MS: Yeah, we realized that the bar was raised very, very high here and if we're in any way providing a dessert after a meal like that then it had better be as good. Having said that, we really didn't know how we were going to do that. Higglety Pigglety Pop! was a good story and one with a lot of meat in it, a rich story you can see over and over again, and we're very attracted by things like that. But nevertheless, how to do that? How to make a smarmy, hairy dog? We knew we couldn't do it in stop-motion or any of the old techniques that we normally use. First of all, we had 10 months to do the entire thing, which is pretty mental when you consider that the entire cast is talking animals, 17 locations and 25 scenes. We knew we had to try something a little bit different and our first very erroneous instinct was to use live-action puppetry, which we figured would be time saving, compared to working one frame per second with puppets. But, boy, were we wrong. We realized the whole thing is a lethal morass of much depth and murkiness all to its own. The main problem we discovered right away is that good puppeteers are extremely rare. And if you're lucky enough to reach one, they'll tell you they're booked in advance for a year-in-a-half. But we lucked out: we solved those problems, found the best people and then engaged in the really crazy process of building these things and figuring out how they were going to deliver a performance, which ultimately worked, but it was not at all as easy as we would have expected.
The lion, voiced by Forest Whitaker, was the size of a room, suspended from the ceiling with elastic cables and required eight puppeteers.
BD: So, what was this fabulous learning experience like?
MS: We did the whole classical gamut of it: the false floors, hand puppets, sometimes up to eight puppeteers working a single puppet. At the same time, we threw into it live actors, crazy amounts of locations, which we all did in miniature. It was a lot of special effects work, given the schedule, was quite mental to pull off.
BD: And there was animation on top of it, too?
MS: Yeah, there was a little bit of everything… there's stop-motion in bits where they were required, but we knew this couldn't be a purist experiment. We actually thought of it in terms of problem-solving: What would have a better dramatic effect? It was our first foray into the complete melding of all the techniques that we could even think of, minus any 3D. That's only because we don't know how to do it.
BD: Tell us about Jennie.