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Del Toro Talks Animation at DreamWorks Preview

DreamWorks Animation unveiled its secret weapon at last Friday's LA sneak peek of KUNG FU PANDA 2 and PUSS IN BOOTS: Guillermo del Toro.

DreamWorks Animation unveiled its secret weapon at last Friday's LA sneak peek of KUNG FU PANDA 2 and PUSS IN BOOTS: Guillermo del Toro. The exec producer of PUSS IN BOOTS took center stage at the DGA to introduce 13 minutes of the SHREK spin-off and proclaim his commitment to both animation and DreamWorks.

"Animation to me is a medium that has been treated as a genre and it was treated like a genre for kids," del Toro suggested."It's really a medium that allows filmic expression unlike any other medium. You saw KUNG FU PANDA 2. We are making very bold choices formally and I believe form is content. To me, being a complete control freak of the form, I wanted to be part of this medium. I wanted to join and learn and I'm learning so much. If you see an animated film you have an experience unlike any other movie because the films are so painterly they are operatic visually. They are hypnotic in many ways and I think PUSS will prove this…

"The reason I wanted to become so involved with PUSS is because I came in and I was thinking, 'It's gonna be a spin-off of a SHREK character and my expectations were immediately demolished because [director] Chris [Miller] wanted to do a work of incredible beauty of singularity. He came in with the ambition of narrating a great Sergio Leone western combined with a heartbreak story of friendship against an every changing landscape that went with great agility from a western, hardcore tone to a huge hijinks adventure to an incredibly delicate landscape of fairy tale lore. I was absolutely transfixed by this."

One could immediately sense the del Toro dark touch in the PUSS footage. The origin story, which co-stars Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the hit team of Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) and a saucy female rival, Kitty White Paws (Selma Hayek), who challenges Puss to a Litter Box tango dance contest, is indeed visually operatic as well as smart and funny and bawdy (there's a memorable joke about showing off one's golden eggs) -- all in keeping with the Latin look and theme.

Afterward, del Toro talked more about his interest in DreamWorks, and what it was like inviting CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to his infamous "Man Cave."

"I wanted to talk to Jeffrey… he really is a guy who is very, very, fearfully protective of his work on animation, in a way. But at the same time, I wanted to talk to him about the future of animation. He came at 5:00 and stayed for three hours and talked about where he wants to take DreamWorks. And part of it was to bring back a sense of pathos and a sense of contrast into the tales, and I think that we're going in that direction with a little bit of darkness in it… When you realize that you can really have truly bold humor and a twisted sense of humor in movies, that are family experiences, I think that actually opens them up."

Del Toro, who just announced that his next feature will be PACIFIC RIM, is also juggling the HAUNTED MANSION and a stop-motion PINOCCHIO, yet still finds the time to be very active at DreamWorks. In addition to PUSS, he is exec producing RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, consults on KUNG FU PANDA 2 and is developing his own feature, TROLLHUNTERS. Despite his busy schedule, Del Toro said he makes sure that he has at least a two to three-hour block to devote to DreamWorks when he's at the Glendale campus.

Meanwhile, Katzenberg kicked off the presentation with some remarks about how much in common PANDA 2 and PUSS IN BOOTS have in terms of emotional storytelling. And PANDA 2 director Jennifer Yuh promised that we would learn the origin of Po's life. We were then treated to the first half of the still incomplete film, which looked even more visually stunning than the first and even more action-packed. Po and his Fearsome Five buddies must combat Lord Shen, a beautiful but treacherous white peacock (Gary Oldman), bent on ruling China by force with a deadly fireworks machine. Jack Black then came onstage to play around in character and reaffirm the qualities that make Po lovable.

PUSS director Miller and Banderas were also present, with the actor revealing that he records the voice track in English, Spanish (including the Castilian dialect) and Italian.

Afterward, Yuh admitted that that the latest advancements in lighting and rendering have allowed her to expand the canvas to include a much larger glimpse of China's beauty and grandeur, and that the climactic battle between Po and Lord Shen results in quite an emotional finish for the Panda hero.

KUNG FU PANDA 2 opens May 27 and PUSS IN BOOTS bows Nov. 4 through Paramount Pictures, both in 3-D.