PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 20: Mo Gilligan, Chris Jenkins, and Simone Ashley at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival “10 Lives” premiere at the Prospector Theatre on January 19, 2024, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marc Sagliocco/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)
By Stephanie Ornelas
There’s a good chance we were all thinking of our pets during the premiere of writer-director Christopher Jenkins’ animated film, 10 Lives.
With a star-studded cast, including Mo Gilligan, Simone Ashley, Zayn Malik, Bill Nighy, Sophie Okonedo, Dylan Llewellyn, and Jeremy Swift, this adorable yet emotional film is sure to win the hearts of all ages.
Jenkins has worked on a number of beloved animated projects, including Aladdin, Hercules, and Surf’s Up, so it’s no wonder that audience members were left in tears by the time the credits rolled for his film. Premiering in the Family Matinee category at the Prospector Square Theatre in Park City, Utah on January 20, the film takes audiences on a colorful journey following a fully risk-taking cat named Beckett, who, after being rescued by a kind-hearted patron, loses his ninth life. Fate — and one heavenly receptionist — soon step in to take him on a “lives-altering” journey.
During the post-premiere Q&A, Jenkins talks to audiences about what it was like working with animators and voice actors as they brought the vibrant film to life.
“There was this very funny animation company in Montreal, and they only had like 120, maybe 130, people working there, but they could take these guys’ performances and totally joyfully immerse themselves in the performance,” says Jenkins. “It was quick and it was fluid and felt natural and organic.”
Though he brought on story artists, Jenkins explains how there wasn’t much time to put this project together, and that meant all hands on deck.
“We didn’t have the time on this movie like you might normally to develop a very distinct and different style, but the style emerged because of everybody’s passion. It’s a storybook and it’s a wonderful subject.
“Obviously we had the script, and I did cry at the end of the script, so I knew we had something. And then you have the story artists come aboard, but we didn’t have much time,” he continues.
“I built the environment with drawings, so I kind of knew where everything was going to be, the laboratory and the dining room. But [the artists] invented some great antics and came up with great ideas, like the second time the fox comes back and picks up the fish and runs off with it. That wasn’t written [in the script].”
Something that meant a lot to Simone Ashley, who voices Grace, was that Jenkins inspired the actors to be their authentic selves throughout the film.
“That was a really big thing. He really encouraged us to just be ourselves and use our voice in this and to not be too distracted or try too hard,” she reflects.
Judging by the way audiences fell in love with Beckett, you wouldn’t guess that this was Mo Gilligan’s first time voicing an animated project. And although he admits he was nervous at first, Jenkin’s directorial style played a huge part in Gilligan’s success.
“Your direction was sensational,” says Gilligan to Jenkins. “You were very calm in the process.”
Gilligan respected and appreciated Jenkins’ humility as a successful and highly esteemed animated director. “But then sometimes Chris would drop little flexes,” adds Gilligan. “I would say a line and he would go, ‘That’s great, man. It’s like when I worked on The Little Mermaid,’” bringing the audience to a resounding laughter.
“It’s those little things,” he continues. “[Jenkins] has the experience, but he drops his ego aside and lets us be ourselves. It’s really nice to work with someone like Chris on this project.”
To see more of the magic of the 2024 Festival, click here.