Bird Is the Word

A film based on the killer app Angry Birds is set to help local studios soar, thanks to powerhouse producer Catherine Winder

How did Angry Birds wind up in Vancouver? First and foremost, Angry Birds is a comedy. After doing an assessment of studios, we felt Vancouver and Imageworks had the best comedic animators in the world.It must help that you live here. True. I first lived in town in the early ’90s. I spearheaded a study focused on developing animation locally. I was a little premature-the industry was still too young-so I ended up moving to L.A. I spent the majority of my career in California working as an executive and/or producer for some of the industry’s most iconic leaders, like Bill Hanna of Hanna-Barbera and George Lucas, for whom I took the Star Wars franchise into animation, producing the Clone Wars movie and series.What brought you back to town? In 2009 I was approached by Rainmaker, a local studio. I was charged with restructuring to enable it to produce its first animated film, Escape From Planet Earth. With that project, I was consistently impressed by the dedication, passion, and most importantly the artistry of everyone involved. It convinced me that Vancouver is poised to do great things over the coming years.What can you say about Angry Birds? The release isn’t until 2016. But I can tell you it’s based on the game, one of the biggest entertainment franchises and the No. 1 app of all time. We are pioneering new ground. No independent film I am aware of has ever had the brand awareness, resources, and partners in place at this stage. To produce it, Rovio, the company that makes the app, has assembled an amazing team, including John Cohen, my producing partner (Despicable Me), and executive producer David Maisel (Iron Man); comedy writer Jon Vitti ; and directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly. Fergal’s credits include storyboard artist on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Clay was head of animation at Disney Feature Animation through a terrific run of films including Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled.How many people will it employ? At its peak, upward of 200 here; globally, well over 300.How else will it affect Vancouver? Such a high-profile project will continue to enhance the city’s reputation as a world-class digital hub. My guess is that some of the other major studios will be carefully following what we are doing here. I know I would be if I were back in L.A.And what do you think they’ll see? The perception that this is simply a place to send subcontract work is shifting. Many local studios have begun to invest or partner in the making of their own films. The animated-television industry here made a similar shift 10 years ago. In my opinion, when you take into account the quality of work Vancouver-based artists deliver at such competitive rates, it’s difficult to consider going anywhere else.