Director Chris Wedge Talks 'Epic' and Screens Scenes from the Film

Saturday, 23 March 2013 15:38 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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Director Chris Wedge Talks 'Epic' and Screens Scenes from the Film

Scheduled to open in theaters on May 24th is the new 3D computer animated fantasy-adventure Epic from director Chris Wedge (Ice Age). The film is loosely based on author William Joyce’s (Rise of the Guardians) children’s novel The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, and features the voice talents of Colin Farrell (Total Recall), Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables), Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games), Beyonce Knowles (Dreams Girls) and two-time Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) among others. 

The film follows the story of a teenage girl named Mary Katherine (Seyfried) who is miniaturized and transported to a deep forest where a battle between the Leafmen and the Boggans is taking place. The Leafmen are a group of tiny heroes who are led by Ronin (Farrell), along with his sidekick Nod (Hutcherson), and serve Queen Tara (Knowles), the Queen of the forest. The leader of the Boggans, Mandrake (Waltz), will stop at nothing to take away the Queen’s power and destroy the forest and their way of life. In addition to Seyfried, Farrell, Hutcherson, Knowles, and Waltz, the film also features the voice talents of Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses), Aziz Ansari (30 Minutes or Less), Chris O’Dowd (This Is 40), Judah Friedlander (TV’s 30 Rock), and musicians Steven Tyler, and Pitbull

I was recently invited to the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles to have an advanced look at scenes from the film, as well as the new 3D trailer, which is currently available online, and speak with filmmaker Chris Wedge

During the presentation we had a chance to screen seven scenes from the film, in addition to the new trailer. The first clip was basically an introduction the story that featured Professor Bomba (Sudeikis), who is Mary Katherine’s estranged father and obsessed with proving that the Leafmen exist. His quest to reveal their existence ruined his marriage, strained his relationship with his daughter, and basically made him a laughing stock in the scientific community. The scene also introduced up to Ronin who was fighting the Boggans. In the second clip, Mary Katherine visits her father and learns more about the Leafmen, but has a hard time believing what her father tells her. 

In the third scene we screened we are introduced to Mud and Grub (Ansari and O’Dowd), a slug and a snail, respectively, that are helping the Queen pick an heir to her thrown. Their job is to help her pick the right pod to give her power to, and if she does this then the forest will continue, however, Mandrake desperately wants to stop this from happening. In the forth clip, which is a continuation of the previous one, the Boggans attack the ceremony and Ronin defends the Queen, while Mary Katherine becomes lost in the forest. Mary Katherine eventually saves Tara from Mandrake and must take the pod to protect it, which in turn shrinks her to the size of the Leafmen. Mary Katherine then teams with Ronin, Nod, Mub and Grub, to protect the pod and save the forest. But in order to do so they’ll need birds to fly them around, which they try to win in a race from a shady character named Bufo played by Pitbull (think the pod race scene from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace). 

In the fifth scene our heroes are chased into a hole and are forced to fight a rat, which is gigantic in proportion to the Leafmen, while Grub warns Nod about getting too close to Mary Katherine who they clearly both have a crush on. Our sixth clip involved the group visiting Nim Galuu (Tyler) in his “magical” land, where Mub and Grub have a moment of silliness with each other. But soon, Mandrake steals the pod and our heroes must venture into his layer in order to get it back. The seventh scene involved an epic (no pun intended) rescue attempt at Rathwood (the Baggans headquarters) where Ronin fights Mandrake, who calls upon an army of Baggans to battle our heroes. Everyone on Ronin’s team steps to help, including Mary Katherine who now believes in her father and needs his help to save the forest. Finally, we had a chance to screen the new trailer in 3D, which features the film’s score by legendary composer Danny Elfman

After the presentation, I had a chance to speak with director Chris Wedge during a luncheon on the Fox lot. The director began by talking about the use of 3D for the film. “We spent a lot of time on the 3D, he said. “There’s a lot of control over it. I haven’t seen the whole movie in 3D, but we’ve designed in the most effects for the most effective moments and then we’re giving you some time to rest.”

While the film is loosely based on author William Joyce’s children’s novel The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, Wedge explained that he helped develop the original idea with Joyce when they worked together on Robots, which Wedge co-directed and Joyce produced. “Well Bill and I created the concept for this movie together years ago and then Bill went off and did his own things, while I stuck with this one amongst some other projects,” he explained. “The notion that the Leafmen are out there we got from the book, but there was nothing else in the book. It’s a cute, great, little book. I loved reading it to my kids. But even Bill will admit that there wasn’t a movie in that book. We took the Leafmen, which were these kind of noble earnest figures in the book and we turned them into samurai warriors, put them on humming birds, and turned then into fighters. So Bill was involved with the beginning but that’s it.”

Finally, I asked the director if the film’s target audience is basically children or if he is hoping to find a broader adult audience with the film. “I didn’t make it for kids, he explained. “Look, in America animation is for kids first. That’s just the way the culture takes it. Hopefully people can see that I didn’t intend it just for kids. It’s accessible completely. We’ve screened it for kids and they’re scared in moments and it’s a little more powerful than stuff they usually see. It’s not all jokes, but they stuck with it and they loved it. I just remember when I was a kid the only movie images I remember from being a kid were the scary ones.”

Epic is scheduled for release on May 24th.

To watch the new trailer from Epic, please click on the video player below.

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