This is Ardee

Ardee’s Fergal Reilly talks making Angry Birds

Barry Landy | 23rd December, 2015 at 4:04pm

An Ardee man is taking the helm of what is expected to be one of 2016’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters – The Angry Birds Movie. Fergal Reilly, now based in Los Angeles, is directing the animated adaptation of the popular game.

With a stellar cast including Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live, Horrible Bosses), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thones), Tony Hale (Arrested Development, VEEP), Kate McKinnon (SNL, Ghostbusters), Maya Rudolph (SNL, Sisters), Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele, Parks and Recreation) and Bill Hader (SNL, Trainwreck) the movie is one of next year’s most anicpated releases.

Reilly, alongside Clay Kaytis, is making his directorial debut on the film, having previously worked in animation and storyboards for movies such as Space Jam, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Spider-Man 2 and The Iron Giant.

Speaking to LMFM’s Late Lunch programme today, he spoke about his journey from graphic design student in Dun Laoghaire to Hollywood blockbuster director.

“I feel very lucky to be able to create stories and art and draw and animate and bring fun, entertaining movies to an audience. It’s something I dreamed of as a kid,” he told Gerry Kelly. “It’s been a great ride over the last 20 years.”

Scouted by reknowed American animator David Brain, Reilly left Ireland for the United States aged just 19 and soon found himself working for Walt Disney studios as an animator and then a storyboard artist.

The Angry Birds Movie

“I ended up going to Los Angeles and working on some animated films and cartoons. There was a boom. Disney was blowing up. There was a revival for box-office Disney animated movies,” he recalled.

“Back when I was growing up in the 70s, there wasn’t a huge respect for people who were in or even the job of working in the arts. It’s considered a flighty, non-realistic occupation to have. At least it was for me back then as a child growing up.

“I just was always interested in art, interested in stories. I loved Disney movies. In 1976, Star Wars came out and that changed the entire film culture around the world. It created a new industry for visual designers and created new occupations and new jobs.

“I was always interested in drawing, painting, making art and having fun,” he continued.

The Angry Birds movie represents the first move into the director’s chair for the man from Hunterstown.

“Angry Birds was a game designed by a company in Finland called Rovio,” he explained. “The company had developed games for mobile apps and they were on their 52nd game. They were about to throw in the towel. In December 2009, they released this game. It was phenomenal. It took off in all sorts of directions.

“These are icons in a game that appear to be characters, but really they’re just icons. So it’s up to us to flesh them out.

“It’s an advantage that we have such a huge brand. A lot of iconic movies come from branded entertainment. But you have to quickly forget about that when you’re working on the movie because you still have to, you know, make a movie.”

Upon the initial announcement of Reilly and Kaytis’ being handed the reigns of the animation, Rovio Entertainment’s CEO Mikael Hed declared, “I’m very excited that Fergal and Clay have joined us, bringing with them their vast expertise.

“They are two of the brightest rising talents in animation, and I’m confident we are building the right team to tell the story of Angry Birds and deliver an amazing movie experience to our fans.”

Due to his busy schedule, Reilly won’t make it home to celebrate Christmas at home this month. “I usually try to make it home for Christmas if I can. I’ve been able to do that for the last number of years so this Christmas, with the movie coming out in a couple of months it just wasn’t possible to make it home for a longer stretch.

“It’s great fun to be in Ireland at Christmas. It’s great craic. I miss everybody terribly, especially at Christmas. I’m sad I can’t make it but Christmas is great here as well!” Fergal’s father Ollie was part of the Louth team that won the All-Ireland Championship in 1957, while his mother Madge still lives at Blakestown Cross.

The Angry Birds movie is expected to reach cinemas in the United States in the spring/early summer of 2016, with a release date in Ireland to follow later in the year. You can watch the trailer of the movie below.

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