Spike Jonze Takes a Walk on the Wild Side
It's ironic that Spike Jonze left one technically challenging fable (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) for another: Where the Wild Things Are (opening Oct. 16 from Warner Bros.). Both rely heavily on cutting edge facial animation to convey believable and memorable emotions. But after nearly a decade trying to figure out the best cinematic approach to bringing Maurice Sendak's classic children's picture book to the big screen, Jonze has succeeded in melding his vision with Sendak's. Off-beat yet organic, Jonze has fashioned a true hybrid in depicting childhood anger run amok. He resisted directing Where the Wild Things Are until realizing that the key was focusing on the wild emotions of the Wild Things that young Max encounters after running away from home. He tells VFXWorld how he came to rely on Framestore for animation and visual effects.
Bill Desowitz: Why did you choose Framestore?
Spike Jonze: We initially worked with different companies that did R&D [including Rising Sun and Animal Logic], and, as we were editing, we were still doing R&D as to how exactly we were going to do the visual effects and complete the characters' faces. Daniel Jeannette [the animation/visual effects supervisor] and Chris deFaria [EVP, digital production, animation and visual effects, Warner Bros. Pictures] were looking at different houses and different things. And we were trying something really ambitious. The company that could handle all of the work, which was 1,100 shots, and handle the quality of the visual effects and animation that we were looking for [was Framestore]. And what we were looking for were these very nuanced performances [from the likes of James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper and Lauren Ambrose].
BD: And, that's what you got, which fit the look and tone you were obviously after.
SJ: And a lot of times in animation and puppetry, things are broad. Done well, like at Pixar, they're funny and charming and specific and nuanced. But it's a different type of performance than what we were looking for.
BD: Or, what David Fincher achieved with Benjamin Button.
SJ: I was amazed at that.
BD: It's interesting that you turned down Benjamin Button and yet Wild Things also relies heavily on facial animation.