Deters & Wermers-Skelton Talk Prep & Landing
KD: From an artistic standpoint, too, we obviously knew that the whole idea of partnering with ABC here was something new and we were excited about having a new special with Walt Disney Animation Studios that would hopefully, eventually, stand alongside some of the hallowed classics. We'll see how it goes over, but Stevie and I really have a lot of reverence for A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Grinch and some of the great Rankin/Bass material, so we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to try and do something that would acknowledge those great pieces but also be something new and different.
BD: And talk about the look.
SWS: As we said before, we were trying to recall this Rankin/Bass, Charlie Brown look: larger heads, round shapes. Just something that looks familiar. So that's what we were going for [led by Art Director Andy Harkness and Character Designer Bill Schwab].
KD: We wanted a very relatable, natural world, evoking the Christmas of your youth. And it's all steeped in mid-Western Americana. Also, to ground the North Pole in some sense of reality that would fit that human world. So we had inspiration from the Norwegian architecture, lots of old wood, as opposed to magic castles and that sort of thing.
KD: Beyond the story itself, we were pretty fortunate to have a really seasoned, enthusiastic crew that rolled right off of Bolt. And we were able to learn from their production experience on Bolt: things that could be improved and things to watch out for.
SWS: Well, we never worked in 3D before.
BD: And what was the biggest learning curve for that?
KD: I think for us as directors, realizing that the more you have thought out as far as location and characters up front, the better off you are. It's a little more difficult to implement those changes down the road, as opposed to 2D. We wanted to turn around really quickly a character that was designed, modeled and rigged and had the look development put on it, and then do a little test scene so we could react to all of the elements in context. As opposed to spending lots of iterations each step of the way. It was an interesting new way to trying out the development of the show. And it worked out quite nicely for us.
BD: Who came up with this approach?
KD: Our Visual Effects Supervisor, Scott Kersavage, and his group. And one thing too that I found really great about working in CG was the animatic phase. Rob Dressel (Transformers) was our head of layout and animatics, and it was great to get in there and feel how the movie was paced out with the camera moving before we got into the heat of production, and that was an efficient way of working.