Yeah, it reminds me of the films from Laika studios (“Coraline,” “Paranorman,” “Kubo and the Two Strings”). You have done spoken-word performances in the past. I think on your “Shag Tobacco” tour in 1996, you did some. Was this a logical extension of that? Or did it feel different because it was someone else’s story?
It did feel a bit different, but away from just “Shag Tobacco,” which was my first venture into narrative, I also, about twelve years ago, worked with the Royal Shakespearean Company, where the classical composer Gavin Bryars, let’s just say he’s Britain’s Phillip Glass. He wrote a beautiful piece you may know called “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.” This guy was commissioned in 2008 to put Shakespeare sonnets to music. He chose very different narrators and singers to write an original composition based on a sonnet. I did one, and the Shakespearean Company was quite taken with my voice and asked me to do the narration for the whole show, which toured on and off for about ten years. I did two or three shows a year with them. So, I had my Shakespearean training. It was tough working with them, and it’s all very classical and to the point, but it was like going back to school. Stuff like narrative and Shakespeare was something I feared as a teenager, but then delving into the sonnets and understanding the beauty of them was like going back to school but in heaven. I really enjoyed it.
And I learned a bit from it, so it was quite natural to do that narration (for “Peter and the Wolf”) for this new narrative, which is re-recorded. It’s a new narrative for this 2023 Max release.
Yeah, so let’s dive into that. How did this animated version come about? What was the impetus for getting this thing going?
Believe it or not, Covid. [laughs] It sounds strange, but the rights of the recording that I did on the original for Bloomsbury Books had come back to me and (co-composer) Maurice Seezer. We said, “Would we re-release this?’ We went to the record company, the same guy who published it originally 20 years ago, Alistair Norbury from BMG Records, who said, “Why don’t we, as well as re-release it, re-record it and make an animated movie?” We were just about to get negotiations going when Covid came in. I’m happy to say that COVID was very interesting because over the two years of lockdown, and we had a very severe lockdown in Ireland, I worked three or four days with HBO and Blink animators and, basically, worked on the movie for those two years.
How much input into this new telling did you, Bono, and Seezer have with directors Stephen McNally and Elliot Dear? There are some changes in this one.
There are a lot of changes. Maurice Seezer used the same recording we did 20 years ago, the same music. It’s the narrative we changed. Bono embraced the idea. He was so glad that his drawings were going to be reinterpreted and animated. He says, “Good luck there, but you curate them for me and make sure you don’t mess it up.” Because we were both very taken with this almost expressionistic version of how he painted his drawing originally. All the original drawings from 20 years ago were the touchstone and the seeds for the start of the animation.