Getting Inside the Head of Megamind
How do you build the ultimate super villain and at the same time make us care for him? That was the fundamental challenge with Megamind, the new action/comedy starring Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill opening today through DreamWorks Animation and Paramount Pictures.
"For us it was nice to know that we were going to be doing superhero stuff, but we were also really going to be concentrating on the relationship between Megamind [Ferrell] and reporter Roxanne [Fey]," explains Jason Schleifer, head of character animation. "There are only five or six hero characters in the film so we really had to pay attention to those personalities and make sure that the audience could connect with them.
As with Madagascar, Schleifer oversaw a cross-site production that was based up north at PDI/DreamWorks with satellite work done at the Glendale campus.
With a design culled from the Jack Kirby comics, Megamind -- in a riff on Superman -- comes to Metro City as a baby with the notion that he will be a superhero, but instead becomes a super baddie. However, on earth, he has no super powers, merely a high level of intelligence and lots of enthusiasm.
"Once director Tom McGrath got on, we pursued the Alice Cooper [Megamind] and Elvis [Pitt's heroic Metro Man] routine," Schleifer continues. "They play the good guy/bad guy game to the crowd like rock stars and the citizens love to boo Megamind (who wears black leather and spikes) and cheer Metro Man (who wears white).
"From a performance standpoint, Metro Man knows inherently how much energy he can use to, say, lift up a car without it falling apart. So we had him move really slowly so the car could build up inertia and then once it was moving, he could push it quicker. And if he was throwing a car, he knew where to place to hands to have the best possible balance and he would hold himself with a minimum amount of energy."
Although Tighten physically has the same body, rig and muscle system, he's new to the superhero game, so he's gangly and clumsy and never gets the hang of using finesse like Metro Man.
Megamind, by contrast, was immense but had to have immediate rooting interest. "When we started doing early tests, we found we were playing him too evil and it wasn't appealing," Schleifer recalls. "So we kept his brows up and played off his optimistic energy and gave him open eyes and facing the camera more so we could connect with him. He became likable. He's a master villain whose enthusiasm is infectious.