‘Riddle’ Prod Prompts Move To New Studio

Yoram Gross Film Studios’ “The Magic Riddle” is the most expensive and complex animated feature yet made in Australia; to prepare for that has seen a natural expansion in the studios’ infrastructure, not the least of which was a whole new studio.

YGFS’ 1,400-square-meter headquarters, a 60-year-old warehouse located in the inner city suburb of Camperdown, is more than twice as big as the company’s previous site. It cost more than $A1.5 million to renovate and incorporates not only full studio facilities, including three animation cameras, a music and special effects department, editing suites and a small theater, but a complete recording studio as well.

Complex opened late 1988 as “The Magic Riddle” entered preproducton. Simultaneously the studio was supplying material for “Brightsparks,” a 13-episode tv science show for kids, made in conjunction with Beyond Intl.

Yoram Gross’ original story line for the film, combining characters from classic fairy tales using an original plot and songs, was developed into a final script in association with Leonard Lee and John Palmer, who’d worked with Gross before. A five-minute pilot was produced to help attract backing.

Four animation directors were appointed, and staffing at the new complex was increased to 70 so the film could be finished with in a two year period. Character voices, by Robyn Moore and Keith Scott, were recorded, and the animators began work in early 1989.

A major change for Gross was backgrounding. Previously all YGFS pics had used live action backgrounds, a device now made famous by the high tech wizardry of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” but “The Magic Riddle” called for a return to traditional painted backgrounds.

These were conceived, developed and supervised by Richard Zaloudek, who previously worked at Hanna-Barbera and Disney’s Aussie operations. The animation process required 12 new drawings every second, a total of 65,000 to make the film. Editing was completed by the end of 1990, and a final print was delivered from film laboratory Atlab early 1991.

To supplement the story, Gross commissioned his son Guy to provide songs and background music; he worked with lyricist John Palmer to create the soundtrack, which features as its title song “Ordinary Miracles,” sung by Oz singer Julie Anthony. Soundtrack is YGFS’ first to be recorded in Dolby.

In Australia, “The Magic Riddle” will have a wide release in the June/July school holidays via Village Roadshow’s distrib arm Greater Union Film Distributors.

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