// author archive

MSN Movies UK - Blog

MSN Movies UK - Blog has written 99 posts for Periferica

The Karate Kid – Exclusive Harald Zwart interview

by Andy Gibbons

During the recent UK premiere for The Karate Kid, I managed to grab the movie’s director Harald Zwart for a brief chat during which we discussed his leading men, the work ethic on set and honour of filming in China.


I grew up with the original Karate Kid back in 1984 so how does this bring things into the 21st century?

I think the moral of the story is the same. It’s almost spoken directly by Jackie’s character; he says ‘Life will knock you down but we chose whether or not to get back up’. That is an eternal message and an eternal story. What we’ve done is just update it a bit by making it even more of a fish out of water story by moving [the main character] to China where he’s got the language barrier and he’s being bullied at school so those are the updates we’ve done. And obviously we’re proud of the fighting in the movie.

How important was it to film in China?

I’ve always had three wishes; I’ve wanted to film with Jackie Chan, I’ve wanted to work with Will Smith and I’ve wanted to shoot in China so it was really important to me. I loved filming there, it was just too good to be true.

Jaden steals the show as Dre Parker. How did you find working him?

He was the hardest working person on the whole crew. First he had to train for months and months before we started shooting and then while we were shooting he was still training. And he had to learn Chinese and all his lines; he was working every single day.


Finally, with Jackie teaching Jaden all his movies, did you pick anything up from the Kung Fu master?

I’ve been trying to spar with him, he’s just much too fast.

The Karate Kid opens in the UK on Wednesday July 28th.

Splice – Exclusive Delphine Chanéac interview

by Andy Gibbons

To round out our series of Splice interviews, I sat down with French actress Delphine Chanéac to talk about her role as the unique Dren….

Tell us a bit about who or what Dren is…

She’s a mix of DNA of an animal and a woman. She is like a girl, she feels like a normal girl. She has emotions, she has feelings, she loves man, woman, everything. She’s pure, she’s innocent, she’s like a child; she is just like an angel.


We’ve never seen a character like her before – was that freeing for you as an actress, the fact that you got to create this whole new species?

That was such a big issue for me because I knew I would have to be a hard worker because Vincenzo (Natali – the writer / director) has been working on this script for eight years so there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders. That was hard but I tried to do my best work every day, every minute. And I knew also that Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody were (cast) in the movie. That is huge when you are just a French little actress. That’s like “Wow, these are two big actors”.

You mentioned how long Vincenzo has been working on this. How closely did you work with him on creating Dren?

We spoke about Dren a lot. Vincenzo had a lot of thoughts about her, like the evolution of Dren. He showed me the bald look at the beginning so I shaved my head very fast and that was helpful to me to find her. After that we worked in front of a mirror to get the body language and then I started to add the feelings, the way to think, the way to move the neck, the way to move the shoulders, the way to move the hands but Vincenzo gave me a lot of space, he gave me a lot of freedom for the character. That was so good because I got to create everything. We spoke and he said to me “You know Dren better than me now” so I said “But you’ve known Dren eight years, you created her”. But he said “Do what you want. It’s your character right now. It’s your Dren, you are Dren.” We worked for like two months on the vocal stuff and I think they’ve been mixed that with animal stuff, animal sounds.

You play the human part of Dren but there are CG elements to the character. How did you find working with the effects?

There wasn’t so much CG on set because I was just wearing high heels and blue socks. I was also wearing a small scar (on my head) and they put a spot around the eyes so they could move them out later.


You’ve described Splice as a love story – can you expand on that?

I think this is a love story because (Dren) is more human than a lot of people. She’s more normal, more regular, more straight, more direct, more true – this is why I think Splice is a love story. I never played her as a monster; I never thought that she was a monster. I saw her as little girl who was different.

How did you find working with Adrien and Sarah?

Awesome. They were so good, they are such good partners. They are so nice, hard workers, good friends. Everything was super cool because sometimes when you look different – I was bald, I was strong and bigger than I am now so – I felt strange but they helped me a lot. They were so nice and took care of me.

Splice is in cinemas from today.

Toy Story 3 – MSN exclusive Bob Whitehill, Michael Stocker and Jason Katz interview

by Andy Gibbons

In the last of my four exclusive interviews from Pixar, Bob Whitehill (3D Stereoscopic Supervisor), Michael Stocker (Directing Animator) and Jason Katz (Story Supervisor) talk about the technical difficulties in bringing Toy Story 3 to life.

image L/R – Bob, Michael and Jason

Every Pixar film brings a new set of challenges. What was the biggest challenge for you in bringing Toy Story 3 to life?

MS – From an animation point of view, just the intimidating work that had been done in the past was kind of a daunting thing. Most of the animation crew hadn’t worked on the first two films and some of them were six years old when the first one came out so they are looking back at these amazing movies which affected their lives and now they have to perform Buzz and Woody with that voice talent and the stakes that are being played out in the movie and pay homage to the work that had been done in the past and yet add their own ideas into that and make it work seamlessly. Forget the technical stuff; that was probably the biggest challenge for most of the crew.

JK – Story wise it was just to buy its existence into the film. To watch the first two movies and know what they mean to us, not just as filmmakers but also what they mean to the world, to do something of that quality, to do something of that level and not only to be respectful of the work that’s been done in the past but also of these characters. Buzz and Woody are just as real as our children and our friends and to create something that is worthy of continuing of their story is something we took very seriously. I think it was definitely a challenge to try to create a film that excited us and that felt like it did take it to another level. You want it to feel like it’s connected to the other two films, like a worthy sequel.

What was important to say in your story?

JK – When we hit upon the idea of Andy growing up and what that means emotionally, what was important to me and what was wonderful to me was to have it so intimately connect with the other two movies and have it feel like one large piece. I feel like sequel in general can play two ways – one can be a way to reunite with the characters in a fun way but they’re just there to give you more. My favourite sequels and the goal for this was it continues the thematic lines through the film, that it’s meditation on what’s been learned through the first two movies and that the emotional lessons Woody and the other characters have gone through, you’re finding new ways to explore or expand on them. It feels like you’re building off tracks you’ve already laid – Woody is so stubborn in this movie because he learned a lot in the previous two films and he’s not going to forget what he’s learned and the experiences he’s had. I feel that’s a good sequel and that buys it into the universe.

Was it always a plan to make a trilogy of Toy Story films?

JK – No, I think John (Lasseter) is an amazing filmmaker and has an amazing scope in his brain and I think early on, at the end of Toy Story 2, he was ready and willing to carry on with these stories and he had ideas but I think a lot of this happens organically and you’re hunting for the best story possible and I think this trilogy is just part of the story telling process. I don’t think in 1993 when they were conceiving Toy Story they were thinking ‘Ok, this is where it’s going to go’. George Lucas didn’t really know what was going to happen in (Return of the) Jedi, he just said he did.


What’s it like animating characters who are 11 years old using much newer technology?

MS – It was a whole lot easier and I feel incredibly lucky. We rebuilt all the characters from scratch with all the new technology. They were faster, easier to use – from a technological point of view that was easy. There was some new stuff added in that changed the movie a little bit but animating those characters was easy, the hard part was moving Woody floppy like they did in the first two films. We had to make sure that this language that was developed for Woody was the same; we could make him run but we had to make him run like a rag doll. The new characters in the film were a lot easier ‘cos we were inventing the language for Ken, we were inventing the language for Lotso.

What was the inspiration behind Lotso?

MS – I think Lotso represents every sort of teddy bear that you had as a kid. We just wanted to make sure that he was squishy and plush. One thing we could do on this movie was that we could squish a character – we couldn’t squish a character on the first two movies, we didn’t have the technology to do that and that’s the hardest thing to do in any computer movie; to have one character grab another and have that other character squish. With Lotso, that’s what he is so when he picks up Buzz and says ‘I’m a hugger’ that’s a thing we could do on this and we really wanted to do, to make him this squishy, lovable teddy bear.


How many people work on the story and how does it evolve?

JK – You know, the story is long so we’re on the story for a good chunk of time. I started in earnest in the summer of 2006 and I didn’t wrap until this year. From a personal perspective, my son was born on May 31st 2006 and he just turned four and I just brought him to see the movie; he turned four maybe two months before I wrapped so it’s a long haul. And we have Lee (Unkrich), Michael Arndt (the screenwriter) and then a story team so I’m put in charge of anything from six to eight artists and we will slam on the story for a good two to three years to try and get it right before it really gets folded into the production pipeline.

What does 3D bring to the film and what does the future hold for Pixar as far as 3D is concerned?

BW – Well the future of Pixar as far as 3D is concerned is all of our upcoming theatrical releases will be in 3D for the foreseeable future and we’re talking about doing the library into 3D and that might come to pass in some future time. 3D for me, it just makes things feel more palpable, it just pulls you in more; it feels more engrossing, it can grab you if it’s projected properly at the right brightness. The choices we make are, I think, graceful and yet rewarding. We really try to find that line between giving the audience a reward for making that effort and spending that money to see it in 3D but on the other hand we don’t want to distract from all the brilliant work that guys like Jason and Michael have done – we don’t want to put a sheen over the work that our colleagues have done or is in any way distracting or, God forbid, creates eye fatigue or headaches or so forth so it’s finding that fine line between reward and comfort and making it pitch perfect. We go into every single shot and it’s like a visual accordion; we can make it as deep as a tunnel or we can make it as flat as can be and [we try to] find the emotional beat of that moment and dial that into the 3D and find where the screen plane will lie because that’s the easiest for the audience to view. Then we just run through the shots and see what we get out the other side and we continue to fine tune it and fine tune it until we feel that every sequence is pitch perfect in 3D.


You mentioned the brightness issue which is one of the issues affecting 3D. Do you think the technology is completely there yet?

BW – The technology is there if it’s working properly, if it’s up to spec as they say. If it’s shown properly, and a lot of theatres do a very good job, it’s going to look brilliant and bright. And actually on home monitors it looks brilliant; you’d be surprised when going from a 45 foot screen to 42 inches, how rewarding it is, it really looks great. So we should be in good shape if your theatre is doing the right job.

The climactic scene in the incinerator is very intense. Was there ever any worry that it may be too intense for younger viewers?

JK – Yeah, I think we’re always sensitive to the films we’re making and abundantly respectful to the audience who see these films so we certainly discussed it. I think the conclusion we came to was that it just felt right for the film and I think that sequence in particular, the way we would talk about that sequence and the intensity of that was that we’re not only providing a climax to Toy Story 3 but we’re also providing a climax to the trilogy and recognising that the first two films had a lot of talk about the potential of being throw away. What if I break? What if I’m replaced? This was an opportunity to take the toys to the end game and to really honestly feel ‘What’s going to happen?’, that this family that we know and love is facing a real dilemma. And it felt like any time we tried soften it and any time we tried something else, you lost that so that was the decision. You know we make these films to be these films and every parent has [to make] their decision.

How did your four year-old react?

JK – He make it through and he’s quite sensitive and he hasn’t seen many movies. But I fully expected if it gets too intense we’ll just up and leave and that’s fine. I think that, again, we respect our audiences but we’re not sitting here going ‘These are kids’ movies’.


The character of Big Baby is quite scary. Can you tell me a bit about the thinking behind him?

MS – The thing we tried to do was thinks ‘It’s a doll so let’s animate as a doll can move’. He’s a baby and he’s a doll so we tried to keep the baby stiff and only move at the head and the joints, that sort of thing. The thing he does that I guess might be bad is he picks up Mr. Potato Head and hauls him off to the box. But he’s innocent; he’s just doing what he’s told.

JK – I feel it you’re looking for a character to sum up Lee (Unkrich), then Big Baby is sort of a direct ‘Lee’. It’s this beautiful, entertaining and somewhat creepy. You know Big Baby is executed in a scary manner and if you think it about, it’s all told from the scale of the toys so from that perspective he’s huge. But Lee’s decision to have him have real baby sounds makes him feel like a heavy and he’s intimidating but there’s an honesty to him and when you see his back story and you see him in his bonnet, all of a sudden in that sequence with Daisy, he’s not that intimidating and he’s quite sweet. That’s what I love.

We’ve never seen Andy’s father in any of the film – where is he?

JK – To create these stories a character has to buy themselves into the film, there has to be a reason to have them there, not just because it’s normal to have a father and mother. There was just never really any reason story-wise to have Andy’s father. We gave Bonnie a Dad ‘cos we were like ‘Ok, we can’t not let anybody have a Dad’. But again there’s no real storytelling need. When you’re watching the film I don’t think you’re really paying any attention to the fact Andy’s Dad isn’t there.

Toy Story 3 is in cinemas now.

Toy Story 3 – MSN exclusive Estelle Harris, Michael Keaton, Jodi Benson and John Ratzenberger interview

by Andy Gibbons

In the third of our series of interviews from Pixar, Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head), Michael Keaton (Ken), Jodi Benson (Barbie) and John Ratzenberger (Hamm) talk Toy Story 3.


Did you have expectations going into this movie that were met or changed at all?

EH – Well having down the second (Toy Story film) I knew the third one would be even better because the writing kept getting better and better and I think we were deeper into our characters having done them before.

JR – Because this is the third time I’ve played the piggy bank, there’s more change in the bank now so I kind of walked him a little slower (groans all rounds).

MK – I’d only done a little thing in Cars so I was new to all this so on one hand I didn’t have any expectations except that I knew it would be a good experience – I really, really like working for these guys.

What did you like in your character, in Ken?

MK – I thought 98% of this guy was so unabashedly enthusiastic and kind of weirdly and oddly pure and just kind of dumb enough. He’s just kind of stupid, well maybe not stupid, that’s too insulting..

EH – He’s inexperienced, not stupid.

MK – Ok, not stupid but just a bit slow, a little bit dumb, but just a sweet guy. I did this movie once called Multiplicity and I played four versions of a guy – he was cloned three times. And number three was extraordinarily sensitive and that was fun to play ‘cos I thought he was was just ‘swell’, that was the only word I could think of (to describe him). He meant well but he was very easily affected, he was a very sensitive character. Ken’s not quite like that ‘cos he not quite as bright but I love him of he’s kind of an innocent but just as unabashed and his attraction to (Barbie) was fun and freeing ‘cos you never get to play that kind of simplicity, you know.

Michael, were you flattered that Lee (Unkrich) and John (Lasseter) thought of you first?

MK – These days if someone said to me “You’re playing Bin Laden” I’d be like “All right”. No, I just laughed a lot when they told me.

John, as a veteran of all three Toy Story movies how you feel about Andy’s story coming to an end?

JR – The aspect that I loved about it is that I don’t think it is coming to an end – he’s paying it forward. I’m a big fan of the Judeo Christian ethic of think about other people instead of yourself and that’s exactly what he’s doing. I love the message at the end where he’s handing it over to the next generation.

MMK – The thing that doesn’t get thought of until you see the movie and even I, when they started telling the story, I thought “Oh, yeah, wow, ok…” but then when I saw it, is the emotion of this movie. It’s really wonderful but all Pixar movies do this. I sound like I’m the PR guy for Pixar which is getting a bit sickening but they really hit that wonderful blend of humour and filmmaking, true filmmaking.

JR – And I think one of the keys is that the people who make films here also have children and you find a lot of time that places where people make children’s products, they don’t have children. That doesn’t mean they are bad people – it just means they don’t understand kids. When you have kids you realise how absorbent they are and how they learn so much through osmosis. They understand that here are Pixar – it’s part of their DNA.

EH – I would like to say there’s a great deal of excitement in Toy Story 3 which makes it so much different from Toy Story 2 and 1. I just loved it.


Estelle, you get to do a lot more in this – you’re a bit of an action star…

EH – Well it’s only because of her love, her love for her husband. Never mind the other toys; she likes them but her husband, he’s her knight in shining armour.

Given the success of the film, do kids recognise your voices when you’re out and about?

JR – All the time. What I really enjoy happened three days ago at an airport. A parent came up and said ‘Hey, do you do the voice of the pig in Toy Story? My grandson is a big fan’ so I said ‘Get him on the phone.’ So he punches the number in the phone and says ‘Jason, there’s someone who wants to talk to you’, he hands me the phone and I’m like (adopts Hamm’s voice) ‘Hey Jason, this is Hammy the pig…’ and we had this great conversation. I do that quite often now?

MK – Do you still charge the kids ten dollars? (laughs)

JR – For charity events I do silent auctions where I’ll call your kids in one of my Pixar voices. Luckily they’re all the same voice.

Jodi, did you play with Barbie when you were younger?

JB – I did. I have a lot of Barbies, I had the dream house, I had the car and the swimming pool but it was really hard to get them to stay dressed because the clothes were very hard to take off and put on. And the shoes, they never made the shoes large enough to stay on the foot but I had those stand where you could just out them on there and they (the dolls) would stand up. But I was a huge Barbie collector; I loved playing with Barbie dolls.

Michael, did you play with Ken?

MK – I did not, no. I’d tell you if I did, I’m alright with it. One of the nice things about Ken, and this would be nice in life actually, is the plastic hair because there’s really not much work to do. You wake up in the morning and it’s pretty much done.

EH – But he is beautiful. He’s gorgeous.

MK – He is, he’s beautiful on the inside.


Traditionally voiceovers are recorded separately. Because of all the interaction between Ken and Barbie, did you guys get to record together at all?

JB – No. I wasn’t too happy about that. (To Michael) I mean I don’t know how you felt…

MK – I was thrilled frankly. (laughs) No, I think it would have been easier to do something with her.

JB – The first day he (Michael) walked out as I walked in and I don’t know if you remember but you were very sick that day and I went up to shake your hand and you said ‘I’m very sick, don’t shake my hand’ so I kind of patted you and said ‘Hi, my name is Jodi’. And when he left I asked Lee (Unkrich) ‘Could he stay for five minutes just to do a very quick read through?’ but Lee said ‘No, I think we already missed him’. It would of been really great.

MK – I had to rerecord all that from the first day because I was so stuffed up.

JB – On (The Little) Mermaid and other projects I’ve done, we have recorded together.

Were there any tears when you saw the finished film?

EH – I was tempted. I was moved, very moved but I didn’t cry.

Jodi, in all honesty how do you think the relationship between Ken and Barbie is going to work out?

JB – Oh it’s successful because the initials are going to change on that house. It’s going to be ‘B&K’ because that was Barbie’s Dream House and I never understood why Ken got the Dream House….

MK – It was the real estate market. It was a foreclosure and he picked it up.

JB – …but they are going to work together as a team and I think she’s going to wear the pants in the family for a little while to kind of train him.


What do you all think of 3D, not just when it comes to Toy Story 3, but in cinema in general?

JR I think as long as the story is strong, the film could be in black and white. I don’t think anybody really cares. I mean I don’t – I’m just speaking for myself but 3D is a great addition but if there’s no story then so what? There’s got to be a great story or else it don’t count.

JB – My kids love it. They love putting on the glasses and Imax 3D is very cool.

EH – I was thinking to myself yesterday ‘What are they going to come with after 3D?’ They must be coming up with something else like being able to taste it; when someone eats an apple you can taste an apple. But what if you don’t like apples?

Toy Story 3 is in cinemas now.

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang DVD – MSN exclusive Susanna White interview

by Andy Gibbons

Acclaimed family film Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang arrives on DVD and Blu-ray today so we grabbed a chat with director Susanna White to talk about sequels, animals and the appeal of a bygone age…

You weren’t part of the first Nanny McPhee film so how did you get involved in the sequel?

Well I was working on (Iraq war mini-series) Generation Kill in Africa when I was sent a brown envelope from my agent and I was completely transported by the script. I thought it took you back to an England I remember from my childhood; there was a freedom about it that I loved and also I really loved the character of Mrs, Green, this working mother who’s struggling to hold it all together. So I went and met first of all with the producer Lindsay Doran and with Working Title and then I went round to Emma’s house and met her and rest is history.

Susanna White (Director) at the camera.

It’s quite a large leap between Nanny McPhee and Generation Kill. Was it a tough transition for you?

Yes, (laughs) they are very different worlds. Actually it was much harder making Nanny McPhee than making Generation Kill because there was a real structure to working with the Marines and filming the big explosions and working in the desert – it was more of a military operation whereas there were more unpredictable elements on Nanny McPhee, working with children, working with animals.

They say never work with children or animals but on Nanny McPhee you worked with both. Which were more troublesome?

The children were really lovely, really wonderful and really picked things up very quickly; they became very good actors very fast by watching the people around them. They were working with some great actors like Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes and Emma Thompson. But the difficulty really was the hours they were allowed to work. We had to work very short days and then they had to have breaks every so often so you’d just be getting into a scene but then everything would have to stop while the children went off and had lessons for a bit so that was challenging. The animals though were just incredibly unpredictable; the script would say ‘A pig runs from A to B’ and then the pig would run from A to Z and you just had to accommodate that. I think I was very lucky to have a background in documentaries as I was able to go with the flow of it.

With the kids playing such a prominent role, how hard were they to cast?

It was my biggest worry going into it because I knew with Emma’s script we could attract really good adult actors but I’d seen a lot of films with bad acting from children and I really, really didn’t want to make one. So thousands of children came through our doors and I must have seen hundreds myself. But we had a mixture like Asa Butterfield, who I’d loved in The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and I thought had a great screen presence and knew he could act, to someone like Rosie (,who plays Celia) who had never been in a film before but just walked into an open audition; I put the camera on her and thought ‘My goodness, this girl’s got something special’. They had a wide level of experience but all got there in different ways?

The film got a great reception. What do you think it is about Nanny McPhee that appeals?

I think there are very few films that you can all go to and everyone in the family gets something out of it. I remember as a child going to see things like Fantasia or The Railway Children where the film would work on different levels and adults would get a lot of pleasure out of it as well as children and I think those film are very rare now; I think the great thing about Nanny McPhee is that it’s a film that Granny’s going to want to see, men are going to want to see it for the gorgeous Maggie Gyllenhaal , women want to go see it because of the character of Mrs. Green or Rhys Ifans or Ralph Fiennes and hopefully your kids are giggling away at flying pigs and the delight of that world. And I think also there’s a mythical quality to Nanny McPhee that appeals to people – the idea that she starts out ugly but then as the children learn to behave she becomes beautiful and I think people respond to that.

You’re a mother – did that shape your approach to the film at all and especially to Nannies?

Yeah, it did. Generation Kill isn’t something that my kids could watch and I wanted to make a something for them that they’d get a lot out of and they came to the set a lot and were very involved. And I’m sure my own experience of having Nannies would our children feed into it. One of my favourite scenes is at the end when Nanny McPhee is leaving and Maggie Gyllenhaal says ‘Please don’t go, I need you desperately’. There have been scenes like that when I’ve had a Nanny leave and I’ve been due on set somewhere.

How hands on are you when it comes to decided what extras go on the DVD?

Well I kept an eye on the deleted scenes and what we showed there and I did the commentary myself so I was quite involved in packaging all of that.

Finally,any chance of a third film?

There’s talk of it if this film carries on doing as well as it has done; it opens in America in August so we’ll see how that goes down but Emma has certainly started dreaming up scenarios for Nanny McPhee 3 so we’ll see.

NannyM_50963_DVD3DPackshot_28132_ 1

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 19 July from Universal Pictures

Toy Story 3 – MSN exclusive Jeff Garlin, Joan Cusack and Kristen Schaal interview

by Andy Gibbons

In the second of our four exclusive interviews, I sat down with Jeff Garlin (who voices newcomer unicorn Buttercup), Joan Cusack (Jessie) and the hilarious Kristen Schaal (new dinosaur Trixie) over a cup of tea to talk Toy Story 3.

Again, beware spoilers…..


Joan, does it get easier coming back to Jessie second time round?

JC – Yeah, definitely. I think working with Pixar is sort of top of the line because it’s so thought out and the people are so creative and thoughtful and collaborative, so there’s no negativity with anything you do with it. It’s like the best working experience you can have.

Were you recorded alone or did you interact with the other actors?

JC – You’re always by yourself. I don’t know. (To Jeff) In Wall-E were you ever with anyone else?

JG – In Wall-E I was the only one talking so if there were other actors they were just there staring at me. No, I was always by myself. And I’ve actually talked to other people who’ve worked on other Pixar movies and you’re always by yourself.

KS – I did volunteer when Jeff was recording Wall-E to come in and stare at him.

JG – I actually said no. You were too salty and sultry and I would lose my concentration.

Kristen, this is your first Pixar movie. Were you a Pixar fan and how was it finally hearing your voice on screen?

KS – It’s incredible. I am a Pixar and when I got a chance to audition it was like “Oh really! Can this get any better?” Hearing the voice was amazing and they really do get exactly what they want and what they want is so good that when I heard my voice back I was like “Hey that’s some of the best voice work I’ve ever done.”

Kristen, did you study Rex’s performances in the other films to get into a dinosaur frame of mind?

KS – No because I felt like he’s so charming and contagious that I’d just mimic his performance and that would be bad. I love Rex.

Joan, how were you when you read the script and realised that it would probably be the end of the toys story with Andy?

JC – You know you don’t read the script. It’s always over a period of a couple of years and you just do different sections of it at a time and then they rework it and rethink it and then you come in and do dome more. But I knew when I came to be the most serious part f the movie that they (Pixar) were really going for it. I think with all of the success they’ve had and all of the luxury to be thoughtful and creative in such a safe environment where people can do their work and they’re not going to get fired and they work with the same people over and over again, they went for making a real movie and I think it was pretty cool.

Were there any tears when you watch the finished film?

JC – You know there were.

JG – There are a few moments that are really hard to take, at least without your eyes getting watery. I don’t know if I started to cry which I’ve done in movies before but my eyes were definitely tearing up a couple of times. Even that moment when Andy’s mom walks into his room and she realises (that he’s going to college). I mean, Oh my God, that’s just good night nurse. That kills. And without saying anything too specific, the ending is so touching.


The scene at the furnace was tough…

JG – Oh that was intense. I actually did something horrible. I actually convinced the woman doing my make up for an interview said “Everyone seems quite affected by the movie, it seems quite emotional”. So I said to her “Well you know what happens? All the main characters die, they all burn in an incinerator but what do I care? I’m one of the new characters, I don’t burn. The next movie is all about me.” And as if on cue, people who had seen the movie that day came in and I would say to them “Boy, that incinerator. That was pretty intense wasn’t it?” And they would all go “It was so scary”. So of course this poor make-up artist was like “Wow, you’re right”. And I never corrected it either.

Voice over work can be very tiring. What did you guys do to get through it?

KS – Caffeine. Caffeine. It’s the elixir.

JG – Water for me and just the honour and excitement of being in a Pixar movie. I stayed pretty amped and I’ve done it sick before but I never feel like “Man, I wish I could be boating” or “I wish I could be this or that”.

KS – I get a long cord just like Bjork and they let me run all over Emeryville (where Pixar is based). It’s like a two mile long cord and I’m running through the streets just shouting my lines and they’re like “You’ve got it Kristen”.

Jeff, I guess this is your first time playing a fluffy horse. What was your motivation for Buttercup?

JG – That I signed a contract and was excited to be in the movie. My motivation is always that I’m there, that I’ve been hired and I’m working. I knew they wanted me to play the character like myself which is what I did. It wasn’t like “Do a fluffy voice”, it was like, and excuse me for going third person, Jeff Garlin and Buttercup the Unicorn are the same person. I’ve been asked numerous times if it’s a boy or a girl but I didn’t know if Unicorns have sex.

KS – They can’t reproduce, that’s what they’re extinct.

JC – The horn gets in the way.

JG – There was no thought process when it came to me saying my lines. All I asked was that the room I was in was air-conditioned because I’m big on comfort.


Was there any tension between you and Timothy Dalton (who voices Mr. Prickypants) off set?

JG – I’ve never met him. I hear he’s coming tomorrow so I look forward to meeting him. I don’t even know if he’ll know who I am or that we’re both in the movie together. I never assume anyone knows who I am which is a great way to be. You never screw yourself by doing that. It can only work out well.

KS – And I assume that everybody is famous so that helps too. I say “I love your work, I love your work” no matter who they are.

How many brownie points do you get as a parent being in a movie like this?

JG – I gotta be honest, I don’t get any brownie points ever except by being a kind, loving father. (My kids) don’t give a crap about what I do. They’re thrilled that I’m in this movie and they’re going to have fun but they won’t like me any better because of it. I’d be in a sad relationship with my children if they liked me based on my current project. Then they’d be like everyone else in LA. I know when I walk in my house, whatever state my career is in, my children are thrilled to see me and that’s the greatest thing in the world.

JC – I gotta say when I was doing Toy Story 2 it was really cool that I was in a movie with Buzz Lightyear because I have boys and they were little, like three and six, so that was pretty cool. They didn’t really care about the Jessie part.

What do you like about Jessie?

JC – I think Jessie is a pretty good role model actually because she feels things deeply but she learns from her feelings so it’s not like she’s just feeling things and is out of control. And she doesn’t feel like being a girl is a plus or a minus – it’s a not issue. I think she is positive and feels like you can do things and I like too that she believe s that kids are important and she wants to figure out a way to do something meaningful for kids, that she wants them to have fun and she feels that their purpose is to make children happy. I like that when she mistakenly thinks “This is it” and they’re about to be thrown away that she doesn’t totally cry in her soup about it, that she figures out something else they can do that would be purposeful and meaningful. But when she realises that was wrong she apologies. Those are all good little models of how to be for kids.

The merchandise for the Toy Story films is huge – have you played with your characters toys yet?

JG – I have a little Buttercup. I haven’t really played with it – but that is an option. If I’m in the mood I will play with Buttercup. But I will buy all the Buttercups. I have all the Captains from Wall-E. But neither have I tried to encourage my children to play with them. I used to try and get and get my children to watch various things. “Are you sure you don’t want to watch Daddy Day Care?” “No”. “Are you sure you don’t want to play the Wall-E video game over Madden?” “No, we want to play Madden”.

KS – I didn’t receive a Trixie. What’s going on Jeff?

JG – Here’s what you should know Kristen. I received a letter saying “You’re one of the special people in the movie…”

KS – Oh, I want that letter! Is there a Trixie doll? There’s gotta be because I will play with it. I will play extensively with it and I’ll let my imaginary kids play with it too.


As parents, what did you do with your children’s cast off toys? Did they get donated or thrown away?

JG – My wife and I have kept a few for sentimental reasons but all of the others we’ve given away to other children or charity or something like that. We’ve never thrown them away. I know for sure the stuffed animals that meant a lot to them when they were little, my older boy had a thing called Cubby that was a little Chicago Cubs bear, we kept and probably a few others. But the rest we gave away.

What about you guys? Do you remember ever giving away your toys?

KS – I still have all my toys. They’re in my childhood room and they’re just sitting there. There was one doll that haunted me that I thought was going to scratch my eyes out in the middle of the night. That doll, my Mom says she gave away but I’m worried that I’ll be in the basement when I go home And I’ll move a box and there she’ll be, ready to kill me.

JG – I can tell you I wish I had all my toys from when I was a kid. Looking back, the one that sticks with me which is strange, I had a Captain America action figure when I was like five but it meant so much to me. And I remember the most heartbroken I was about my Mom giving something away was my baseball cards. We moved from Chicago to Florida and we used to keep the cards in the big Baskin Robbins ice cream containers and she sold each barrel of cards, primarily filled with 1968 through 1972 baseball cards in very nice condition, for a quarter each so she made a dollar fifty on what was valued at tens of thousands for sure now.

JC – I’m trying to think ‘cos I feel like we did a lot of forts and stuff. We did a lot of going under the porch and find things like an old rug.

JG – Joan’s house, the house she grew up in, is truly an adventure. I think it’s the coolest house I’ve ever been in. I love all the different rooms.

JC – There were five of us. Me and my older sister would play house a lot and make things. The only doll I remember was the Barbie head, not the whole doll. It was a head and you could do make-up on it.

Toy Story 3 is in UK cinemas from July 19th

Legend Of The Guardians preview

by Andy Gibbons

I was invited by Warner Bros. to take a sneak peak today at some footage from their upcoming family animation Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – and I have to say I was mightily impressed. For those who don’t know anything about the film, here’s the official blurb from WB:

‘Acclaimed filmmaker Zack Snyder makes his animation debut with the fantasy family adventure “Legend of The Guardians” based on the beloved books by Kathryn Lasky. The film follows Soren, a young owl enthralled by his father’s epic stories of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who had fought a great battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones.

While Soren dreams of someday joining his heroes, his older brother, Kludd, scoffs at the notion, and yearns to hunt, fly and steal his father’s favour from his younger sibling. But Kludd’s jealousy has terrible consequences—causing both owlets to fall from their treetop home and right into the talons of the Pure Ones. Now it is up to Soren to make a daring escape with the help of other brave young owls. Together they soar across the sea and through the mist to find the Great Tree, home of the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole—Soren’s only hope of defeating the Pure Ones and saving the owl kingdoms.’

Legend of the Guardians

We were treated to 21 mins of 3D footage, all of which was introduced on screen by Snyder, and while I’m still a little unconvinced about certain aspects of the plot, the design and overall look of the film is stunning. One scene we saw that really stands out sees Soren being taught how to fly in a storm by wise old owl Ezylryb; the pelting rain, soaked feathers and raging sea looked fantastic as Snyder allows the camera to swoop around the characters and really get involved while the 3D gives everything on-screen palpable depth. Australian animation house Animal Logic, the guys behind the visuals, have done themselves proud.

As a filmmaker, I have to admit that I’m not the world’s biggest Zack Snyder fan – I loved 300 yet hated Watchmen – but from what I saw today he may well have made one of the best looking films of the year and I can’t wait to see Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole when it hits UK cinemas on October 15th.

Legend of the Guardians

Cruise makes M:I-4 official

by Andy Gibbons

After loads of unconfirmed reports and rumours, Tom Cruise has now made it official – he is coming back as secret agent extraordinaire Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible IV!!

A post on Cruise’s website reads:

‘It’s official! Tom Cruise is returning in the role of Ethan Hunt for the upcoming Mission Impossible IV!!

Paramount Pictures confirmed Tom will not only be producing “M:I-4,” but reprising his iconic role for the latest chapter in the action movie franchise, according to a studio press release. Coming off the heels of the new summer action comedy, Knight and Day, Tom keeps ramping up adrenaline thrills for the fans!’


There has been some speculation that the poor performance of Knight and Day at the US box office will see Cruise’s character take on mentor role to a younger lead in M:I-4.

Thor Gods revealed

by Andy Gibbons

The Los Angeles Times has got a photo from Marvel Studios’ Thor which shows featuring Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and Chris Hemsworth as Thor, complete with his hammer.


Their article also reveals that both Thor and his Avengers stable-mate Captain America will hit the big screen in 3D. You can find out more but clicking on the link above.

Toy Story 3 – MSN exclusive Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson interview

by Andy Gibbons

As regular readers of this blog will know, I recently had the chance to pop over to Pixar in California and have a chat with some of the talented folks behind the really rather good Toy Story 3 and now’s the time to share. First up is director Lee Unkrich (LU) and his producing partner Darla K. Anderson (DKA) as they talk about the pressures involved in maintaining the Toy Story legacy, the evolution of technology and how the story came about.

But before you read on, be aware that there are a few mild spoilers lurking within…..


This is the third time back to Toy Story – how much pressure was there on you not to tarnish the Toy Story legacy?

LU – Well huge, as you can imagine. Imagine if any of you were asked to director Toy Story 3 and the pressure you would feel, I mean that’s what I had. I had kind of double pressure too actually ‘cos I was also being asked to direct a new Pixar movie and any director at Pixar who’s up at bat making the next film doesn’t want to make the one that’s a dud. We’ve had this fortunate and unprecedented string of ten hits so there’s a huge amount of pressure on each director but again I had double pressure because I had that pressure but I also had the pressure to make a sequel to two of the most beloved and critically acclaimed films of all time so it was a responsibility I didn’t take at all lightly.

You’ve added a lot of new characters in this film. Was there ever a question of limit to the new characters you could create or were you given free range as far as expanding the cast list?

LU – It was all completely driven by the story we were telling. When we kicked this off, no one ever said ‘You know we need to have a bunch of new characters in this movie. Let’s make ‘em good’. It was driven 100% by the story we had to tell. We knew the toys were going to end up at day care and we did a lot of research at day care centres and there are a ton of toys there and we wanted to be truthful to that and so that meant we had to invent a lot of new toys. And then we had these scenes at Bonnie’s house and we knew she would have to have toys herself so it ended up being one of the big challenges of the movie.

DKA – When you have so many characters and they have a limited amount of screen time, you have to really reduce their performance down to its very essence so you get them immediately.

LU – It’s tricky because when you have a lot of characters and a big ensemble cast you can fall into the trap where no-one gets enough attention and you don’t have a clear though line so we worked very hard and were very disciplined to remember that this is Woody’s story that we’re telling and Woody is the most important person in the film and everyone kind of tapers from there in importance. We want everybody to be engaging, entertaining and appealing but sometimes that means a character can only have five lines in the movie but that’s enough and it’s funny.

Who’s you favourite character?

LU – In Toy Story 3? Of the new characters I have an affinity for Big Baby myself. And of the old ones, I don’t know that I have a favourite. Seriously they are like family and I think of that big crazy collection of toys as my big crazy family.

In the story there seems that a lot of attention is paid to men’s roles and women’s roles being equal – how much time is given to that?

LU – Well this is the female police sitting right next to me (Darla laughs). Seriously there are a lot of men at Pixar and we’re very conscious of wanting to have very strong female parts in the movies and it hasn’t always happened on all of the films. But we worked at it and I’m glad to hear you say that because we worked really hard to find that balance in this film between male and female characters and not only female characters but strong female characters.

DKA – We really wanted Barbie to be strong and grow with the film and come out as really smart so it was fun to play with that.


Speaking of Barbie and Ken, do you as a producer have to deal with Mattel and do they look over your shoulder asking ‘What are you going to do with our characters?’

DKA – Well as you know Barbie was in Toy Story 2 and whenever you have a character who is so important in a film we develop a trusting relationship so we found out from Mattel what was important to them and worked within their parameters but they trusted us so went for a couple of years without showing it to them and when the film was all up reels then we showed it to them, they loved it.

LU – They were involved. They didn’t give us carte blanche to do whatever we wanted but they didn’t have script approval. We pitched them our concept of Ken and why we thought he was funny and how we thought we could use him in the film. And they trusted us that we weren’t going to do anything inappropriate with the character.

When did you first speak to them about using the Ken in the movie?

LU – Well when we’re thinking of taking a pre-existing toy and using them in the movie we start thinking ‘Well what kind of personality would this toy have?’ and we thought we this is a toy who’s a guy but he’s a girls toy. How’s that going to make a toy feel? And then on top of that we knew that Ken doesn’t have equal standing with Barbie – Ken really is an accessory and he’s no more important than a pair of shoes or a purse.

DKA – And that’s something we learned from Mattel. No matter how hard they tried they could never get his price point above $9.99 over all these years.

Where did you arrive at Michael Keaton as Ken’s voice?

LU – Well we thought this is probably going to be a really insecure toy and probably really vain. He’s getting dressed up in clothes a lot. Does he enjoy that? Maybe? There are different ways we could have gone with the character but we decided to make him this very vain, vapid, insecure, shallow character. Michael Keaton’s name came to the table really the first day we started talking about Ken. We were kicking around the names of some people who could maybe pull it off and we started talking about Michael. We’d worked with him previously on Cars – he played the character Chick Hicks – and John Lasseter had an amazing time working with him, he’s really funny, really inventive, very improvisational and so thankfully when we approached him to do Ken he was on board. I think he’s hilarious and a lot of the stuff that’s funny in the movie is stuff that he just kind of improvised in the moment in the recording studio.

The production notes that come with the film say that Toy Story 3 is all about change. How has Pixar changed since the last Toy Story and are there any parallels between the film and the studio?

DKA – Well we’ve all grown up. It’s been eleven years since the last Toy Story film and we’ve gotten married, had kids, we’ve lost some friends along the way and I think some of those parallels have naturally and unconsciously made their way into the film. And Pixar is constantly changing in the best way because we have a constant influx of new energy and new hires and new artists coming in.

LU – A lot of us were in our mid-twenties when we made Toy Story and now I’m 42, John’s even older.

DKA – I’m 21 (laughs)

LU – Are we more mature? I don’t think we take ourselves any more seriously but we think about life differently that we did when we were in our mid-twenties and I think that naturally, when an artist is creating a piece or making a movie, a lot of that ends up in the film so I think the Pixar films have got more mature as they’ve gone on.

How has the technology changed over the same period?

LU – Not a lot is the same as we used way back when. Everything is kind of done differently. You know we’re talking about 15 years of software development that’s gone on since then and now so the fundamentals are very much the same but the software has changed and the computers have got a lot faster too. Just to give you an example, on Toy Story 3 rendering a single, average frame takes hours and hours but when we resurrected the old files from Toy Story and Toy Story 2 and re-rendered them for the 3D versions on our modern computers, the computers are now so fast that the rendering happened almost in real time.

What was the philosophy going into the 3D on this film?

LU – We really didn’t think about it a lot. I didn’t want the fact that we were making a 3D film to inform my decisions as a filmmaker. I just wanted to make a good movie so no matter how people are watching it because people are going to see this in 3D but they are also going to see it in 2D and I just wanted to tell a good story. We learned a lot when we re-did Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3D. Those films weren’t designed to be released stereoscopically in 3D but they look fantastic and I just think that peaks for the fact that we were trying to make films that were highly cinematic and staged in depth and did things a lot differently than hand drawn animation was doing at the time.

DKA – And on both of those films Lee was the director of photography in essence.

LU – So since I had done all that on those films and they looked great in 3D I thought ‘Well I just need to make this like I would make any other film’ and trust the process. The 3D team that’s lead by Bob Whitehill is fantastic and he took my work and made it look really, really great and I didn’t really have to be too involved with the process.

Seeing as Toy Story is such a flagship brand for Pixar, will there more from the franchise or has Toy Story 3 bought things to an end?

LU – Well we did announce just last week that we’re making a short, a new short film using Toy Story characters so we want to keep the characters alive. But in the case of Toy Story 3, I very specifically wanted to end the story of these toys and their relationship with Andy. I wanted to tell a complete story, almost as if all three films were part of one grand story we were telling and I think we’ve wrapped it up really nicely. That being said, I think people love the characters and will want to see them doing something, whether it’s short films or another movie someday. We don’t know, we don’t have any plans for that.

DKA – We really just concentrated on this film in the context of a trilogy and also if you hadn’t seen the other two films, it would be a complete movie going experience in its own right.


Is there ever any chance of any characters from one Pixar film crossing over into another franchise?

DKA – Probably not. We just focus on the story and whatever serves the story so if there are elements that are similar in other stories, it just so happened to be that it served the current story as best it could. We have sneaks of other characters as a fun inside thing that we’ve done.

LU – Yeah, anyone’s whose watched our films will know that we have lots of little inside jokes and references to other movies. Lotso (Huggin’ Bear) appeared in Up and we’ve started a little tradition of giving a little sneak peak of a character in our next film in the current one so there is a character from Cars 2 that makes an appearance somewhere in Toy Story 3.

But you didn’t have any toys from the previous Pixar films in the junkyard scene? That would be bad…

LU – That would be really sad.

DKA – No, there are lots of pizza boxes.

LU – But Buzz has Buy And Large brand batteries in his back which is kind of a nod to where the world is heading with Buy And Large leading to the world of Wall-E so we like doing little fun things like that.

As a director, were you there at the beginning of the story? Did you decide that Andy was going to college and that the toys were going to day care?

LU – At the very beginning of this John (Lasseter) asked me to direct the movie and within a couple of weeks we went on an offsite, me and John and Andrew (Stanton) and Darla and Pete (Docter) and a few other folks who has come up with the original Toy Story. And we spent two days hashing out the beginnings of this movie and it was at that two day offsite we decided that Andy was going to be grown up and heading off to college and that the toys were going to end up at day care and a few other details from the movie – we started talking about Lotso at that meeting. So we got a lot of work done in those two and half days but after that it was two and half years of story development after that to flesh out all the details and really work out the story.

DKA – The place that we went to was the same place that we went to when we created Toy Story, it was out brainstorming place for Toy Story.

LU – It’s called Poet’s Loft in Tomales Bay.

Toy Story 3 is in cinemas from July 19th.