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‘The Wild Robot’ Director Says Film’s Painted Style Offers an ‘Emotional and Immersive’ Experience

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Peter Debruge Chief Film Critic Located alongside a pristine alpine lake in the south of France, the Annecy Film Festival is considered a mecca by many in the animation community.

It’s the kind of place you must visit at least once to meet others who wor­ship animation. This year, DreamWorks Animation legend Chris Sanders (co-director of “How to Train Your Dragon” and “The Croods,” as well as Disney favorite “Lilo & Stitch”) is making the trip for the first time.

Sanders plans to present an extended sample of his new feature, “The Wild Robot,” adapted from the book by Peter Brown. It’s a project that looks nothing like his previous work, even as it fulfills a dream he’s had since his hand-drawn animation days. “From the very beginning, I was concerned that people wouldn’t see this movie the correct way if you treated it like a normal CG film,” Sanders explains. “It’s a deceptively sweet and simple book, but with incredibly complex things going on emotionally, and we wanted that to be reflected in the visuals.” That meant liberating the look from the relatively photorealistic style of previous CG toons, where everything from feathers to fur has evolved to be convincing to the eye — Sanders’ dream was to make the end result reflect the extraordinary exploratory paintings that appear in concept-art books. “When we begin these projects, there’s a wealth of beautiful color sketches that come out.

They’re loose and they have energy, and they have a lot of emotion to them,” he says. “So we asked the question: Can those images that begin the process be the way this film looks when it’s finished?” In the footage shown at Annecy, audiences will meet Roz (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o), a high-tech helper droid designed to improve.

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