If you’ve seen the movies “Finding Nemo”, “Toy Story 2” or “Star Wars: Episode I”, then you may have heard of Gary Rydstrom, the winner of seven Academy Awards® for sound and sound editing. He’s also the director of George Lucas’ new animated film “Strange Magic“.
About the Movie:
“Strange Magic”follows the story of two separate kingdoms, magical and mysterious. When one animal passes the border it starts a war between the two kingdoms. Inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the movie is filled with popular songs from the past six decades to help tell the story of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures.
While at Skywalker Ranch, I was blessed to interview Mr. Rystrom. Here are some highlights from thr interview below, please feel free to share with your friends by clicking the share buttons.
What it was about this story that attracted you as a storyteller and filmmaker?
I was really attracted to it, as George is, and American Graffiti is one of my favorite movies and- and the use of song to help tell a story was really attractive to me. It was such a great idea to tell a love story and if you think about it the songs in the movie that are love songs. There aren’t that many positive love songs, which I always like to point out, you know, because love is hard it’s not always happy.
Did you have a character that you were most engaged by?
I actually like the Bog King because having your heart broken is a natural thing, I think we’ve all gone through. It’s when you get your heart broken, you say that’s it, I’m not going to let myself be vulnerable ever again. He goes to an extreme but it’s something that I can relate to, you know. It’s so painful to go through something that makes you feel hurt and less than you should be. You just don’t want to do it again, so your solution is to put up this shield and never let anyone in again. I know we all do that and- and I thought he was someone I could relate too.
Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to work with the incredible cast for the film?
Well casting is pretty key for a movie like this and as George said, you have to find people who both act and sing. The whole Alan Cumming, both actor and singer amazing, Evan Rachel Wood is as good a singer as she is an actress.
Sam Palladio who plays Roland is an amazing singer, as well as a very funny actor. Then Kristin Chenoweth who is funny and as I have said before I was in the room with her and when she hit some of those high notes in “Love Is Strange”, it was like my glasses broke; it was amazing.
For years again, I was doing sound effects as a career and I hadn’t really worked with actors much. Then as I started to for animation and I love being in the room with actors. It’s really hard for them, because they’re acting alone without other actors. You describe the scene as best you can, you do line readings with them to set up the scene. Elijah made me work the hardest, because I would line read with him, but he’s very active and it requires a lot of energy. So I was often playing either the Sugar Plum Fairy or Dawn. I was actually pretty good at it.
But it’s fun to help draw that out from the actors and be surprised by what they brought to it. They all brought their own personalities to the characters once we cast them. Simple things, like Alan Cumming is Scottish and the Bog King has about a twenty percent Scottish accent. Evan Rachel Wood is very much like Marianne but she’s the sweetest, she’s got the most amazing happy laugh. She can be tough as nails if she needs to be. They all brought something of themselves to the role. So, I love what the actors brought to this.
It was inspired by Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Was the progression in anyway from Midsummer Night’s Dream or toward it?
I think what’s inspiring mostly, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, what I love about that story is that people find love in one night, and our story takes place in one night and one day. People find love and-it’s a multiple love story. An unexpected love story, so I think that’s what’s inspired by Shakespeare and luckily, Shakespeare’s lawyers I think are long dead so we’re, we’re safe
The visual arts in this film is stunning, it’s beautiful, were you inspired by any particular artist or fairy artists?
Well this is a lot about artwork that goes back to, you know, some of the early stuff that George did. I think they drew inspiration from classic sort of fairy tale art and some people did classic fairies, but made it their own. There is, as George said, it has a realism to it, so it’s not quite as ethereal some classic fairy art might be from the classic fairy books.
So I think all that was drawn together was under the idea that make it a part of our world. You know, the backyard the fairies were drawn from butterflies. So if we see the fairies from a distance, we just think they’re butterflies. So that works for the story as well as a design for characters like Bog King and some of the visual mashups of insects and different creatures.
How hard was it to let go of the sound design aspect of the movie?
The producer will tell you that I gave lots and lots of input, the mix might have gone on a little longer than it could have. It’s funny that in my directing career and directing shorts at Pixar, the hardest thing for me to do is the mix, it’s weird, you’d think it’d be the easiest thing. But it is hard, not to be able to physically do what you know you can do but in this case I worked, Tom Johnson, who is the lead mixer and the re-recording mixer on this movie. I went to school with him at USC Cinema School. And he mixed my first movie when I made, a sixteen millimeter film at USC.
What is your favorite song in the movie?
Well the, the, I’ll give two answers. One that I, ‘Strange Magic’ is, is my favorite musical moment in the movie because it kind of sums up the movie, it’s a beautiful song. An ELO song, Evan Rachel Wood and Al Cumming sing it beautifully and the arrangement of it is beautiful. It’s a duet, and originally, it’s not a duet. It is one of my favorite looking sequences in the movie. So that works. But, the moment that makes me cry and the song that makes me cry every time, is when Elijah sings ‘Three Little Birds’ to Dawn at the end.
I feel very honored and blessed to be given such an amazing opportunity. I would like to thank Disney/Pixar & Touchstone Pictures for inviting me to this event.
STRANGE MAGIC opens in theatres everywhere on January 23rd!
Strange Magic Kids Activities:
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