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.”