Creators Society Animation Podcast

24. Aron Warner - Oscar winning producer of Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Wish Dragon and more!

May 25, 2022 Season 2
24. Aron Warner - Oscar winning producer of Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Wish Dragon and more!
Creators Society Animation Podcast
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Creators Society Animation Podcast
24. Aron Warner - Oscar winning producer of Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Wish Dragon and more!
May 25, 2022 Season 2

Aron Warner was the producer of DreamWorks' first CG animated feature, Antz. He then won the first ever academy award for an animated feature as the producer of Shrek, before going on to produce Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third, working with Jorge Gutierrez on The Book of Life and more recently, Wish Dragon. Before all this, Aron had a career in live action films, from horror films like Freddy’s Dead - The Final Nightmare, to big budget blockbusters like Independence Day and True Lies. In today’s episode of the Creators Society Animation Podcast I sat down with Aron and tried to cover as much of his career as we could in the time we had! With all his success, Aron is as humble as they come, always singing the praises of the great teams around him - a real pleasure to chat to. Enjoy!

Please remember to like, rate and comment on your favorite podcasting platform and share the episode on social media.

If you have any comments or suggestions please get in touch. 

Host & Producer: Michael Wakelam

Executive Producer: Eric M. Miller

Music by: Rich Dickerson

Audio Engineering: Mike Rocha

Edited by: Zoe Wakelam

The Creators Society is a professional society for all disciplines of the animation industry. Our mission is to bring the animation community together to build strong relationships, provide education, and form a better understanding of the different roles we all play in creating animated stories. We celebrate and promote the love of animation, and all the talented Creators who breathe life and imagination into their work.

Learn more about the Creators Society, and how to become a member at creatorssociety.net

Show Notes Transcript

Aron Warner was the producer of DreamWorks' first CG animated feature, Antz. He then won the first ever academy award for an animated feature as the producer of Shrek, before going on to produce Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third, working with Jorge Gutierrez on The Book of Life and more recently, Wish Dragon. Before all this, Aron had a career in live action films, from horror films like Freddy’s Dead - The Final Nightmare, to big budget blockbusters like Independence Day and True Lies. In today’s episode of the Creators Society Animation Podcast I sat down with Aron and tried to cover as much of his career as we could in the time we had! With all his success, Aron is as humble as they come, always singing the praises of the great teams around him - a real pleasure to chat to. Enjoy!

Please remember to like, rate and comment on your favorite podcasting platform and share the episode on social media.

If you have any comments or suggestions please get in touch. 

Host & Producer: Michael Wakelam

Executive Producer: Eric M. Miller

Music by: Rich Dickerson

Audio Engineering: Mike Rocha

Edited by: Zoe Wakelam

The Creators Society is a professional society for all disciplines of the animation industry. Our mission is to bring the animation community together to build strong relationships, provide education, and form a better understanding of the different roles we all play in creating animated stories. We celebrate and promote the love of animation, and all the talented Creators who breathe life and imagination into their work.

Learn more about the Creators Society, and how to become a member at creatorssociety.net

Aron Warner:

To work with John Sales, with Merchant Ivory, with David Lynch, with a..you name it, I was on set with the most amazing people.

Michael Wakelam:

Hello and welcome back to the Creators Society Animation Podcast. I'm Michael Wakelam. If this is your first time tuning in, our remit is pretty simple. I chat with incredibly talented and interesting people from all across the industry, all about their careers, how they got started and recent projects. Personally, when I'm not trying to have intelligent conversations on the podcast, I spend my time writing and creating fun and silly stuff. The Creators Society is based in LA and I'm one of its further, further or furthest reaching members or furtherest. Either way, I'm based in London, you can find out more about the Creators Society at creatorssociety.net. Today's episode is another real treat as I chatted with Aron Warner, producer of Antz and the first three Shrek films, as well as being the voice of Wolfie. Aron won the first Academy Award for animated feature with Shrek and has gone on to produce or exec produce a whole bunch of projects and was a real pleasure to chat with. As is often the case Aron's path to animation was anything but linear. But you'll be surprised when you hear the reason he ended up at DreamWorks producing Antz after working on live action feature films. Before we jump in though, if I can ask you a favour, if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with colleagues and friends or on social media. And if you use the apple podcast app, please rate us and comment. Thanks so much. Now let's jump into that conversation with Aron Warner. Aaron, welcome. I appreciate you taking the time to chat.

Aron Warner:

My pleasure, thank you for having me, I really appreciate it.

Michael Wakelam:

I really want to talk about your entire career as we normally do on the podcast. But realistically, it's going to be almost impossible to get through everything. Obviously, there's an enormous and hugely successful animation component to your career. But you also, your career ran through live action, didn't it? As a production coordinator on low budget horror and sci fi films, and then you I think you're in film finance for a while and then producing and overseeing production on live action films. But I want to rewind even further than that. What was the, what was the spark that led you down this paths towards the film industry? Go back as far as you like.

Aron Warner:

It was one of those things that I thought, well, this is impossible, this will never happen. And I didn't even put it as a possibility in my brain. And then I was in college and university. I'm studying science and biology and kind of pre med ish. And I just was like, I don't know, can I really see it this way. Just didn't make sense to me, that as a career, you know. I switch flipped and I went, Okay, well, let's try at least let's, let's see if I can get into film school. And maybe that'll be like, the sign right? So everyone's like, you can't get into film school UCLA as they allow, you know, 12 people and blah, blah, blah. And somehow I got in with my, honestly the most bullshit essays you've ever imagined in your life, but, but I'm glad that they accepted me and, and film school was great, because, first of all, I had no film education, you know, and we had amazing theory classes and just saw movies after movies after movies. And I don't know if you know, that UCLA is basically the low budget film school here. You know, it's like, it wasn't for people who had money, so we had to pay for our own films. So we, none of us had any money. So we made, you know, Super Eight, MOS, you know, experimental, crazy shit and, and had a really good time. What I took away from that was feeling like I had permission to pursue a career in film now that I had a degree. And so it was dumb because you know you didn't need it. You don't need it. But at the time, I just I felt like, oh, well, that's just the way it is. I need to have permission. So once I did that, then I was even more lost because I'm like, Okay, what do I do now? And so-

Michael Wakelam:

You probably had no connections in the industry.

Aron Warner:

No connections, no family. No, no, nothing.

Michael Wakelam:

So you just took any crappy job you could find.

Aron Warner:

Exactly. Some of them were pretty crappy. But my sister worked for a, an assemblyman, a local political office here in LA. And this film company wanted to shoot in a location that they had permission over. She said, Okay, we'll give you a permit if you hire my brother while you're there shooting. So this was Empire Pictures, and which was the poor man's Roger Corman studio, if you can imagine that. And so they did. They hired me. And I owe my sister a lot for that because by the end of those three days, they fired all the other PAs and I was only one left and and I worked for one of the most intimidating 1stADs in the history of first 1stADs and people concur, but she's amazing, but super intimidating. I've never done anything before. And so I ended up working for this company, Empire and in time moved up pretty quick, because that's, that's what you do. And it became a coordinator, worked on low budget horror movies and just kind of took it from there.

Michael Wakelam:

You left there and went into the film- was it Film Finance? Is that a completion bond kind of place or?

Aron Warner:

A completion bond company yeah, I mean, I, before that, I mean, I was production managing, coordinating production managing other movies. And my mentor is a woman named Nancy Israel, who's married to Fred Elms, cinematographer who shot Eraserhead and Blue Velvet amongst you know... Nancy was the greatest mentor you could ever have. She just taught me how to how to be a human being and do the job, you know, and how to how to care for people, while also asking a lot. It set a tone for me and for the future of what I when I did. So yeah. And then I went into working for film finances, which is a bond company. In the two years to three years I was there two years, I oversaw 75 movies, most of which, you know, were fine. There were no issues, and then some of which were giant disasters. So yeah, you know, you had your choice. But it was also at a time when it's kind of prime time for indie movies. So I got to work with John Sales with Merchant Ivory with David Lynch with you just, you name it, I was I was on set with the most amazing people and got to experience that. I mean, it was just phenomenal. So I feel very lucky to have had all that experience and to have seen, you know, real filmmakers making works of art and passion.

Michael Wakelam:

Yeah, yeah. And so overseeing a film from the from the Film Finance from a completion bond perspective. Can you talk about that, because some of our audience might not have any idea what you do in that role?

Aron Warner:

Well, our job was, you know, it's basically insurance for the financier. So if the bank, the bank required that you that you would get a completion bond, which meant that if the, if everything went to hell, the bond company would finish the movie, would come up with the money to finish the movie, and you'd have a finished movie that you could have a product to sell or deliver or distribute. Now, no one wanted that to happen. Because if the bond company came in, you know, our job was just to finish it, it didn't matter, finish it well, or just mattered to get it done. Nobody ever wanted that. So mostly, what what we did is we'd vet the movie, based on script and on a crew and on the schedule, the budget, and kind of look at it and go, okay, yes, this could work. This makes sense. Or here's some, here's some scary things about it, you've got an actor who's got a solid out date, you've got no backup. So that's not a good idea. You can't really do that. And so we'd say no to stuff sometimes based on reputation, sometimes, you know, a million reasons, but but mostly we said yes. And mostly, you know, I would get the, I would visit set once or twice. I'd get production reports every day, we'd scan them and go okay, how much are they shooting? How many scenes are they getting? Are they making their schedule? Are they overshooting? How are they doing on a budget? You do cost reports, you know, follow along with them and, and make sure that they're we're solid. Yeah, 98% of the time, it was it was fine, the other 2% not so much.

Michael Wakelam:

So was it during, you know, during that time, were you missing the production being more involved, I guess, in production? And is that what led you back to being a producer overseeing production in films?

Aron Warner:

Yeah, I took over for someone who went on sabbatical. So it was kind of a temp job that, you know, was a long temp job, but I loved I loved it. I really did. It was one of the best jobs I ever had. But I wanted to get back into production. So I, I did that. Got to produce my first movie. My goal was to produce a movie by the time I was 30. And so that was a Nightmare on Elm Street 6, Freddie's Dead, the final release. That was, that was awesome. Super hard, crazily difficult, made lifelong friends on it, it was amazing.

Michael Wakelam:

And then you went on with Ghost in the Machine, Independence Day...

Aron Warner:

I became an executive again, you know, so I went, I just I've been bouncing back and forth between everything. And at Fox I got, I had the pleasure of doing the big effects movies basically. And for me, I asked for that because I was interested in effects. I was interested, I love science fiction. I wanted to see what that was all about. So I dug in and started to learn. Okay, what does this mean? And that was the time that was many of them pre CG, you know. So it was, Independence Day were gigantic, amazing miniatures that that got blown up, you know, and you know, the real deal I was, it was incredible. The stuff I got to see was incredible. True Lies, was a giant engineering puzzle. And that's what it was, it was so fun. But how do you land Harrier Jump Jets on in the Florida Keys on...? I mean, all of these things that you had to figure out, but never like, Who would ever have to do that? What job would... would you ever have to like be able to do all these different things? You know, I mean, even even as a coordinator, like how do you find an emergency, you know, oil furnace at three in the morning in the middle of Arizona? Like, you know, that kind of stuff. And learning that No, is not an option. It just makes you very capable. I think of whatever comes.

Michael Wakelam:

Multitaskers

Aron Warner:

I was still scared shitless most of the time, I mean, still am it's a scary.

Michael Wakelam:

And because you always want to outdo yourself or do something you haven't done before. And you know, try new things and push the boundaries. And especially yes, with with animation that happens a lot exactly. So you move from live action to animation, talk about how that happened.

Aron Warner:

Exaclty. It was a very random thing. Animation was not my thing. I didn't grow up seeing any of the Disney movies. My parents were immigrants. It wasn't our thing. You know, they thought it was for kids. And we were never really kids. So. So I got a call from from my friend, Sandy Rabins who was running she was- I knew her through Disney when she was the executive there. And she'd just started at DreamWorks. And she said, Hey, do you want to go do this movie Antz? And I'm like, no, what is it? And she said, Oh, it's you know, it's it's computer animation. And it's in and I was like, you know, going no, no, no. And then she said, It's in San Francisco. I went, Okay, because I wanted to move somewhere like I want, you know, I always want to be somewhere like else. So I was like, that's exciting. So honestly, I kind of went for it because it was a life change. Yeah. And my first week was at SIGGRAPH. And in New Orleans, and trust me, I knew nothing. I knew nothing about computer animation. And here, I'm at SIGGRAPH in these lectures going, oh my god, what have I done? What have I gotten myself into? I didn't understand a word anybody was saying. But pretty quickly, you start to catch on, you start to figure out okay, what do you, as a producer, what do you need really need to know? You need to know how the work these individuals are doing impacts their lives, how to get them, to help them do the best version of that work, how to organise it, how to schedule it, how long it takes, you don't need to know exactly how it's done. And I don't and never will. I learned enough to be able to speak with some authority about it and to help manage it. And Antz turned out to be really fun. And PDI is the best place I ever work. Amazing atmosphere just full of support and kindness and just people having a good time and everyone working together. Technology and art literally just right next to each other. It's the only place I've ever worked that was like that. Yeah. And that's what made it extremely special.

Michael Wakelam:

Yeah, Rex, Rex Grignon and Ken Bielenberg have similar stories about you know, that early environment, at PDI, and what it was like to work there,

Aron Warner:

And the fact that we're all that we're all friends. I mean, Rex, Ken, we're all I mean, everybody just, it's it's a long time ago, but we all you know, really, really bonded. Antz this was the second CG animated movie made. Toy Story was the first one. No one on our crew worked on Toy Story. So we didn't know anything about how to schedule or budget or, or anything. We didn't know anything. And we just made it up as we went along. Yeah, that was scary. But fun.

Michael Wakelam:

Yeah, I mean, obviously there was that the big Bugs Life, Antz, controversy, I guess at the time, of who came first, where did the ideas come from. But I'm more interested in the learning curve for you jumping into animation, you know, obviously you talked about not needing to know everything. But I spoke to Bonnie Arnold, who also had, I guess a similar journey to you, she jumped from live action into straight into CG animation, having never done any other animation. So what were the things that you brought from live action that helped

Aron Warner:

You know, the ability to juggle a whole bunch you. of different things. What what you don't learn in live action is how to manage long term. Cause in live action they're always like, lines of people waiting for those jobs. And if someone wasn't good, you move on, you'd fire them and get somebody else. But in animation, you had a single point of failure, like in so many different departments, and at PDI, we had, we have the pipeline guy, that's it. If that person goes, there's no movie. So you have to learn to manage them, and to help them get through it and be successful and be happy. So that was a big learning curve, for me. I'm not the most patient person in the world, and I had to learn to really just be patient, just dig in and understand these folk's lives and how I could make them better. And so that was that was big, but what I brought from live action, you know, I don't know, really, other than knowing that you can get through it, because I've done so many movies, you know, seeing the process. So in animation, obviously, it's much slower. And a lot of people I've worked with had never been from start to finish on a movie. And I'm like, it'll be fine. We'll get there. We'll get there. So maybe, maybe that's the biggest thing I brought.

Michael Wakelam:

That's probably, that's almost exactly what Bonnie said. She said, you know, she, she knew how to get a movie made, like finished. Whereas all of the people at Pixar had never made a movie before. So they had no idea how to get to the finish line. So yeah, similar. It's interesting to hear those parallel stories. Obviously, after Antz, you then very casually spent a couple of years putting together a little film that won the first Academy Award for Best Animated Film. So obviously, Shrek was a breakthrough for animation in so many ways, and took, obviously a long time to develop and get to the screen. Did you come on board Shrek from the start? Right after Antz?

Aron Warner:

No, no I was producer number six or seven, I think. Yeah. And Andrew Adamson came on about, I don't know, a few months before me. And then I came on, and it was pretty much just us kind of floating in the sea of the $15 million that had been spent already and for nothing to show for it. And then you know, I mean, people know, Shrek was the, Shrek was the, itwas the punishment movie. It was like, you know, I mean, I was- I wasn't being punished, but it was more like, you know, just go over there, you know, go go do that, you know, people didn't want to work on it necessarily. And it didn't feel like it had a lot of forward motion and momentum.

Michael Wakelam:

Because it was all with miniatures to that point, wasn't it? It was-

Aron Warner:

It was meant to be miniature backgrounds and, and

Michael Wakelam:

CG characters?

Aron Warner:

Motion capture characters.

Michael Wakelam:

Motion capture. Okay, interesting.

Aron Warner:

Yeah, it was an interesting concept that, that didn't play out. Andrew actually wanted to do CG characters in miniature backgrounds. That was his goal. And we got into we just got into it. First thing because it was just like, this is way too expensive, we would never figure out how to do that for the price. And, and so I had to, with the help of the incredible team at PDI convince him that he could get the look he wanted all in CG. And we did stuff that you know, nobody had ever done before in terms of lighting and, and character and a character obviously a lot of character technical direction.

Michael Wakelam:

More human characters than had been done before. And obviously, with that comes all different types of clothes and cloth and hair and-

Aron Warner:

Exactly, yeah, exactly. And for me, it was so much of it was about the lighting and the look of it and, and pushing for something that did not look computer generated, you know, it was a huge challenge. And I'm so glad that I did it because technically, I love that challenge. And then creatively I was not a creative producer up to that point in my life. You know, I was a, I was the money guy, the schedule guy. And by default, I became the creative producer on Shrek because I speak up and there was there was nobody else doing that. So I would do it and it just kind of had a natural flow to it. And I think this, between you know, the story artists and Andrew and I we just kind of figured out what the movie was about and that it was about us and the weirdos that we are and have felt like growing up and that was our key into making that movie and the story team. I mean, they're all, I'm sure you know they're all gigantic, you know stars in the in the animation world now. The best of the best, the funniest people I've ever worked with the kindest, you know, smartest and we just laughed our asses off and told the story that was about us. That's to me what what made it work. I do think my ignorance of animation of how an animated movie should feel and be, helped as well as did Andrew's because we didn't come at it as, we didn't come from Disney. We didn't. We didn't have that background. As a matter of fact, we, you know, Jeffrey Katzenberg would talk about, you know, well in Lion King, and this and that, all the time in meetings, and I go uh, and then I'd have to go watch those movies so that I knew what he was talking about, I think that outsider kind of perspective, really, is what contributed to that film being what it was.

Michael Wakelam:

Well certainly, yeah, it certainly feels like that type of film. That's what that's what came out at the end. It didn't feel Disney, it didn't feel traditional at all. It's interesting what you say about not being a creative producer up until that point, because it's not like you hadn't had any creative experience, obviously, you'd gone to UCLA, then you'd worked on a whole load of rafter films in different capacities. But you would have had all of that influence and being surrounded by all of those talented creative people during those films, and I'm sure overheard all those conversations and had all those conversations before. So this is just the first time that you really let that all come out of you.

Aron Warner:

Well, it was, there's a very big separation here between creative and line production, it's so stupid. It's just, it's the dumbest thing in the world, but it's part of the fabric of the film industry. And, you know, so once you're one thing, you're not allowed to be the other. And, again, I was, I would've never become a creative producer had it not been by default, you know, I probably would have stayed in the line producer tract. Which would've been great too.

Michael Wakelam:

So you also had cast changes in Shrek, didn't you, was it offered to Nicolas Cage in the beginning, the role?

Aron Warner:

Well, after, after Chris Farley passed away, we, you know, were scrambling to figure out how to make it, you know, who to make it with. So, I think Nic was one of the people who came in to talk about it.

Michael Wakelam:

And then you had Mike Myers wanting to redo it with a Scottish accent?

Aron Warner:

No, you know, honestly, if I remember this correctly, and again, it's been a long time, it started out Scottish. And then I don't know if this combination of studio notes or whatever, but, but it was like, no, let's do it., let's not do it Scottish. And then Steven Spielberg came and saw it and said, Why is he not doing it with Scottish accent? So, you know, we kind of just, we had to redo a little bit. And it wasn't as huge of a deal, I think, as it's made out to be but you know, it was just a it was a creative change, and those things happen.

Michael Wakelam:

Yeah, it's interesting that Nic Cage eventually did play a DreamWorks character with an ogre like physique as Grug in The Crood.

Aron Warner:

He's, I mean, he's amazing. I had worked with him on, in live action prior and just love to work- I loved him. I was excited about the prospect.

Michael Wakelam:

Would have been an interesting choice. But obviously, the right choice was made because it was hugely successful.

Audio Clip from Shrek:

Prince Charming: Princess Fiona? Yeah, absolutely.

Wolfie: No! Prince Charming:

Thank heavens, where is she?

Wolfie:

She's on her honeymoon.

Michael Wakelam:

Interestingly you added I think it was only one line as Wolfie, the voice of Wolfie, the first Shrek, is that right?

Aron Warner:

Yeah. And then that role continued to grow over the next couple of films. Was it- were you just kind of throwing your hat in there for the first film? And then and then- it was typical, like, we need somebody to do scratch. Come in this room and just say the line like Okay, fine. And you know, I just did it like me, basically. And pretty much my attitude and then, and then they kept it in, I'm like, Okay, this is fun. That's my big acting story.

Michael Wakelam:

Yeah. But it was it was fun because in the in the next films and then also in the, was it the Forever After Idol, the song that you that you did that you yeah, you just did it as you and it worked. It worked so well.

Aron Warner:

Really the only role I can do.

Michael Wakelam:

In the next couple of films, you got more involved creatively, didn't you?

Aron Warner:

I wouldn't say more involved, I'd say as involved. It was always you know, there's always this gigantic group effort, you know, directors, story artists, writer.

Michael Wakelam:

Is it true that you wrote the Fairy Godmother song in the second Shrek?

Aron Warner:

David Smith and I did. Yes. Yeah. David Smith, storyboard artist and director. Amazing guy. Yes, we, we, we did work on that together.

Michael Wakelam:

But that's interesting as well. Because, you know, you say you had no animation upbringing and you had no Disney influence. And yet you took the Disney style and kind of flipped it on its head lyrically.

Aron Warner:

Because we knew it, we knew we, we were familiar with the stuff you know, and I certainly grew up knowing that there's this world of princesses and things that I can't relate to that are that people really seem to enjoy that I don't seem to understand somehow, I'm missing the piece that makes me understand what that what it means and why people enjoy it. And you know, it helped us kind of just flip it and always just find a way to subvert. I still do that on everything like how do we make this something you haven't seen before. That's the goal of making art I think is not to not to repeat yourself, and not to keep printing the same print.

Audio Clip from Academy Awards 2001:

And the Oscar goes to Shrek. This is the first Academy Award nomination and the first Oscar for producer Aron Warner. Shrek employed state of the art CGI animation. Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg said that it will be a benchmark for about a day or two.

Michael Wakelam:

With that Oscar did that give you any more pressure, you think going into the next ones? How did how did that change things?

Aron Warner:

Yeah. I mean, it wasn't the Oscar that it was that it was the financial success of the film that put the pressure on. It was everything to you know, the studio to keep going. Keep success going. So you know, what started as kind of fun and, and a lark came like this, you know, gigantic, very heavy pressure, battleship, you know. I will say, you know, to the credit of everyone involved we managed to keep it light and keep people happy and having a good time and feeling protected. The whole time.

Michael Wakelam:

Actually, just on the Oscar, I thought it was quite interesting that, you know, I think maybe one of the biggest surprises was the actual Oscar ceremony that all of the studios work together to put their characters in the audience being the first animated nominations. That was that was really interesting, because that's not often done. Where you you see all the studios work together.

Aron Warner:

That was cool. Yeah, that was really cool. Super fun.

Michael Wakelam:

So after after Shreks, I guess plural. Do you, just needed to do something else? Is that when you? Because there was a time when you're in the middle of tracks where you were head of studios in there?

Aron Warner:

Yeah. So during Shrek one or Shrek two, I ran PDI with Theresa Chang as my head of production is now at USC film school. Yeah, we we managed the studio and you know, financially, and we had an effects division, and then a commercial division and big animation division. And then basically DreamWorks, you know, ended up just buying, you know, absorbing PDI into their system. And that was, that was that. I enjoyed that part, too. Like, I've enjoyed all the different aspects of what I do. They've all been, they've all been fun for different reasons, and hard for different reasons.

Michael Wakelam:

Yeah, you come across as a quick study, and you mentioned about wanting to take that first Shrek, because it was a, you know, a life change and a move, you know, someone who always wants to do something different and try new things.

Aron Warner:

That's why I wanted all the you know, effects movies at Fox, I'm like, oh, that's never been done. Let's go figure out how to do that. And it was fun.

Michael Wakelam:

And do you miss that? Do you miss that? Those live action films?

Aron Warner:

I don't really, no, I don't miss being- wanting to throw up on set because you're burning through, you know, $5 million. And you know, in one day, no. While it rains and not at all.

Michael Wakelam:

You just slowly burn through $5 million now.

Aron Warner:

Takes a lot longer, and Istill gonna throw up but not quite as often as I did in live action.

Michael Wakelam:

You don't get that instant buyer's remorse. So what was the point where you wanted to leave DreamWorks and go and do new things?

Aron Warner:

I was, you know, kind of, I'd been there a long time and it was just kind of time to move on. And, you know, I didn't really know what I wanted, you know, and that's one of the, you know, I had success, success early and I kind of didn't know what the next act was and it took me a while to figure it out. And you know, I kind of moved around here and there for a while and really enjoyed working with Jorge Gutierrez on Book of Life. I just love that guy. I think he's genius. He's amazing, an amazing human. And I and Maya

Michael Wakelam:

He's amazing yeah. Yeah, it was great. And do you think that and the Three is so fucking good. I couldn't even believe it. Like, I don't think it got nearly the attention it was...I mean, maybe that would be getting into it, but was that deserves. I thought it was amazing. And same with Book of Life. I really didn't understand I, I don't want to get into it. But I just, you know, I, we made a we made an authentically Mexican film. maybe something to do with two films with that heritage coming out at a similar time.

Aron Warner:

There's so there's so much, so much to unpack and all that.

Michael Wakelam:

So I want to get to where you are now. And what you're doing with Sony. I have to say, so I was at Annecy, I think you were there in 2019 and talking about, you know what you were doing with with Sony. And then I saw the Wish Dragon trailer a while, while after that. And I've gotta say I was, I was unsure when I saw the trailer. I thought is this gonna be like another Aladdin it looked like you know. And then when I saw the movie, we all sat down to watch it, in my family. And I was like so pleasantly surprised. It was so fresh. And it was such a great take on on that concept. I thought it was really fun.

Aron Warner:

Thank you so much, I really appreciate that. It's a, it's a deceptively simple movie that is about some pretty heavy stuff, especially if you if you grew up in China during that period, like it's very, very meaningful to people who experienced the world the way that we portrayed it. And, and that's what I'm most proud of, honestly, like, I'm most proud of the fact that we had a lot of people feel that it was very authentic and very much their life experience. And related, you know, deeply to it. And I just love working with Chris Appelhans, I'm working with him again now. We created an animation studio from in an empty, from an empty office building with a few desks and a compute, into a full fledged amazing animation studio in two years thanks to-a lot to Olivier Staphylas who was our head of animation. And it was just it was such a challenge on every level, like way more than it needed to be but, but I loved being in China I love, I love travel, and I love getting to, again made lifelong friends and got to learn a lot about a culture I didn't know anything about. So it was a great experience.

Michael Wakelam:

And you're working on on wish Dragon 2, as well?

Aron Warner:

No, I'm not, I'm not my job at Sony was my dream job, was what I was doing when I talked about it in 2019, which is developing films internationally that are you know, kind of smaller or bigger depending on where they're from and what what kind, and the pandemic kind of messed with that plan. But two of the films that I developed during that period are big tentpole movies, and they're both, you know, one's in production, and the other is, in close to being in production. So I'm really proud of that. And they're both unique, uniquely cultural experiences and cult-. You know, the movie I'm working on now is very authentically Korean. And it's set in Seoul and Maggie Kang came to me with the idea. She had been a- she was a story intern at Dreamwork, I don't know, maybe 25 years ago, however long it was, and I've known her that long. And she came to me with the idea about three years ago, and I'm like, Yeah, this is, let's go do it and took a long time to get there. But once we finally did now we're full force full speed ahead.

Michael Wakelam:

Can you say what, what those two films are?

Aron Warner:

Oh, yeah. So it's tentatively Kpop Demon Hunters, that's a description of what it's about. But it's a about a girl band, very popular K Pop girl band who are the inheritors of a very big responsibility of protecting the world from demons. Their music, their their fighting abilities and all of that are integral to that and a lot of secrets, big love story in the middle of it. A lot of great music, a lot of really fun, fun action. And one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, visually stunning, so amazing. Really, really exciting.

Michael Wakelam:

And where's that being produced like stateside?

Aron Warner:

Yeah. The best, the best animation studio in the world. Hands down.

Michael Wakelam:

They are doing some amazing work at Sony. That's for sure. You know, animation and image works hand in hand as well and just be interested in see what they can come out with next.

Aron Warner:

We're so lucky.

Michael Wakelam:

So you're doing these things, these projects independently now, are you still with Sony in some some shape or

Aron Warner:

Yeah, I mean, I'm always sort of one foot in the form? door and one foot out. That's kind of my, my nature just but, but both films are with Sony. I love working with Kristine Belson. She's the best executive I've ever worked with. I just

Michael Wakelam:

She's certainly breathed a lot of life into Sony love her. And she's a good, she's a friend and a human being. And she's got a giant heart. She's got great taste. She and she wants to do what we all want to do, which is make something that's super entertaining and big but also has meaning and is new. animation the last several years.

Aron Warner:

She's incredible, truly.

Michael Wakelam:

And build a great team there I think. So, those are your two, you've got two projects coming up, and no plans to get back to live action.

Aron Warner:

Oh, no. I mean, most of my friends are in live action. So I get to my weekends consists of hearing horror stories. Yeah, yeah, that's fine. I'm good. I can hear the stories. But that's enough for me.

Michael Wakelam:

Great. Well, Aron, it's just been an absolute pleasure to chat with you today. Just really appreciate you taking the time. And yeah, we look forward to seeing these new projects that you're going to bring into the world soon.

Aron Warner:

I really look forward to seeing them there. Again, you know, we're breaking new ground. And that's, that's what I was put on this world to do. So thank you for your time. And I really appreciate it and you asked really good questions. And it's nice to talk to somebody who has a clear passion, and is also super informed, well informed. So thank you.

Michael Wakelam:

Thanks Aron. Thanks for joining me. I hope you enjoyed that conversation. Tune in next week for a conversation with Nancy Kanter, who spent almost 20 years at Disney launching Disney Jr. Developing great content and growing Disney's channels around the world. Before moving on to an overall deal at Netflix. Nancy doesn't do a lot of interviews, so it was a privilege to dive in deep and chat about her career. If you'd like to get in touch or to shoot us any feedback there please email podcast@thecreatorssociety.org. You can find me on LinkedIn and other socials. As mentioned at the top, please subscribe, like or share the podcast if you're enjoying it. Thanks to Rich Dickerson for the Mike Rocha for the mix, and our exec producer Eric Miller. Thanks again. See you next time.