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Goat Story: The Old Prague Legends
 
 
Posted: Oct 30, 2008
Published by: the area
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Software: Autodesk Maya
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"Goat Story - The Old Prague Legends" is the first CG movie to come out of Eastern Europe. Here on the AREA, we'd like to shine a spotlight on Jan Tománek, the force behind the entirety of the film. From conception to applying for a European Union grant and finding sponsors, Jan has driven his small team to complete this animated film which is currently being played nationwide in the Czech Republic.
**Below is the Goat Story trailer at 1280X544, please be patient while downloading.

The Area:
Hello Mr.Tománek. you are the director of "Goat Story - The Old Prague Legends" which was just recently released! Can you tell us what this Goat Story 'fairytale' is about?
Tománek:
Goat Story is the story about Jemmy, a young man from the small town who goes to medieval Prague with his goat friend. They bring along eggs, which are to be added to the concrete mixture for the construction of the Charles Bridge. As a result of including the eggs, the bridge became much stronger and was able to provide service for hundreds of years.

And this really did happen, the bridge is beautiful and stands in Prague to this day -- more than 650 years ago. This movie is a combination of multiple legends/stories, for example 'the eggs', the one regarding the Old Town Clock, the hairy ghost, or the one about Faust's House and Dr. Faust's contract with the devil.

In this movie, everything is overlooked from a distance, with Czech humour and more spice to make it nicer for the kids.

Jemmy and his goat go through the movie story and he falls in love with a city girl named Katy, but at the same time, the goat becomes jealous and hates Katy. This is a classic love triangle :)
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The Area:
Why did you create this animation?
Tománek:
The main reason is that I live in Prague and love Prague. Since the time I was a little boy, I've loved all these old legends/stories. This is also a theme that no one in Czech cinematography has ever filmed/used, which is a shame. Prague in the nighttime is very beautiful and has such a mysterious atmosphere, by which it is rated amongst the most beautiful cities in the world. And since it is really small, it has a unique character and magic which I've tried to incorporate into my movie.
The Area:
There are other options you could have chosen: traditional animation, live actors, claymation, paper cut-out, puppets, etc. -- why did you choose to do it in 3D?
Tománek:
I have experience in other animation techniques, but the reason for that experience is my parents, who are directors of animation movies. They're also owners of a small company which creates classic animation. I grew up in this kind of environment and didn't play with stuffed bears, but with movie puppets. I decided to go for 3D animation because I was always interested about it and all the short movies I've ever made were always made in 3D.

The second reason was the fact that CG, for this kind of movie, is the best media. If I try to take 250 puppets and try to animate them in classic animation, it would be a really hard task or perhaps not possible at all. It would be the same problem with a movie using live actors, in live recording. The next reason is that I can stylize the 3D in the animation according to my fantasy and imagination. In 3D animation, the only limit for the director is his fantasy and imagination. Given that, anything is possible.
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The Area:
Having completed the entire process of making a commercial film, you have accumulated much knowledge and experience in this area. When you decided that you would produce this animation, how did you proceed to start -- taking into consideration things like finding people to work on it, getting funding, hardware/software?
Tománek:
The first impulse for making this movie was the grant program 'EU - MEDIA' which was announced in 2003 and I was amongst the first of those who applied for it. This project at the time was still an idea in my head. The grant was 20,000€ (EUR), and that was my starting budget for the project. But that was just the start. This train picked up momentum, I jumped on board and there was no escape from it anymore ;-)
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The Area:
What software was used in this animation?
Tománek:
The main animation and modeling software was Maya. We created a list of the plugins and scripts. As for rendering, we used AIR from SiTex Graphics, post production and composition were done in Combustion and some colour correction in Final Cut.
The Area:
For your custom plugins and scripts that you programmed for Maya, can you tell us about what these plugins and scripts helped to do?
Tománek:
It was our script for generating rigs, realtime lighting based on GPU, for dynamics and cloth simulation.
The Area:
What was the reason to use AIR rendering application in place of the native Maya render or mental ray -- did you have your own renderfarm?
Tománek:
The reason behind our choice is that with both mental ray and the native Maya software renderer, it was not possible to render our huge scene. There were approximately around 4 million triangles and between 4-5GB of textures. In mental ray, it would output just one "render square" and crash because it ran out of memory. In AIR, we simply clicked on 'Render' and everything was done. Perfect.

We rendered everything with our own renderfarm -- 10 computers (Intel quadcores, 4GB RAM).
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The Area:
How many people worked on this production?
Tománek:
When I tell this to someone outside of my country, no one will believe me that nine people worked on the entirety of the visual production, out of which four were animators. I think that professional studios have maybe 4x-5x the people doing just one thing. There were also other people who were doing sound, production, music, and other work that is typical of an average film.
The Area:
What hardware setup did you have?
Tománek:
8x - Intel Dualcore, 2GB RAM, Quadro 540
2x - Intel Quadcore, 4GB RAM, Quadro 1500
1x - Apple G5, 8GB RAM (Combustion and Final Cut)
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The Area:
Are you the owner of AAA studio and was it created especially for Goat Story?
Tománek:
Art and Animation Studio is my family's company, which was created in 1990 by my parents who produce classic animation, which I've mentioned previously. They do cartoon, puppets and paper cut-outs. In 2006, I created a small branch solely for CG animation and this was the only branch that worked on this movie and it was the main reason for its creation.
The Area:
Why did you choose this particular fairytale story?
Tománek:
Goat Story is not your typical fairytale. Actually it's not a fairytale, it is an animation movie for the whole family, which is based on the Prague legends. Some of the legends are scary and others have unpleasant endings, so this is why I think it's not your classic fairytale. We started writing this story with David Slama in 2003 and finished it in 2005.
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The Area:
How did you decide on this specific visual style -- were you influenced by any of the traditional Czech animation masters?
Tománek:
Thanks to my childhood with my parents, I got the big influence from their movies as well as other movies from Karl Zeman and Jiri Trnka -- I love those movies. When you connect all of these influences with the environment where I live, you can very easily understand why I opted for this style. The next thing is that I didn't want to do a nice clean animation as seen in typical Hollywood productions where everything is super clean and good looking, but you don't identify with any graphic style.
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The Area:
How long have you been using Maya and how long have you been in this CG industry?
Tománek:
I've been using Maya since 2002. The first time I saw this software was at the Academy of Art University in Prague, where I studied at the time and created my first movie, 'The Frogs'. Before Maya, I tried to work in 3ds Max, Lightwave and Softimage. I love CGI since I was a kid and the first 3D I ever saw was the old 3d Studio on MS-DOS.
The Area:
Through the years of production, how many versions of Maya did you go through?
Tománek:
We used just Maya 7, with no upgrades. We have seven licenses of Maya Complete and one Maya Unlimited.
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The Area:
What was your education background and what did you originally want to become?
Tománek:
I attended the art school which was targeted mostly for sketching, painting and sculpting. After that, I was studying at the Academy of Art University in Prague, where I studied atelier of new media that focused on 3D graphics. But the most experience I got was from my family and playing with my short movies.
The Area:
Going back to Goat Story, which aspects of the animation were you involved in?
Tománek:
On the movie, I played a few roles. I was script writer, director, art director, producer, 3D camera movement, lighting and rendering. I was also cutting the movie. There were just a few things I didn't do on that movie ;-)
The Area:
What sort of production challenges did you encounter?
Tománek:
Making the movie wasn't any surprise for me. The worst phase in the movie was for sure getting money because I didn't get any support from the Czech cinematography, so this movie was founded by private investors, which was unusual at the time in Czech Republic. All other movies here are fully funded from government money, so this is the first movie that was privately funded.
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The Area:
When dealing with such a large scale release, how did you go about negotiating for it?
Tománek:
At the screenings of animation movies, 'Cartoon Media' is a show which happens each year in Germany and is one of the biggest in Europe. When we showed our movie this spring, we got a big response from the distributors. We also received a few offers for worldwide distribution, but we are waiting for the first response at the festivals and then we'll decide on whether we want to sell the movie to those distributors or not.
The Area:
It has been a long journey, starting from 2003. Now that Goat Story is out in the theatres, will you be considering doing a next animated story?
Tománek:
First, I want to relax and spend some time with my family, especially with my two year old son John. He was born in the middle of movie production and I didn't have much time for him due to working on this film.
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The Area:
When can we expect to see your film on the big screens?
Tománek:
The premiere was on the 16th of October in the Czech Republic. Premiere outside of Czech Republic will depend on the festivals and negotiations with the distribution. But I believe that there will be interest because our movie is different than the animation seen these days that come from Hollywood. I also believe that because the story is set in Prague, which is for many tourists a big attraction and an interesting city, they would be interested to see this movie as well.

Thanks very much for your time Mr. Tománek, we look forward to seeing Goat Story in the theatres!
Best wishes, from the AREA :-)

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Posted by adobro on Nov 16, 2009 at 04:07 PM
this would be good.... i like the concepts. good job.
Posted by Felyppe on Nov 10, 2008 at 01:24 PM
Muinto legal mesmo esta comunidade da para ver mesmo que os desenhos foram bem desenhados e bem animados muito legal mesmo.
Posted by andymclanza on Oct 31, 2008 at 11:23 AM
WOW1
it seems a kwl film .
I hope that we will see it also in Italy , at least on DVD
It is a great example how little budget and few people can do great stuff