IAR Attends DreamWorks Animation's 2012 Film Presentation

Wednesday, 14 March 2012 16:39 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR Attends DreamWorks Animation's 2012 Film Presentation

It was a very animated morning at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood on Wednesday as filmmakers, actors, executives and press gathered for DreamWorks Animation’s 2012 Film Preview. The studio was prepared to show sneak peeks of two of their most anticipated upcoming 3D computer animated films including Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, and Rise of the Guardians. The studio is coming off of an incredible year in 2011 with both of their animated projects, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots, being nominated for Best Animated Film at this years Academy Awards. The studio is hoping to repeat that success in 2012 with its new slate of animated projects.

First up, we heard from Madagascar 3 directors Tom McGrathEric Darnell and Conrad Vernon, who gave us the rundown on the new film, which was written by Greenberg director Noah Baumbach. The film takes place right where the last one left off, with our heroes desperately trying to return home to New York after escaping Africa. In addition to the return of Ben Stiller (Zoolander), Chris Rock (Grown Ups), David Schwimmer (TV’s Friends), and Jada Pinkett Smith (The Matrix Reloaded), the new film will also feature the voice work of Bryan Cranston (Drive), Jessica Chastain (The Help),Martin Short (Innerspace), and Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Fargo), who are all new to the franchise.

Actress Jada Pinket Smith was on hand to introduce the first twenty-five minutes of the new film for the audience. “I have to say this was the first time as an actress that I had to work with three directors at the same time and it was very easy,” Smith explained. “It's been a blessing to work with such a great and talented group of people for this movie and I hope you enjoy watching this as much as I enjoy participating in making it.”

While we were warned that the animation we were watching was not completed, I have to say that it looked really good and featured very sharp colors and images. When the film is finally released on June 8th, it will be in 3D but the footage we saw was not. The movie begins in Monte Carlo where Alex (Stiller), Marty (Rock), Melman (Schwimmer), and Gloria (Smith) have located the penguins and chimpanzees, who are posing as a human and gambling in the casino. In a sequence that seems lifted right out of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, our four heroes attempt to covertly capture their former allies in order to use their special plane to get back to New York. Unfortunately, things go wrong when the group cannot decide who their real leader is and they are spotted by the humans, who call animal control specialist Captain Chantel DuBois (McDormand) to round up the animals. DuBois is similar to the Tommy Lee Jones character from The Fugitive and soon a Terminator 2 style chase scene breaks out with DuBois in hot pursuit of her prey. This culminates in a Matrix inspired scene on a rooftop complete with the monkey’s flying contraption instead of a helicopter and DuBois dodging bananas rather than bullets.

Our heroes escape along with the monkeys and penguins in their flying machine, only to crash near the train tracks in a scene reminiscent of Super 8. With DuBois still on their tales, Alex and his friends then stowaway with a group of circus performing animals led by a Russian tiger named Vitaly (Cranston), an Italian jaguar named Gia (Chastain) and a Italian sea lion named Stefano (Short). While Vitaly does not take to the new group of animals right away, Gia convinces him to let them stay. Using money that the monkeys and penguins won at the casino, they buy the circus from the clowns that own it. Alex’s plan is to travel across Europe posing as circus performing animals, eventually making their way back to the United States and their home in New York. But if DuBois has anything to say about it, our furry heroes will never make it to America and instead will be stuffed and mounted on her wall of trophies. After the screening, we were also given a look at the upcoming trailer for the film, which was shown in 3D. As one would expect after last years crop of DreamWorks animated films, the 3D was excellent and added wonderfully to the narrative of the film.

Next up, director Peter Ramsey took to the stage to discuss his new film Rise of the Guardians, which was produced by Hellboy director Guillermo Del Toro. The film is based on William Joyce’s “The Guardians of Childhood” book series, which features a group of heroes including Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and Jack Frost all battling the evil Nightmare King (A.K.A. The Boogeyman). Just think of it as a holiday themed version of The Avengers. The cast for the film is fantastic and each voice actor is perfectly cast for their role. Alec Baldwin (TV's 30 Rock) stars as Nicholas St. North (Santa Clause), who is described as a warrior with “naughty” tattooed on one arm and “nice” tattooed on the other. Hugh Jackman (Real Steel) plays E. Aster Bunnymund (Easter Bunny), who Ramsey referred to as the Sundance Kid to Santa’s Butch Cassidy. Actress Isla Fisher (Rango) voices Tooth (Tooth Fairy), a Tinker Bell type fairy that is obsessed with the treasure buried in your unwanted teeth, which are actually your greatest childhood memories. While Sandy is a silent character (no famous voice actor needed), Jack Frost is played by Chris Pine (Star Trek) and is a reluctant hero recruited to be the newest member of the team. Our heroes must assemble to defeat Pitch, the Nightmare King, who is voiced by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) and dead set on sending the world into eternal darkness.

On hand to introduce fifteen minutes of footage from the film was Jack Frost himself, actor Chris Pine. “Well I'm not really sure why I was asked to do this because when you can get Mr. Alec Baldwin, you should go with him,” joked Pine. “I think for me what was most special about this was the idea that the imagination is powerful. As an actor, everything you learn is that there's something about the beauty of childhood that you shouldn't lose, that you want to get back to. It's always striving to get back to this joyful, uncynical time where anything is possible and that is the fight of this movie. That is the fight of these guardians, it’s the fight against cynicism and adulthood where things are compartmentalized and there are boundaries, barriers and walls put up. That was really what resonated with me,” Pine explained. “Also, I think what is really important to the story is the idea of the outsider, and poor Jack begins this not only not being believed in by anyone, but not really having a community, not really having any friends for hundreds and hundreds of years, if you can only imagine. I think that idea, that feeling of being alone, wanting friendship and wanting a community is very human and something we all feel and want. I'm honored to be a part of this, I've never really done an animated film before and I really enjoy the process. I feel like it's one of constant exploration, there's always stuff to find and I love the people involved.”

Without further ado we got to see our first scene from the upcoming film. The scene essentially was the origin story for Jack Frost and features the character realizing that he is no longer human. He now has the ability to turn anything he touches to ice, however he is invisible to the rest of mankind. Jack curses the moon, which he blames for his current predicament. The next scene introduces us to Nicholas St. North and shows us that this is not your daddy’s Santa Clause. He is a huge man, a warrior as was previously mentioned who runs his North Pole headquarters like a military facility. Think Batman in his Batcave. North is surrounded by tiny elves who look like gnomes and gigantic Yetis that help North with his seasonal duties. When North becomes aware that Pitch has returned to destroy the world, he assembles the team along with their new recruit. But Frost isn’t eager to join up, until North admits who chose him for the team … the Moon. In this scene we were given our first chance to hear Jackman as Bunnymund, as well as Baldwin as North, and I cannot think of two actors better suited for those roles.

I have to say that the animation was very impressive and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the film when it is released on November 21st. Finally, we had a chance to peep the film’s trailer, which like the movie itself will be released in 3D. The trailer will be online and in theaters on April 6th and if the excellent 3D in the trailer is any indication on how the entire film will turn out, Rise of the Guardians is one film that kids and adults alike will not want to miss this holiday season. 

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted will be unleashed in theaters on June 8th. 

Rise of the Guardians will begin defending theaters on November 21st. 

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