Verbinski Talks Rango
After making Pirates of the Caribbean, director Gore Verbinksi got the idea to make an animated feature mixing the spaghetti western with desert creatures and starring Johnny Depp as a chameleon with no identity. The result is Rango (opening tomorrow from Paramount Pictures), which also happens to be Industrial Light & Magic's first foray into animation as well. Part of it sprung from the notion of Depp looking like a lizard on water whenever Jack Sparrow flees from danger. So, as Depp says, he was half-way there. All the animation was keyframe, and select locations (the town exterior) were scouted virtually by Verbinski using ILM's virtual set technology, enabling him to walk around the stage with a viewfinder and compose shots and record both storyboard frames as well as actual camera moves as he saw fit. Often times this either built upon moves done by the layout team or became a starting point for the layering of their work. Verbinski also insisted on recording the voice sessions with all the actors present, resulting in a freestyle exchange and a lively form of orchestrated chaos.
Bill Desowitz: What inspired you to do Rango?
Gore Verbinski: It came from a discussion with a good friend, a children's book illustrator, David Shannon, who just suggested what about an animated western with creatures of the desert? And that was the inception moment in 2003. I liked that idea and wrote a 12-page outline. And then I just sat on it while I made two more Pirate films. When I came back after that, I wanted to slow down for a second, so I had seven artists, John Logan, the writer, and we just worked for 16 months at the house up in the hills of Pasadena. No studio involvement: a pencil and paper, a Macintosh and microphone. None of us [except Logan] had made an animated movie before and just did it our way. We talked to the same guys we worked with at ILM, we talked to Johnny several times. And then once we finished our story reel, we brought it to Paramount and got the money to make the movie. From there, we did 20 days of voice recording and then another year-and-a-half up at ILM.
GV: Certainly we've created a shorthand with [animation director] Hal Hickel and the guys at ILM and [production designer] Crash McCreery and the artist I've used for years now, Jim Byrkit. That way, we've done 2,500 visual effects shots and when you cast the crew of your movie, I want to work with the same guys. So, yeah, that did feel like a comfort zone.
BD: Talk about the decision to record the actors together.
GV: It's keyframe animation, but, very early on, it became apparent: Why give up what we do in live action? You've got Ned Beatty and Harry Dean Stanton. You're not going to put them in a room together? I want these actors reacting. It was just a fear of letting things get clinical and cold and homogenized. We always go in with a plan but try to orchestrate some chaos in the pursuit of anomaly and gifts along the way.
BD: Trying to capture as much richness from these happy accidents.
GV: Yeah, it's more potent.
BD: What was it like walking around the stage with the interactive camera composing shots and recording?