently, Netflix announced that it will launch a Dinotrux animated series on its streaming service in the spring of 2015. The series will be produced by DreamWorks Animation, which signed a deal with Netflix last year.

We asked Gall a few questions about the process of bringing Dinotrux to the big screen:

Q: How did the Dinotrux series come about? Did you approach Netflix about the idea, or did they approach you?
A: In 2009, before Dinotrux had even gone to print, DreamWorks Animation approached me with interest in buying the movie and TV rights for the book. The studios keep a keen eye on newly published titles (and often, as in my case, titles that are about to be published). They are always looking for a new idea that might be suited for a film or series. While initially their development was aimed towards a feature-length motion picture, over time the strategy changed and it was thought the franchise would be better suited in television. Later still, the whole TV and streaming landscape changed overnight, and DreamWorks partnered with Netflix for all of their television distribution.

Q: What was your reaction when you found out a Dinotrux animated series was going to become a reality?
A: When I was out at DreamWorks last year, I was shown preliminary character models and animation sequences. Suddenly, after four years of uncertainty, it became reality. Sitting in the offices of DreamWorks and seeing my characters on the screen, coming to life, was quite a moment. I didn’t jump up and down, but I did stop by the gift shop on my way out and buy a dozen DreamWorks Animation T-shirts.

Q: What will your involvement be in the production of the series?
A: Early on, I was involved as an informal consultant. The production team at DreamWorks is just first rate, and as such, they definitely have the last word on all creative development. Dinotrux is a picture book, so the story is really simplified for the young reader. DreamWorks’ job is to flesh out the entire world and take the story to a whole new level. Unlike a novel, where the story lines, dialogue and characters are very clear, a picture book yields more challenges for the studio and more opportunities for creative development.

Q: What interests you about animation, as opposed to “static” illustration?
A: They both have their place, of course. As I was working on Dinotrux, I kept thinking, “Boy, this sure would make a cool movie.” So in some ways, I felt myself crafting the story and characters to position the book for studio interest. I was just surprised it happened so quickly. The truth is, I had always had a goal in the back of mind that someday one of my books would become either a movie or a series. I’ve done some short animations on my own to promote Dinotrux and a few of my other books, so I had a real feel for how labor-intensive the process can be. I’ve always been a fan of animated shorts, and when feature-length digital 3-D animation became a reality 20 years ago, it took the storytelling medium to a whole new level. We are living in a new golden age of animation.

For more information about Chris Gall, visit his website.

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