Dallas’ Reel FX Behind New Feature ‘Free Birds’

reel fx 4The new animated holiday feature, ‘Free Birds,’ is set to land in theaters on November 1st. The movie is the first for Reel FX – an animation production studio located in Deep Ellum.

“You have to be able to believe the unbelievable and see the unseen in order to do this,” Reel FX founder Dale Carman said during a recent tour of his studio.

It takes nothing less than a vivid imagination to create what the eye can’t see; relying on nothing more than inventive vision to animate an idea from its simplest form.

“Nothing exists other than the voices recorded from the professional actors,” Free Birds assistant director Chris DiGiovanni said.

It is precisely the world in which the talented team of Reel FX exists.

“You have to be able to see what isn’t there to have a chance to make it come true,” Carmen said with enthusiasm.

Carman has made a living from his childhood passion – animation.

“We’ve kind of kept that passion today where we’re telling short stories in the form of commercials, theme park rides, all the way up to full-length feature films.”

reel fx 1Carman started Reel FX, an animation driven production company, in 1993 with nothing more than his dream and his desire to succeed. “The original vision was to create a creative studio that could make anything.”

Twenty years later, Reel FX is generating a caliber of characters that rival those of Pixar and DreamWorks Animation.

“It’s been a good journey,” Carman said. “Things have happened at the right time, and in the right way, the right people have come along.”

Inside their Deep Ellum studio, amid the construction, creative minds meticulously work to hone every detail, every movement and every expression of their movie, Free Birds.

“You just don’t let the computer do it for you, you have to do it to get the motion the way you want it,” animator Ernesto Bottger said.

Carman admits a successful animator must be a good actor. Many times, animators must rely on their own facial expressions to build their character’s movements and facial behaviors.

‘Free Birds’ follows the comedy-laced story of two turkeys, voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, and their time-traveling attempts to remove turkey as the bird of choice on Thanksgiving.

“The total length of the production on this film has been roughly five years. from the original screen play to executing it and putting it on film,” DiGiovanni said.

‘Free Birds’ is just the beginning for Reel FX. The team is already busy working on other features, like “The Book of Life.” Their goal is to produce a new animated film every year.

Although Reel FX is new to feature films, their work isn’t. Some notable Hollywood and commercial work was generated right in their studio.

reel fx 3“We worked with Warner Brothers to do some Looney Tunes shorts,” Reel FX’s head of production David Parrish said. “We’ve worked with Kung Fu Panda characters; we did a four-minute short on the DVD special.”

“We worked with Universal Studios Orlando to do a Despicable Me ride film.”

Reel FX is illustrating its ability to put Dallas on the map as a center of creativity in the world of animation.

“Not only the fact it was produced here, with local artists, but also for the budget we made the film for which is roughly a quarter of what a Pixar film costs,” DiGiovanni said. “So, it’s going to be a big deal; this is going to change the business model for these types of films pretty quickly.”


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