The latest happenings at DreamWorks Animation was the topic of discussion at the company’s panel this morning at San Diego Comic-Con. Chief Creative Officer Bill Damaschke led the talk, which kicked off with a clip reel featuring the studio’s hits like Madagascar, Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon, plus the upcoming Rise of the Guardians. But the highlight of the reel was the glimpse we got at The Croods, next year’s caveman family film.
James Baxter, The Croods’ supervising animator, Madagascar 3 director Tom McGrath and Rise of the Guardians production designer Patrick Hanenberger were also on hand for the chat, where they described The Croods as the story of a family that never leaves their cave, but are finally forced to explore the outside world and must confront change for the first time.
The question of where the team’s story ideas come from was raised. In the case of The Croods, the filmmakers initially wanted to do a film about a family. Then, they were like, “What if we do the very first family?” As the idea evolved, it became about how hard it would be for a caveman father to protect his family in a world that is literally changing around them.
In the case of Guardians, the film came from a book by William Joyce. He got the initial idea when he was asked by his daughter, “Dad, does the Easter Bunny know Santa Claus?” Well, of course he does!
Hanenberger explained that his job is to “bring the story to life with visuals.” So on Guardians, they wanted to ground the characters in the real world. They looked to real locations, giving Santa a Russian feel, for example. “We wanted to design them so that everyone understands where they came from and what they do,” the production designer said. “We wanted to present them as bad-ass warriors.” The idea was to move away from the chubby, “slightly drunk Santa” we all know and create a “Cossacks warrior.” Bad-assery trait number one: Only he can control his reindeer, who are so powerful they would rip anyone else’s arms off.
Baxter spoke of animating The Croods, and how he and his team must find a balance as to how much they want to “artistically incorporate the voice actors” in their films. Emma Stone plays the daughter in the film, and Baxter said that Stone is so animated when she performs her lines in the recording booth that they decided to incorporate some of her physicality into the character. “Working as an animator is like being a performer but only in slow motion,” he joked. “Like a closet actor.”
The whole movie is like a road trip, they explained, as the family has to go out and find a new cave. Along the way, they meet a guy — named Guy! (and voiced by Ryan Reynolds) — who is different from anyone they’ve ever met. He has ideas. He teaches them that they don’t have to be afraid. Also, the film takes place in a “previously undiscovered time period” that the DreamWorks guys call “evolution’s puberty” where a lot of the animals and creatures are mash-ups and mixtures of various real-life beasts. Oh, and the film will also feature a 2D, hand-drawn sequence.
And finally, the team revealed that they currently have 10 movies in production and another eight or nine in development right now.