The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Friday, Oct. 2, 1998


'Antz' animation shows off company's capacity, local native Lazor says

By Kim Curry
Herald Staff Writer

When "Antz" opens today in 5,000 theaters, including Cinema 8 in Hermitage, Ed Lazor Jr.'s name will be up in lights.

That's apropos since the son of Mercer County Commissioner Olivia Lazor and her husband Ed of South Pymatuning Township was not only an effects animator for the movie but finished 2 1/2 years of work on the film by doing some technical lighting as well. And that's where his name appears in the credits.

Lazor, who lives in San Jose with wife Leia and 16-month-old daughter Madison, began working for Pacific Data Images, a leading computer animation studio in Palo Alto, Calif., on the day in 1996 that PDI and DreamWorks SKG announced that "Antz" would be their first full-length computer-animated film.

The company now employs about 260, but Lazor remembers there being only 90 employees when brainstorming on "Antz" began.

"At the very beginning, we'd sit around and say, 'What effect can we do that's special?' A couple of us thought a water drop would be a great effect and it ended up the director loved it and integrated it into the sequence.''

In fact, water simulation, facial animation and crowd scenes are considered the movie's technical innovations.

"Antz" is the story of a worker ant named Z-4195 who struggles with the day-to-day drudgery of a world populated by drones. Events force him to become the reluctant leader of a colonywide revolt against conformity.

The movie features the voices of Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone, Anne Bancroft, Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Jennifer Lopez, Christopher Walken, Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd, among others.

Lazor, 39, admits one of the dozens of scenes he helped create for the PG-rated movie is a little gruesome -- it shows an ant disintegrating under a magnifying glass.

Nevertheless, he predicts "Kids will enjoy the color and the critters running around. And it has humor for grownups.''

"What ends up happening in Hollywood is ideas float around and stay out there, like 'Armageddon' and 'Deep Impact','' said Lazor, who has friends at Pixar. "We want their film to do just as well as they want ours to do."

Though Lazor didn't meet any of the film's voice talents, his friends in the character department, the ones who move the ants around, videotaped the actors. "They have a video of Sharon Stone singing, which wasn't used, and Stallone doing his shtick.''

Lazor has met Steven Spielberg, who with former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, a graphics guru, and music industry wizard David Geffen, created DreamWorks SKG. The Sharpsville Area High School alumnus graduated from Youngstown State University with a degree in telecommunications and a minor in mechanical engineering. After interning and then working at Image Post in Canfield, Ohio, he worked at a production facility in Richmond, Va., for four years.

He sent his resume to PDI, he said, because of its reputation as a leading animation studio. Over its 18-year history, the company has designed, directed, produced and animated hundreds of feature films, commercials, music videos, broadcast graphics and special interactive projects.

PDI popularized morphing techniques with seamless effects created for Michael Jackson's video "Black or White'' and created the first all-digital Doughboy for Pillsbury. The company's long list of feature film credits includes "Angels in the Outfield," "Ghost," "Natural Born Killers" and "True Lies."

His parents, who were able to visit him in California this summer and preview some "Antz" scenes, keep in touch via e-mail and phone calls. They recall the long days he spent on the film. "Sometimes he worked around the clock,'' Mrs. Lazor said.

Lazor is now taking a break by working on special effects for short projects, including a set of three Kleenex commercials, and planning to spend time with his family.

"After two years of pounding away (on 'Antz'),'' he said, "I wanted to do commercials and go out and have some fun with it.''

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Updated Oct. 2, 1998
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