Deters & Wermers-Skelton Talk Prep & Landing
The Annie-nominated Prep & Landing bows on ABC tomorrow night (8:30/7:30c), marking the first TV special produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. The CG-animated work reveals the never-before-told tale of an elite unit of Elves known as Prep & Landing. And with one particular veteran Elf named Wayne (Dave Foley) upset about being passed over for a promotion, the Christmas Eve mission is put in jeopardy when he is paired with newbie Lanny (Derek Richardson) and lacks the usual holiday spirit. Directors Kevin Deters & Stevie Wermers-Skelton (How to Hook Up Your Home Theater) discuss pulling off Prep & Landing.
Bill Desowitz: How much did you have to work with from the original pitch by Chris Williams?
Stevie Wermers-Skelton: He put together a short on reels and storyboards [before leaving for Bolt and doing his own short, Glago's Guest].
Kevin Deters: It wasn't produced.
SWS: That's the short that John Lasseter loved so much and wanted to turn into a half-hour Christmas special.
KD: It was a great basic idea that tapped a vein, if you will, of Christmas storytelling. I would equate it to an interesting house design drawn on a napkin or a loose idea and we were asked to find a place to build it and make it work. Ultimately, it had the same one-sentence description and Chris had named the characters Lanny and Wayne, and we really liked the names.
SWS: I think he named them after hockey players. Chris is from Canada.
KD: After Lanny McDonald and Wayne Gretzky. We took that as a great starting point and spent the next couple of weeks talking through what we'd like to see: develop the world and really expand upon it. We loved the idea that Prep & Landing was an occupation within the elf community, which was part of Chris' original pitch, and we wanted to give them really cool jobs, so we brought the Mission: Impossible spy element to it.
KD: Yes, we wanted to do it 3D. The idea too was that people would be finishing up Bolt and it would be an ideal opportunity to roll right onto another project while they were at the top of their game. And so there was no need to really ramp up.
BD: So, what were some of the main challenges for you?
KD: From a story standpoint, I think our toughest challenge was knowing that it was going to be 21 minutes and 30 seconds plus commercials.
SWS: This is much tighter than features when it doesn't matter if you're a minute or a frame over, so it was extremely challenging.
KD: As you know, we board things out with one reel several times over and screen them here and talk about them with fellow directors and John. So we were very conscious of staying within that time frame with each screening. We could layer things and condense things as the story got tighter and tighter, but the length issue was a new challenge.