Despite the fact animation usually can take years, 'Abominable' was made - more or less - in less than 18 months, a fact that director Jill Culton delivers with some measure of pride.
With 'Abominable', Culton - who has nearly three decades of experience in the industry - story is everything. More than, a movie that's so heavily centred on Chinese landscapes and a creature that's relatively unfamiliar to young audiences on this side of the planet, making it accessible is just as important as landing it on time. "For these movies, especially for animated films, you have to think of universal storytelling that can reach any market," she explains. "You just to start with the human condition, trying to tell stories that any kid, anywhere who can relate to it. For this, it's about disconnecting and reconnecting with family, that's a theme that resonates with any culture. As well as this, the characters are archetypal - every culture has a tomboy, and an arrogant kid..."
That the story is set in China and made by a Chinese animation studio is no coincidence, as Jill explains. "The devil in this one was really in the details," Jill argues. "We had to make it authentic to China, the look of the apartment, the behaviour of the kids, to get those things so perfect that a Chinese audience wouldn't be pulled out of it."
As well adding these finer points, Pearl Studio - the Chinese animation studio deployed for 'Abominable - also delved into making the cultural references as sharp and relevant as necessary. "All those details, y'know, they'd look at it and go, 'Ah, an American company made that!' We really wanted it to feel authentic to the point of you wouldn't know who made it, which I love!" Culton talks brightly about Pearl Studio and relying on not only their knowledge of Chinese culture, but how it prevented her from - in her own words - being "an ignorant filmmaker."
With regards to the design of the yeti, it bears a resemblance to 'How To Train Your Dragon' and the lead dragon, Toothless. While Jill says it wasn't necessarily a choice to make them look similar, she makes the point that they were both designed by the same person - Nico Marlet, the designer for 'How To Train Your Dragon', 'Kung Fu Panda' and, of course, 'Abominable'.
"It's an archetype of storytelling, the creature - be it a dog, alien, whatever - it's there," Jill explains. "The black stallion, ET, King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, all these archetypal movies and the studio wanted a yeti movie - I kept seeing that as a relationship between a girl and a dog." More than that, Jill took from her own pets. "In my personal life, I've always had big dogs, Great Danes, I've got two 200-hundred Bloodhounds right now! So the non-verbal traits, the playfulness, I put that into the character of Everest. I didn't want him to be the stereotypical thing of what you think of a yeti, walking on two feet or man in a suit. I wanted him to be more of the earth, so the decision to have walk on four feet and grunt instead of talking was to make something recognisable and iconic in its own way."