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Verbinski Talks 'Rango'

After tackling Pirates, Gore Verbinski tells us what it was like going on his first animated adventure with Johnny Depp and ILM.

Animators at ILM got to hone their performance chops. Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

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.

Verbinski enjoyed experimenting with different storytelling and visual tropes.

Bill Desowitz's picture

Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.