The STAF Project Part 1
In late 2004, I was asked to put together an idea for an animated feature. Chris Manak, who runs the label Stones Throw (see below post), and who's given us a fair share of work over the years, was interested in creating a film, in which then, Hip Hop producer Madlib, would create the soundtrack for.
For any animator, the prospect of an animated feature, much less being asked to direct, is a dream come true. It's also a huge, 2-3 year commitment. We started weekly meetings along with Madlib and music supervisor Barry Cole. Off the bat, I wanted to establish a premise, and develop the germ for a story.
I showed the films Triplets of Belleville and Heavy Metal to the guys, to give them an idea of musical animated films which I thought had succeeded. We talked a lot about the movie La Planète sauvage as it was one of Madlibs favorites.
After about 2 months of getting together, and lots of Japanese food, I had a basic story outline, and artwork. I had imagined the story to be a metaphor for Hip Hop, as, almost a folk tale. The story involved a fictional Carribean island, which, in a post apocalyptic world, would serve as a huge dumping ground for the first worlds trash. Basically a giant landfill surrounded by a ring of towns. These people would salvage the trash and create an economy out of it. One shop in particular made gigantic jukeboxes, and served as a record archive.
After a misunderstanding regarding the junk, a valuable piece of hardware gets sent back into the trash, into the center of the landfill which is inhospitable and dangerous for humans. A young shop clerk is forced to go on an hasty journey through hostile shanty towns into the middle of the island to literally find a needle in a haystack. He then stumbles on a dark secret of the island that no one seems to be aware of.
The guys seemed to be into the idea, though, Chris had concerns with the Jamaican-ness of the premise. I thought it would been a perfect fit alongside with Madlibs production style. I knew the story needed a lot of work and development, but, I also knew, this would be an idea we'd have to commit to, for at least the next couple of years. After a story was outlined, we had to look into funding. This seemed to invoke a lot of blank stares and was a bit tougher.