Verbinski Talks Rango
BD: How much did the animators rely on the performances of Depp and the other actors?
GV: There was a lot in the storyboards for the basic bones of the shots, so the storyboards were getting us into animation pretty quickly in terms of blocking. And the storyboards were all on set when we were shooting. The vocal performance from Johnny has a lot of different people in there: Don Knotts and Jack Palance, when he puts it on. And you'd see a lot in his expressions, but he doesn't look anything like Rango, so everything has to be translated. And not everything he's doing will read once it's translated into a lizard, so you have to completely keyframe animate it, but you try and capture the spirit of it, so quite often it'd be a target.
BD: What about the look of your characters and the environments?
GV: We weren't in the pursuit of photoreal, but we were in pursuit of an emotional reality that required a tremendous amount of detail in close-ups of eyes and all of that. Early on, the environments were always going to be compromised in resolution and detail because we wanted to focus on the characters. But, by default, ILM is so good at matching into plates. You turn the sun on in their computer and immediately it feels more realistic. It's not multiple sources; it's one pinpoint source. And that quickly showed that certain things weren't going to hold up at a low resolution. So the environments are minimalistic, but in the town, as you get into the interior of the bar, and things like that, it's very important that you get a tremendous amount of detail: trash in a corner, dust and smoke -- stuff you get for free on a live-action set that has to be built and rendered and lit. That turned out to be a lot more work than we anticipated.
GV: The action sequences are useful to move from storyboard into early previs, so in our story reel, we had, for instance, the flying bat sequences. Before going to ILM we brought in a couple of guys to previs that entire sequence because it was just hard to get timings. You're making assumptions that it's going to take this amount of time for this fly by to occur, music and pacing. You can do that with a dialogue scene where you know the compositions are going to work, but the bat sequence was really tough and took a tremendous amount of time.
BD: And, finally, why the decision not to go out in 3-D?
GV: I watched the movie; [and] I don't think there's a dimension missing. I don't feel like, "It's flat," or it's missing anything. We talked about it early on and it just didn't seem like we needed to go there.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.