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Comic-Con 2012 – DreamWorks Animation
By Douglas Shepard (Editor in Chief, RarityGuide.com)
Published on 07/18/2012
A series of articles covering San Diego Comic Con 2012. This gives an overview of the Dreamworks panel and the questions they answered about "The Croods" and "Rise of the Guardians." It also looks into some of the methods employed by DreamWorks to create their films.

Comic-Con 2012 – DreamWorks Animation

As the attendees filed in, those fortunate to get in early were rewarded with a collection of Double-sided posters from DreamWork's upcoming feature film, “Rise of the Guardians.” The posters have a tag line and image for each of the major characters in the film. Anthony Breznican moderated and opened the panel. He reflected on just what animation has done, bringing us far beyond the world that we know. Yet in the time that we are watching the movie, we forget the reality of it and get swip. He then introduced the clips for the upcoming and present movies of Dreamworks. First was Madagascar 3, then Rise of the Guardians and The Croods. Present at the panel from DreamWorks was: Bill Damaschke, James Basker , Tom McGraff, Patrick Hanenberger

The first question was how do things begin in the DreamWorks office. They admitted that many of their ideas start from internally generated material: meetings, brain storming. A lot of their ideas are also drawn from outside material from lore and cartoons. Cartoons is especially the case with their in production “Sherman and Peabody”. From there they search for what will become the focus of the movie. For DreamWorks it is when they are able to crystallize the question to build the world around. For example; with Madagascar was built around the question of “What would happen to 4 pampered zoo animals who get stranded in Madagascar.”

The Croods, one of DreamWorks next films was looking the family unit. It was built on the question, “What if we told a story about the very first family; a caveman family”. The world changes so fast around them as the world grows and evolves. How hard would it be for a caveman father to protect his family from an ever-changing world? There is so much more focus on what the story is built on than a number of different story elements.

The “Rise of the Guardians” is based on the book and the author, William, has decorations for every holiday. This apparently includes even some of the lesser known ones, like Earth Day. Joyce got the idea from a question from his daughter. She had asked him if the Easter Bunny knew Santa Claus. He had responded that not only did they know about each other, they were good friends. It grew out of the idea that these mythical beings not only knew each other but served some greater role as well. This idea grew into the question and story that would become the movie.

Tom got the next question: “As the director, do you do that? Pulling together the team.” He saw them to be built on an image within the movie itself. Everyone involved is a talented artist and sees it as how Tom Sawyer did. He pitched a story not a job and that is what really builds the film and its story. It lets them be brought in and created collaboratively. This means they all see it as great fun and bring their own stories into the mix in addition to whatever else is needed. He's found this brings so much more to the mix of the story than he could as the lead alone.

Next Patrick was asked about “Rise of the Guardians” where he needed to build a new part to the ancient myths. He wanted to bring a new take on them, to have them “live around the corner.” It was looking around the world and using genuine geographic locations to start building them. That was the key element for each of them. It was to create these creatures, in a new way, that was widely known. It is important to take each of them and set down something that is very unique. The second question was how to temper them over to a warrior side. They wanted to take them as far as they could as bad-ass warriors and to make them contemporary in appearance: like their Santa. The Tooth Fairy was taken to be a commander for the millions of fairies. It is important to cover everything from “G” to “R” to build the story and characters inside the the story itself.

James talked about the relationships across the the board at DreamWorks and how do things all fit together. Animators are very akin to actors, they just sit in dark rooms more then go out onto the stage anact. They want to fit things together very well when the opportunity. The Croods was given as an example: Eep. Emma Stone is her voice actor and a lot of her crossed over to the character itself. It is important to fit some of that into the character when the time is right. A lot of her expression and actions just added a lot to the character and they felt it was important to keep this. The skill set is like that of a closet actor.

He was then asked about the inspiration: James sees it as people watching. It was handy to see how everyone behaves and moves around. In “The Croods” there is a process within the choice of an animal. Emma's character, for example, is more cat-like. James wanted them to move in an animal fashion, allowing for easy movement regardless of what terrain they were dealing with. The little daughter is like a little Jack Russel terrier: ever moving. The family has to move into the world when their cave is destroyed. They meet a guy named “Guy”, voiced by Ryan Reynolds. He teaches them they do not need to fear everything. Through that he teaches them about how to survive as a family and to live without fear of the outside world. Those present felt that Guy was the most human of the animated cast. Bill added on that it took place in the ficitious “Crudasus period”. He described it as evolution's puberty. It presents a number of different animals that show unique combinations.

Anthony was the last one to take a question from the moderator, “How do know when you've gone to far and how to do roll it back” . All the films are very different. Madagascar was aimed to go tech savvy and fulled animated. It was focused on their “Wack Factor”: no parallel lines. The movies need to built from the ground up because of the needed exaggeration in the world. Patrick added on that part of the evolution was going down the roads of fantasy and photo realism. It was important to have realistic characters but in a stylized world for like “Rise of the Guardians.”