PTSA fundraiser to help hopeless teens

BY DAHLIA COHN dahlia- drop your denim make a difference 7

During the months of January and February the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) is holding a fundraiser called “Teens For Jeans, Make a Difference” in which students and faculty can donate gently used jeans to shelters for homeless teens. The purpose of the campaign is to help clothe more than 1 million homeless teens across the country; donations for the event will be collected until Feb. 29.

“I feel very hopeful, optimistic and positive about this fundraiser, we are a generous, caring community,” said Silvia Novelli, PTSA co-president and chair. “We have a lot to be thankful for and it is only fair we share some of our blessings.”

Two free tickets to Aquatica or Sea World are given to the individual who donates the most pairs of jeans.

“The prize is really exciting, but it’s not the only reason that I’m donating” sophomore Emilie Vargas said. “It makes me feel really good knowing that I can help others.”

The Bay can earn $3000 in grant money with a certain amount of jean donations.

“It would be up to the administration to decide the best use of grant money,” said PTSA co-president and chair Natasha Samagond.

In order to organize this fundraiser Mrs. Novelli had to register the school through the website and use a “starter kit” with posters of different sizes which she printed out to put around the campus.

“It was very easy to get permission to run the campaign from school administration,” Mrs. Novelli said.

This will be the second year the Bay is participating in this fundraiser. Instead of service hours being given for the donation of jeans, this year money is being given out. The idea was born out of a partnership between and Aeropostale in 2008.

“We expect the Cypress Bay community to rally together for a good cause and donate jeans to be given to homeless youth in our community,” Ms. Samagond said.

Sophomore Alexia Anleu said that she is very privileged and that the least she could do is help others who don’t have as much as her.

“This is the second year that I have donated jeans to this fundraiser, I think it’s a great cause,” Anleu said.

PTSA is hoping to collect at least 1000 pairs of jeans.

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Advanced Academic Night offers information on classes


Advanced Academic Night was held on Jan. 26 and aimed to educated parents and students about high-level classes and facilitate the course-selection process for all. Department heads and guidance counselor Melissa Boorom planned the event,

“The night is all about learning a lot of great information about courses students may be interested in before having their course selection card signed,” Ms. Boorom said.

English, math and science presentations were held in the cafeteria, while world languages and social studies were held in the Wave, and other subjects such as DECA and AICE Business were held in classrooms.

“I really liked how everything was set up,” said Elaine Klopman, sophomores James and Samantha Klopman’s mother. “It was very efficient and organized. I learned a lot about the AICE program.”

Ms. Boorom said the night did not have as big of a turnout as she had hoped, but said she understands that it is due to parents and students already attending in previous years.

“We know this has been going on for the last three years, so students with older siblings do not really need to return to hear about the same thing again,” Ms. Boorom said. “However, we are trying to revamp the event and advertise it more for next year and attract an even bigger crowd.”

AP Psychology teacher Linda Lorie said she thought the night was a huge success.

“It’s good for the students and parents to have an idea of what they are getting into when the take an advanced course that consists of a lot of rigorous material,” Mrs. Lorie said. “It was an extremely informative night for so many because teachers were able to educate parents and students about higher level classes.”

As a mother of twins, Ms. Klopman said she is very cautious when helping each of her kids choose their schedules. She said that attending the event definitely changed her initial opinion on some classes.

“It was very [much] worth my time, and I am extremely glad I went,” Ms. Klopman said. “I enjoyed listening to all the teachers and students give their input and views on the classes.”

Junior Blake Hanan came to assist in advising parents and students about AP English Language. He tried to explain to students the challenges that would await them if they take the course.

“It is such an interesting class, and I really tried to portray that idea when explaining it to possible prospects,” Hanan said. ““It was very fascinating to see the different looks on peoples’ faces when I [talked about] the class.”

Sophomore Clarissa Roye attended Advanced Academic Night to learn more about classes she was interested in taking such as AP U.S. History and AICE Marine Science. She said she learned a lot about the classes’ difficulty, and she discovered that her junior year will not be easy and take a lot of time and effort.

“It was a little intimidating,” Roye said. “Some of the teachers really encouraged me to take the class, while others were brutally honest and told me it would be a challenge.”

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Wildlife Protection Club attends beach cleaup


The Wildlife Protection Club (WPC) went to John U Lloyd Beach State Park on Jan. 16 for its second beach cleanup of the year and to spread awareness about the environment. Ten people attended the event, which was open to members and nonmembers.

“Cleaning up the beach was really rewarding because not only did we have fun at the beach, [but also] we were helping the environment,” said club president Hannah Gutner.

Gutner said it’s important to clean up beaches, because people litter without realizing how it affects the animals.

“People don’t realize how severely a small piece of plastic can harm an animal when they throw their trash on the ground,” she said.

Club sponsor Amy Lupu said turtles eat the trash people leave behind and choke and often times die.beach cleanup

“Going out and cleaning the beach sets the example for others to care for the environment as well,” Ms. Lupu said.

WPC Vice President Camila Lim Hing said she always attends beach cleanups because she is very passionate about being an active member of the community.

“This is not my first beach clean up, and I’ve participated in many other beach clean ups with other clubs not affiliated with WPC,” Lim Hing said. “Not to mention I take a trash bag and pick up any trash when I go to the beach on my own time.”

Unlike the last beach clean up, WPC hosted a barbecue after as a reward for cleaning up the beach and a bonding experience.

“The barbecue is something we have never done before, and it was a really fun way to get club members and nonmembers acquainted,” Gutner said.

Club member Caitlin Mirabella said this was her first beach cleanup, and it was an eye-opening experience to see all of the litter at the beach.

“The beach was mostly littered with plastic bottle caps, plastic bags and Styrofoam,“ she said. “I didn’t realize how poorly people treat nature, and I was shocked to realize how much trash was around me as I cleaned up.”

Mirabella said she is glad she attended because she had a great and memorable time with the club.

“Even though I couldn’t stay for the barbecue, I still had a lot of fun cleaning up the beach, and I can’t wait to attend the next one,” she said.

Like Mirabella, Club member Mason Eiss said he had a great time cleaning up the beach, the barbecue was his favorite part of the event.

“The barbecue was a great addition to the event because it provides delicious food, a great atmosphere to meet the members and a nice reward after cleaning the beach,” he said.

WPC plans on having another beach cleanup in March.

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Curriculum Fair provides information on electives, clubs

BY CARLI UDINEFullSizeRender-2

The Curriculum Fair was hosted on Jan. 29 in the courtyard in order to give students at the Bay a taste of what clubs and elective classes are like by having students from the programs publicize them.

“The Curriculum Fair was strategically planned so that clubs and classes that participated would have the opportunity to show what they are all about,” guidance counselor Patty Vanderkwast said. “It required for all of the faculty members participating to be on the same page.”

Mrs. Vanderkwast, who helped coordinate the event, said that the main goal of the fair was so that students would be aware of all of their options regarding classes and clubs.

“I do believe this event really helps out the students,” Mrs. Vanderkwast said. “Especially because it was held during lunch periods, it was very convenient. Students were able to just walk around and get some information about various clubs and classes that are offered to them.”

Along with Mrs. Vanderkwast, club officers were also in charge of putting the fair together.

At the SGA booth students were able to ask officers and club members what the club specifically entails.

Senior Josefina Coll, President of the Student Government Association (SGA), said being in charge of showing off SGA at Curriculum Fair meant a lot to her.

“As president I had to make sure SGA was properly advertised,” Coll said.”I care so much about this club, and with me leaving next year, it means the world to me to see other students here get involved in a great organization. The preparation for the fair was really a team effort. It was great to see everyone get involved for the benefit of all the students.”

Freshman Ana Jaramillo participated in the fair in order for other students to be able to experience the passion that she did while taking Marketing Essentials.

The reason I decided to be in DECA was because my sister was [in DECA] and I have always aspired to be as successful as she was with it,” Jaramillo said. If she had never introduced the DECA program to me I do not know what I would have done. I love going to class everyday and competing as well. This inspired me to work the booth to show just what the club is about to other students,” Jaramillo said. “The reason I helped out with Curriculum Fair is because I want everyone to be able to find the thing they love to do and be able to study it in school.”

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Short story contest offers monetary prize to students


As the English Honor Society’s (EHS) annual short story contest began its 12th cycle, so did students creating short stories to the set theme. Several students had the opportunity to write a short story under the topic “I opened the door and out came…” with the chance of winning the first place prize of $100, the second place prize of $75 or the third place prize of $50.

“The purpose of the short story contest is to allow Cypress Bay students to showcase their talents in a competitive, yet friendly atmosphere,” EHS sponsor Cecilia Fonseca said. “At the same time, they are able to reap a monetary reward.”

EHS Vice President Jacob Wilentz came up with the theme. He said he chose this because he wanted the writer to continue the topic by filling in the blank with any idea he or she desired.

“In my creative writing class, we wrote a story around the theme, ‘I opened the box and out came…’” Wilentz said. “The topic was very successful and we saw a lot of great ideas. It will be cool to see people express themselves differently through the same sentence.”

Although EHS ran the contest, any student was eligible to enter.

“As much as I love EHS students entering the contest, I would love to see students outside of EHS enter as well,” Mrs. Fonseca said

Sophomore Rotimi Odewole, who is not a member of EHS, entered the contest because he enjoys creative writing.

“I’ve been writing since I was young because it’s something I thoroughly enjoy,” Odewole said. “I thought, why not give it a shot.”

Even though there was a cash prize, Odewole said he was not competing for the cash prize.

“I hope to win not only for the recognition but also for people to know that this is something I can do and something I am good at,” Odewole said.

EHS continues to host these writing contests, such as an upcoming poetry contest, to allow students to profess their love of writing.

“We encourage and want to see how one line can be interpreted in a million different ways,” Wilentz said. “Everyone in Cypress Bay can use that line in a different and unique way to make a really cool story.”

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Literary Club hosts annual Coffee House


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Republican debate stirs up viewers, candidates


The GOP Presidential Debate causes commotion between candidates on Jan. 15 in North Charleston, South Carolina as they head into the Iowa caucus.

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Debate team shines at Sunvite tournament

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 2.27.01 PMBY MARISSA BABITZ

The debate team traveled to Nova Southeastern to compete against more than a thousand students from Jan. 8-10. Twenty-six competitors made it to the finals rounds and seven students placed in the top five in their respective categories.

“We had a fantastic time and brought a very young team to a national tournament, and everyone stepped up to the plate,” debate coach Jesus Caro said.

Mr. Caro said he was impressed by the success of the only two freshmen, Noah Rabinovitch in Impromptu Speaking and Ambreen Imran in Congressional Debate, to compete with the team at Sunvite since they had to go against varsity members in their events.

“There weren’t any novice rounds, so breaking to finals as freshmen sets them up for success in the rest of their debate careers.”

Rabinovitch said he learned a lot from watching other people at the tournament.

“People from different schools around the country have different speaking styles, so it was really beneficial to get the chance to watch them,” he said.

Rabinovitch said he plans to compete in Sunvite again next year in Impromptu and Oratory.

“I want to improve in Oratory the rest of the year and hopefully break next year when I compete,” he said.

Juniors Michael Valladares and Emily Wen won first place for their Duo Interpretation performance about homosexual abuse and discrimination.

“We started practicing about a month in advance and we acted out a scene portraying how love trumps hate.”

Although Wen competed at Sunvite last year, it was the first time for Valladares.

“It was nerve-racking because it’s a national tournament, but we practiced a lot, so we were pretty prepared,” Valladares said. “We both do theatre and drama, so we are comfortable performing in front of a crowd.”

Valladares said he enjoyed watching teams from other school because he got to learn about different debate styles while being entertained.

“Duo is different because it’s not confined to humor or drama, so it’s always interesting to watch,” he said.

Sophomore Hannah Kang broke to finals, winning four out of the six rounds in Lincoln Douglas debate. She said although it was her second time competing at Sunvite, this year was a completely different experience since she competed as a freshman last year. 

“This year I competed against sophomores, juniors, and seniors; so it was a lot more difficult.” she said. “Last year when I competed I was considered a novice, so I only competed against freshmen.”

Kang said even though it was difficult, she plans to compete again next year.

“I really like going to Sunvite because our team typically does really well, and I like meeting debaters from other teams,” she said. “Next year I want to strive to do even better and eventually try to win first place.”

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Best Buddies hosts annual Petting Zoo


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Exclusive interview with the directors of “Kung Fu Panda 3”

The “Kung Fu Panda” animated series is becoming a trilogy. The third installment of the movie opens nationwide Jan. 29. The story picks up where the sequel left off and refocuses on Po (Jack Black), the self-empowering panda warrior, and his adventures. He reunites with his estranged father (Bryan Cranston) and the panda community, learns to teach kung fu which up until now he has only learned and eventually faces the wrath of the evil warrior, Kai (J.K. Simmons). The Circuit’s staffer Rachel Schonberger was one of six people who got the chance to participate in a round table interview with the two directors of the film, Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni, at the Miami Beach Edition hotel on Jan. 13.


What are some of the technical advances to the production since the first “Kung Fu Panda”? I know that there was a lot more going on in this one.

Jennifer: Yes, there was a lot simply from computer server power, like crunching power, we’ve had the ability to make entire sets now instead of just a couple of buildings set to set. On the first film, when the Furious Five left the Valley of Peace to go fight Tai Lung and they’re running through a sequence, we actually had to reuse two rooftops because we simply couldn’t make that much at a time. You didn’t notice, but that’s what we had to do. This time, we made entire sets. The entire panda village was practical- the whole thing. You could wander inside and out of all the buildings and go from one side to the other, and it all existed, and it was a virtual set. That alone allowed us to be very free with the choreography and the fight sequences and also just to be more creative with the storytelling.
Alessandro: And that’s amazing how new software is for animation itself, the movie, the characters and the performance, and what that did was mostly from an interface point of view. We used to have a computer system where our character would be on one screen and we’d have to adjust by inputting this and that on the other screen, the smiles and expressions. With the new software, a lot of the interface has changed so that we can touch the virtual character almost like painting a shape in time, and it’s so much more intuitive.

Watching the film, there were so many great characters, but I was really drawn to the character of Kai not just storytelling-wise, but also visually. In creating that character, where did you draw inspiration?

Jennifer: Well, one of the first things we thought of was that because we had two villains already, we wanted to make sure that he was different and a step even more estranged. We had a cat in Tai Lung, we had a more cerebral bird that’s so frail but with the ability to have technology in the second one, and this third one goes bigger physically and also more supernatural. That’s why we went to a bull because it’s not a cat, it’s not a bird, it’s a totally different animal. Also, he just sort of has that chi-sucking ability which is something that Po would not be equipped to face. The personality is something we worked on over the course of making the movie.

Alessandro: The benefit of working with J.K. Simmons, the actor who gave us the voice for it, is that at first, you imagine J.K. Simmons as somewhat intimidating, and we needed that element for our villain to be truly scary. We also created the character to be a little bit insecure from people not knowing his name, and to our surprise, when J.K. Simmons ran with that element, it became hilarious. When he realizes that nobody knows his name, he becomes petty and bitter. In a way, it definitely made it more entertaining because people can laugh about it; to our surprise, we get a lot of laughs on that. But also, he allowed Kai to be an even better villain because he made him more relatable. He’s not just a bad guy for the sake of being a bad guy. People can relate that he’s a broken character.


There are a bunch of different settings and locations within the movie. Did you use any real locations to base them off of, and what kind of research did you do?

Jennifer: One of the big new sets is the panda village, and that is based on a place in China, in the Sichuan province outside the Chengdu panda base, which is a huge breeding center for pandas, called Qīngchéng Shān, which is actually the birthplace of Taoism. This insanely beautiful mountain is so green and so saturated with color that we went on a fact-finding trip with a bunch of the artists from the movie. We hiked up this mountain; it’s very steep, it’s very muddy, and it’s beautiful but it’s a lot of effort. We went up there, and we’re going through all these layers of mists and greenery, and we see these shelters that look like they’re made out of organic wood, and there’s moss over everything. This mist wall we were going through cleared, and we saw the main buildings at the top of the mountain, and those are essentially the same shots we put in the movie. We wanted to make something different for the movie but also have it feel like somewhere that pandas would live.

Alessandro: Another big set piece from the movie is what we call the Spirit Realm which is this somewhat supernatural environment, and part of the inspiration for that actually came from the first part of [Kung Fu] Panda 1. If you remember, it starts with a dream of Po imagining himself as a dragon warrior, and a lot of that location became the inspiration for creating this world. When Po becomes a dragon warrior of his own dreams, he uses his dreams as a reference of how to create this world.

The graphics and the production value in the movie were so good, like it looked real. How many people and how long did it take to make the movie?

Alessandro: The entire crew is over 600 people, and just our department alone is led by just a few people. There’s Raymond Zibach who is our production designer and Max Boas who is our art director.

Jennifer: And Raymond’s been on this movie since the very beginning. He was like the second person on the very first movie.

Alessandro: And basically, it all starts from paintings much like the good old days. It’s just getting inspiration from China references and just painting. [Raymond and Max] lead a department of about twenty people in artistic design. That process happens, but then there are countless people after that. You know, we make a sketch of a beautiful landscape with trees in the background and sunsets and rocks, but someone has to build each animal. There has to be someone who designed each leaf of a tree, and someone who builds it virtually, and someone who puts the surface and the lighting on that. It’s very labor intensive because everything you see on screen has to be created by someone. So it takes a lot of people to run all the different departments.

Jennifer: It’s also not meant to be realistic. If you notice, it’s not realistic. It feels real, but it’s not realistic. It’s sort of like this theatrical, emotional hyperrealism. That’s something that they went for as a graphic reality. That is actually a lot harder than doing a realistic-looking film.

I read that this is now one of the most successful animated series. When you were first making the series, I know you’ve been involved in it for a long time, did you anticipate that success?

Jennifer: No. I don’t think as artists we ever know if something’s gonna hit. We just have to believe it in ourselves, and if it’s exciting to us, if we can feel this rush when we’re working on it, that’s helpful. It’s very hard to know how audiences will respond. You can just hope that people like the characters as much as we do.

Alessandro: That’s the thing. I think we knew we had something special with Po. This franchise comes down to just that character; everything revolves around him. We did feel that we had something special in his charm and how he is uniquely naive in a way, childlike, enthusiastic. That defined him. We knew we had something special when we were starting to build that, but we didn’t expect the success.

Soon after your second film, when did you find the inspiration of “being the best you” to come out with the third?

Jennifer: We took a little bit of a break after the second one.
Alessandro: Yeah, we started working on some other projects just to take a mental break from the franchise. If you think about it though, the concept of “being the best you can be” is somewhat of an underlying thread throughout the entire franchise because Po does not change in the first movie. He doesn’t become a skinny, fit warrior. He is himself, but just a better version of himself. In a way, we tried to mirror life with this issue of just constantly growing and bettering yourself, trying to hold onto who you really are is the thread that kind of sews together the three movies.

Jennifer: But once we got the idea of what the movie was supposed to be about, that was about four years ago, so that was when we started on just the basic outline.

Alessandro: Surprisingly, the plot element of Po, him being a student who becomes a teacher, came a little later because thematically we knew we wanted a story of self-empowerment and of Po accepting who he is to discover who he is meant to be. The other element of him having to become the role of the next teacher and sending him back to what defines him came a little later as we were looking for the best hook to sell the story.

Some of your biggest fans are adults. What role does that play in the storylines you create and what percentage is written for the adult fans and the children who are watching the movie?

Jennifer: I think it’s evenly split for us. There are jokes that work for five year olds, and there are jokes that work only for 40 year olds. They’re sprinkled equally; they’re just different spices we have sprinkled throughout the movie. The reason why I think that’s important is because we’re not making an overly simplistic little movie that only five year olds would like. We have to entertain everyone. We have to entertain ourselves because most of the people working on the movie are not five, although they may have the mental age of five.

Alessandro: I do think it comes down to that, though, as Jen was saying, we want to please ourselves, but to be in this business, some of us are not too mentally mature, like myself. I have the confidence to say that I still have the mind of a twelve year old, and I do get geeky and excited. Hopefully, the adults who like this franchise are okay with accepting that deep down they’re just big kids. Those who are not are probably just denying that they are. I do feel that Po himself as a character truly embodies the sense of wanting to grow up and never wanting to let go of this adorable childhood love for things and enthusiasm, positivity, and optimism. In a way, hopefully Po is a representative of the type of audience we are going after, which is an actual child or a grown up person who didn’t let go of the child inside of him.

You both spent a lot of time with all of these characters. Is there one that calls out specifically to you?

Jennifer: I think, for me, a huge inspiration has been Tigress since the very beginning simply because she’s so cool. I want to be Tigress. I like that she’s strong. I like that she’s very self-possessed. I like that she’s just very aspirational, and I just want to be like her.

Alessandro: I feel like there’s a piece of myself in Bryan Cranston’s character, Li. Probably not as much myself as just the relationship that I had with my father based on just being a silly goofball like the scene where they just keep hitting each other with armor. The two of them kind of have to figure out which one is the older one and which one is the younger one. That silly dynamic of two people being equal and using playfulness as a way to bond is something I grew up with and something that just warms my heart when I see it happening. That took a while also because our first narrative instinct was to give conflict to Po to give him a perfect storyline where they have to work on their differences, and blah, blah, blah, but it often gives you an unlikeable character. With the help of Bryan Cranston, he gave him much more charisma and comedic talent. We decided we should make them more alliant than different, creating that character and that scene of the two of them being silly and playing together. I love that.

The beginning of the movie has a much more 2D animation look and shifts into the 3D. What inspired you to make it look like that, and what do you think that added to the overall film?

Jennifer: I think that all of us have been big fans of 2D animation, and it’s a lost art. It’s becoming very rare to see anything done in 2D animation, especially in a feature animated film. Since so many of the animators started off in 2D animation, it makes a beautifully stylized way of creating a visual image. In each of the [Kung Fu] Panda movies, we try to have a 2D section. We try to experiment with how we’ll fit it into the movie. In the first one, it was this anime, sort of edgy thing. In the second one, we did traditional Chinese shadow puppets. This one we have a couple of 2D sections. There’s one that feels like 2D of Po just having a great day. We also have the traditional scroll come to life which looks like watercolor come to life. That’s based on Chinese watercolor scroll art. Each time, it’s a tribute to the different ways you can do 2D animation because we’re all a bunch of geeks, and we just love the art of it.

Alessandro: Also, what’s amazing to me is that we went through a period around the ‘90s where every studio was in this arms race of who could reproduce life the best. The technology wasn’t made yet, so whoever could get there fastest. It was like the race to the moon in the ‘60s. Now we’re there. We saw Avatar, we saw the Lord of the Rings. Everyone can do photorealistic, producing reality, so now we can go back to just focus on what’s beautiful. Our cartoon designers and our directors are able to just forget about reproducing life, what can we do to make this beautiful and unique? That’s how we end up with those scenes. There’s a scene where Po trains the pandas where you have absurd shadows and absurd lighting. We were like, “let’s just try to make a cover poster from the ‘80s. Let’s try to go for what’s cool instead of what’s realistic.

How is directing an animated film different from one with live acting?

Jennifer: It’s actually very similar with working with the actors because you still have to work with the actors and get them into that emotional brain space in order to be in that moment. The main difference is you don’t have a set with makeup people. They can show up in their pajamas. I think the main difference is you don’t get coverage. In live action, you get a bunch of coverage and then work it out in the editorial room. In animation, that coverage is insanely expensive. You have to know beforehand what you’re gonna shoot. You have to pre-cut everything. That’s why in animation, we have a massively much more involved storyboarding process than in a live action movie. In live action, you may go straight to previews. You may go to set and experiment and get some coverage and figure it out. In animation, you have to have a rough cut of the entire film before ever bringing animators on or else you’re wasting a lot of money. For that, we have to know exactly what we want.

Alessandro: Then, of course, the great thing is that with the character actors we have, they improvise a lot. That’s why they come in very early in the movie if they have an idea that could take the scene elsewhere. That way we go back to our rough drawings, to our storyboards, and adjust it at that phase instead of having to change it after animating and lighting, and having to be like, “Oh my gosh, that line’s going to cost us 2 million dollars.”

Jennifer, do you consider yourself a role model for young girls?

Jennifer: It’s weird because I didn’t think so when I was first doing the job because for me, doing the job is just the joy of doing the job. It really hit me when I started visiting schools. Just recently, I went to a grade school and seeing how much it affects girls because they don’t see anybody who looks like them doing this job. There’s just nobody doing it. I read the statistic that there’s like 1% of directors are females. It’s insanely small. These girls can’t look at the job and visualize themselves doing it easily because I don’t necessarily do the job like a man would. I just don’t. My personal style is much quieter. [Alessandro] is much louder than I am. I just do it my own way. When I go to schools, girls come up to me regularly and they say, “I’m so glad that I can see someone who looks like me doing that job.” I tell them, “You just do it the way you want to do it. Don’t do it the way you see or visualize someone else doing the job. You do what you do, do it well, and you can do it.” Just at the beginning of our tour, we were at a grade school and an eight year old came up to me because she drew this elaborate drawing of a girl mechanic. She said, “I want to be like you and direct movies when I grow up.” I was just like “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” That’s what’s great because it encourages them and it encourages me.

How different was working with Hans Zimmer [the composer] in an animated film than in a regular film?

Alessandro: That is actually almost no difference at all because when the composers come in, they come in early on to get a tone and a feel for the movie. The actual scoring happens when a movie’s already starting to be on screen, so whether it’s live action or animation, there’s not that much difference. Their job is mostly to truly nail the emotional feel of a scene and bring it to the surface through the subtle effects of music. The amazing thing about working with Hans Zimmer is that he has so much fun just bringing friends and partners along the way. For example, we had the idea of using piano, and he just calls Lang Lang. Then Lang Lang goes into his office playing piano. It’s kind of bizarre how much this man is kind of now at a point in his career where if you get to work with him, you also get to work with all of his friends because that’s who he loves. He has an army of talent around him and it’s fantastic.

How long does the score usually take?

Jennifer: It takes several months.

Alessandro: Three months or so.

Jennifer: We involve them early, so he understands the movie. I think I sent Hans a little flash drive early on when we were just starting to think of the villain. All I did was show him a little effects test of all this debris destroying itself and said this villain’s been trapped here for 500 years. I wrapped it in a little envelope and sent it over just to play with his brain a little bit so he could think about it. That was just play, just fun, and that was very early. He didn’t come on til probably the last six months of making the movie.

Alessandro: A big element of music is rhythm as well, how to pace the emotion of the scene. Unless you have something concrete with a sense of timing, it’s hard for him to come up with the tonal shifts of emotion.

You already have a strong, self-empowering female character in Tigress, and you brought in another one, Mae Mae. What made you bring on a second strong female character?

Jennifer: I’m so glad you like Mae Mae because Tigress is a strong female character but we wanted more and to see what would happen. This was the first time Po got to meet a girl panda. One thing we really wanted to do was have a character who girls would want to be like. She’s fun, confident, she doesn’t need Po to like her. She isn’t pining after anything like that. In fact, it’s the other way around. He doesn’t know what to do with her. We just wanted somebody fun and a female panda is a big, confident, happy girl.

Alessandro: It’s funny to me how she’s a dangerous character. If you just describe someone as a character who is extremely confident and sure of herself, they could come off as obnoxious and annoying, and we had someone like Kate Hudson come in. She could just sprinkle charm all over it, and then you have someone who’s truly likeable even though she’s supposed to be obnoxious. It’s a very delicate dance, and it was wonderful how she delivered on that.

The whole film was beautiful, from the animation to the story, everything, and watching it, a lot of young students are going to get inspired to become a part of that field. What would you say to students who are looking to become animators or directors?

Jennifer: I think the most important thing is that no one’s going to tell them that they have to do this. They have to be driven by their own insatiable need to do something passionately. It’s hard. It’s not like gravy and happiness every day. They have to persevere in their craft through a lot of heavy obstacles. My advice is that if this is something you want to do, then you’ll do great because you’re probably doing it all the time when nobody’s telling you to do it. You’re gaining experience anyway. Just do it if it’s something you’re passionate about.

Alessandro: I think the thing is that there’s no way of making these movies on your own. They’re such a team effort because it takes so many different skills. As directors, we would never make animation as well as our animators or never compose our music as well as our composers. We would never create colors and light as well as our art directors. You have to rely on a team, so being able to be part of a team is also a key talent. I meet a lot of students who send me portfolios, and they’re amazingly talented, but then when I look at what they do, they just sit and their rooms, study, draw, paint, and research animation. For people like us, it’s kind of scary for us to invite people like that. Sometimes they don’t function in a team. Develop your talent because that’s key and also work on your cooperative skills.

Jennifer: Clarification, that doesn’t mean that we don’t like introverts. I am a hardcore introvert. It’s about whether you play nicely with others.
Alessandro: Yeah, I think there’s a huge difference between being an introvert and being able to collaborate.

With all of the artifacts and the watercolor scrolls, how did you research and choose what cultural things you wanted to put into the film?

Jennifer: That was a whole lot of Internet for the first one. The second one, it was a fact-finding trip where we just went all over China and did massive amounts of photography and video. In the third, we had a lot of specialists from Oriental Dreamworks. For example, Mae Mae’s costume, we originally did a design and the Chinese artist said, “You’re mixing dynasties, and everyone knows it.” So they took out this really famous costume historian and they brought in every dynasty of outfit. All the artists were dressed up, and that’s how we first chose the hair, makeup, costume, everything. That’s the kind of access that we got.

Alessandro: That’s the difference of just doing research and having partners from there. That was truly, truly much more helpful because when you think of animation, you don’t just create a suit. You have to come up with the patterns, come up with the fabric, and make it all virtual. It’s a whole process of each little element. When you do one wrong thing in a pattern, it’s the wrong dynasty and you wake up the wrath of China.

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