Sneaking Gnomeo & Juliet
Shaw admits that doing the film independent of the Disney brand definitely helped "find its own merits" and kept it under the radar. "Which was another interesting thing about the way we made it," Shaw suggests. "Whilst we always had the studio involved, because we were somewhere else, we had our own little culture going. In a strange way, that left us more to our devises; the challenge was to make it more efficient but still reach that very high level of quality."
That rested with Bloodworth, who came aboard early on and nurtured the project first at Disney, then in London, enticing Asbury to direct and Karen deJong (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) to art direct and finally finding a home at Starz in Toronto (Furnish's home town) after London proved too costly to do the animation.
"We selected Starz (which had just done 9) for all the big reasons: they were available and for the right price; they had talent; and they had enough bandwidth," Bloodworth explains. "And for the financial reasons, it was a huge incentive to go there (40% back on the dollar and so you could put a lot more on the screen for about half of what a studio animated feature costs)."
For Asbury, it was the right project at the right time: "I've always loved the incongruous, so I was drawn to Shakespeare, garden gnomes and Elton John coming together," the director says. "I started thinking there's a very intriguing, funny opportunity here. How can you make all that work together? It really was a challenge. Baker and Steve Hamilton-Shaw and David Furnish and Igor Khait really facilitated my getting the movie the way I wanted it. We tried to do it as traditionally as we could in a very non-traditional way of working. In a way, I got my first taste of what it might be like to make an independent animated film. We had the support of the studio, and Pam Coats, who was formerly at Disney, was brought in to liaise as the bridge between animation and those people in live action who had never done animation before. Luckily, people at Miramax were quick learners and they trusted us. The only problem we had is that those people kept getting fired. Just when you'd get one person on your side, you'd have to get someone new on your side. It was a constant tap dance.