Entergerlatic: An Interview with Film Creative Team

Entergalactic, An Interview with Film Creative Team, Tré Magazine houston

Sometimes you don’t know what you want to watch, and you find yourself flipping through Netflix to find the next series to binge or movie to dive into. A few months ago, that was, and I landed on the movie Entergalactic. The name intrigued me, but the cover art caught my eye. So, I pushed the button to play. Very glad I did.

If you haven’t seen this film, make sure you put it on your list to watch, or even better, stop now, watch it, and then read this interview. What is the movie about? Well, love. What else. But love and its complications in a beautiful city, with beautiful brown and black human beings, is done beautifully in animation.

So much makes this film spectacular, being a vision created by artist Kid Cudi for one, but this animated work’s look, feel, and realism make this unique. We had the chance to sit with two people who worked on the film, Archie Donato, Visual Effect Supervisor and Kapil Sharma, Animation Director of DNEG Animation, to talk about the work done on the film.

Image from the 2023 animated film, Entergalatic – featuring characters Meadow and Jabari in New York City

Tre: How would you describe your role in this film

Archie: If I had to describe it in one word, it is a facilitator. I take the vision of the director, production designer, and producers and become the middleman between them and the DNG team. The translator is another perfect word for my work. It takes hundreds of hours to make a movie, and it is impossible for all of us to meet at once to discuss the work, so I get all the answers from each side of the project and translate them to make the vision come together.

Tre: Kapil, asking you the same question

Kapil: I am the animation director of Entergalactic, responsible for acting. I must understand what the director wants from the performance and pass this on to my team to work through it—facilitating my team and working through the level of performance and entertainment required. It is the vision, and we go and provide precisely the version required. That’s our thing in animation.

Tre: What made you say yes to being part of this film

Kapil: We looked at the art style; I was like, I want to be a part of that. I really want to touch that. Secondly, animated movies are usually considered for kids, and Entergalactic was for adults. We saw that it was specific. It was speaking to adults, a particular culture in a city—the level of performance, the details. You do not get to work on a project like this for every animated movie. We enjoyed the deep dive to make this realistic. It was fun for the animators to dive into ethnicity and culture to help support their performance. It was different and exciting.

Tre: Well, I want to go deeper into your research process. This movie was deeply rooted in American culture, Black and Brown culture in America. How did you capture this?

Archie: Well, I grew up in Los Angeles. My parents immigrated when I was a kid. Like New York City, LA is a melting pot with people of all backgrounds and ethnicities. That part came easy for me. Beyond it being a project of Kid Cudi, a well-known entertainer, I was more nervous about capturing the culture and flavor of the people and place. It is rarely seen, which is heartbreaking, in animation, the different races and cultures. It is happening more in films. But this was important and exciting for me to create and explore. I did not want this to be a movie full of stereotypes.

For example, this film has several female characters, and I wanted to ensure that females and males were respectfully depicted; hairstyles, clothes, and features; are critical to a personality. We wanted to make an accurate graphic artistic representation. Those kinds of things, how people dress and talk, are crucial.

Image from the 2023 animated film, Entergalatic – featuring characters Meadow and Jabari

Kapil: From the animation point of view, we wanted to capture real emotions, which means faces needed to say more with less motion. Like our main character is based on Kid Cudi, you capture the personality traits. That is the lens you work through to capture sadness, happiness, or love from the character’s point of view.

Archie: It was refreshing working with a team that was incredibly prepared. It’s rare to see, and I’ve been in the industry for 30 years. Usually, we are pulling the vision out of the director’s head. Not with this; I have to give them credit. This team made working on this project easy.

Kapil and I did an insane amount of research. With the city of New York, we wanted to capture its essence. We were on Google Maps all the time, going down each street the character Jabari rides his bike through. We studied them through and through. The average viewer might not care about the granular detail, but New Yorkers knew, and anyone could feel the authenticity of the environment. There was a scene in the park where Jabari was talking to his friends about his love life. We spent three days discussing how to develop the garbage cans in that park.

Tre: I want to ask you about the music. It is the reason Entergalatic exist. How did it influence the work?

Kapil: First of all, we were creating the film during COVID, when we were all still at home, and this was Kid Cudi, the latest album. So, we did not have access to the actual music, just the bass and beats, which was fine. We, the animators, already knew Kid Cudi’s music, but through the music, we captured the different characters—certain music connected to Jabari and other songs to Meadow. Even New York City was a character in this film, and certain music captured the city. What’s the mood of the sequence of the song? What’s the meaning of that song in that sequence? And where are we coming from? Where are we going? So even though we haven’t heard the actual music, we were well aware of why that song certainly songs were placed in a sequence or scene.

Tre: I imagine seeing a room full of animators with headphones listening to Kid Cudi. What a way to work! I want to ask you about your favorite scenes in Entergalactic.

Kapil: This was the first movie, at least in my career; when it came out,  I watched it and loved overall what we ended up achieving. And there are a lot of great moments in the movie which feel so nice and so real. So if I have to pick and choose, it will be super hard. In terms of art and what it becomes, I think the last kissing shot of Jabari and Meadow in the diner space and what it becomes is just such a good killer scene. As I said, this is the project I’ve been proud to watch over and over again. We were able to do something exceptional.

Archie: For me, I think the scene where they leave the vagina party, and they get in which, by the way, it was an experience in itself. Anyway, my favorite scene is after they leave that party, he asks her if she wants to get out of there, and they get on the bike. And the bike goes into the sky, they ride through their New York City street, and then they take off into the sky. To me, it felt like a first date. I had a first date in New York many, many, many, many, many, many moons ago. It felt special; it felt like it was one of those moments where it was a metaphor for two people in the city and then getting lost in this nebulous sky. And what that represented to me is when you’re absolutely into that other person you are with, and you’re in the moment together, it’s like that kind of almost like a falling in love moment, that magical moment.

Tre: I love both of those scenes. Entergalactic is a human story. It makes me think of Spike Lee. He tells these very, very human ordinary stories but with elegance in texture, colors, grit, and language. This movie captures Spike Lee’s magic.

Archie: Absolutely. I totally get it. I’m a huge Spike fan. And you mention his name in the same sentence with our movies already a huge.

 Tre: Any last thoughts you want to share

Kapil: Animators and animation are actors and acting but behind the scene. It’s still a performance, which a director still directs. And every shot has a very clean and nice meaning to it. I’m quite satisfied in terms of where the industry is going with animated movies, but I want to live in a world where you have a movie, and now you see what’s the best medium to convey. Not an animated film, just a film.

Archie: I would like people to understand also that it’s incredibly difficult to make animated films, you know, because sometimes people don’t realize how much work goes into it; I have spent over three to four years on a project. Animation is incredibly time-consuming, and so much blood, sweat, and tears go into it. I want the audience also to take away how much labor goes into making something special. At the end of the day, to understand that it’s a labor of love. I moved from LA to London for this film because I saw that vision, and I wanted to make this image come alive. You know, that was my dream, you know? We do this hard work because we love it.

For more on this film and on DNEG Animation:


What do you think?

Written by thetremag

Yvette Alston White, United Airlines' Black History Diversity Committee Coordinator

Yvette Alston White brings Agape Love to United Airlines and celebrates the role of Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

Secunda Joseph, 2023 Rothko Chapel Óscar Romero Award, houston

Secunda Joseph is For the People and Recipient of the Prestigious Óscar Romero Award presented by the Rothko Chapel