We had the wonderful opportunity to interview Hugh Welchman, producer of the Oscar winning Peter & the Wolf. Below you’ll find the complete interview:
1) Hello Hugh, how are you today? Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? (What’s your title, what exactly were you responsible for, etc…)
I’m Hugh Welchman, a producer from BreakThru Films in London. I assume when asking what I was responsible for, you mean in relation to Peter and the Wolf. I was responsible for the project happening. I was the first person working on the project, and I will no doubt be the last person to stop working on it!
2) How did it feel when Owen Wilson announced that Peter & the Wolf had won the Oscar for best animated short? How did it feel to be on stage in front of millions of people?
It felt amazing. I was instantly floating, and a grin broke out on my face that took one week to subside. I thought I would be nervous going out in front of a live audience of (we were told 800 million prior to the ceremony, and told over a billion after the event) millions, but I was just very happy, and very relaxed. I have accepted many awards on behalf of different films, but none of them felt like this, it felt totally different.
3) Did you get to meet any of the other nominees in both the feature length and short animation categories?
We met them all.
4) What part of Peter & the Wolf was your favorite?
My favorite part is when the cat is standing on its hind legs on the tree, after snapping its branch. It makes me laugh every time I see the film and I have seen the film hundreds of times!
5) How long did it take to complete the short (include pre and post production)?
Developing and financing the project took 3 years. It was a real struggle, we almost lost heart at a couple of points. Pre production was 7 months, and production/post production was 6 months. Recovering from production/post-production was 18 months!
6) How have children reacted to Peter & the Wolf? How have adults reacted?
We made this as a family film. We aimed it at 7-11 year olds and their parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents. Many people thought our version [was] very dark, but we were convinced that the film needed to be dark and scary as well as light and funny, as this is how we felt about the Prokofiev music. Our first test screening was actually our world premiere at London’s Royal Albert Hall in front of 5,500 people! We finished the film at 6:00pm, and had it there for a 7:30pm screening. We sat there watching the film, completely terrified, until 7 minutes in we heard a ripple of giggles from the children in the audience, which soon turned into belly laughter from the adults and children alike, at that point we made a collective sigh of relief and knew everything was going to be alright.
I have been very surprised as kids as young as 3 have really enjoyed the film, even those that find it frightening. I have had many parents write to me saying that there young children watch it repeatedly (some of them from behind the sofa). Also we have a teen following which I didn’t expect.
7) Will Peter & the Wolf be released on DVD in the USA?
It is being released by Magnolia later this year, but we also have an on-air exclusive to thirteen (PBS) for the 26th March broadcast, an it is also available on i-Tunes.
8.) Have you always been involved in animation? What is your background?
I studied Politics at Oxford University, but I knew before I left there that I wanted to work in film. I worked as a History and Politics teacher while I gained experience in film, and then I applied to and got into the National Film and Television School in UK. It was here that I was introduced to animation, and worked on both animation and live action films. When I left film school I aimed to be involved in both live action and animation, and this I have done. The majority of our films are live action, but our biggest finished film, Peter and the wolf, is animation.
9) Any words of advice to our readers? (some of which are current animation students and some of which are thinking of getting into the animation field).
My advice would be generally to those wishing to pursue a career in the creative fields. There is a choice between being an author/initiator of projects and working as a creative person for others on projects. The second path is much easier, less angst ridden, normally more stable in terms of pay and life-style, and is often very rewarding. Examine what kind of person you are. I would say only take the route of an initiator/author if you are compelled to, as it is often a very tough route. If you have, like me, to be a author/initiator make yourself as informed as you can about the art form you are working in, and get yourself good mentors, and work out what you want to make and why you want to make it. Once you have worked that out, and you are informed with good support from people with experience you will be able to make your projects how you dreamed they would be.
10) What does the future hold for you? Any future animation projects in the works?
Future is the same as the past, making films that we are passionate about. We have 3 films we are working on. Two are live action: Sh – which is about a virus that spreads through sound, Cu -a warrior epic set on the Celtic fringe of the Roman Empire, and one animation/live action film, Alex – based on a cartoon strip and a successful west-end play we were involved in.
Thank you very much for your time Hugh and much success in the future!