George Lucas – “Strange Magic Was 15 Years In the Making” (Interview)
As part of the #StrangeMagicEvent blog team I got the opportunity to do some awesome things courtesy of Disney. All opinions are my own.
I was on the bus, heading back from Pixar Studios when I got the news…
We were to interview the one and only George Lucas the next day at Skywalker Ranch. OMG!
As a die-hard Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan I let out a squeal that could only be described as.. well, there isn’t a word to describe it. All I can say is Sara from Budget Savvy Diva laughed and said “are you ok?!”
Yeah, I’m ok. I’m WAY ok. After doing the research on Strange Magic (in theaters January 23rd!) seeing the trailers, I was getting excited because fairies are my jam. Love stories are my jam. LucasFilm is my JAM. It’s like my loves are all put into one big pot of delicious magical stew.
We arrived at Skywalker Ranch on January 13th and headed into the theater to watch a special screening of Strange Magic, but not before star Elijah Kelley ambushed us and left us a bit starstruck while we took selfies with him.
George Lucas was actually there the whole time – he watched the screening with us in his Dolby-surround theater (said the be the best theater to watch a movie in). He quietly listened to our reactions, I’m sure taking mental notes of what parts we reacted to. Afterward we got a personal Q&A session with the man himself…
Why he decided to make Strange Magic…
About 15 years ago, I thought about doing a movie like this and I just got the idea that it would be fun. I thought it would be fun to make a film that was more for tween girls than Star Wars which is for tween boys, even though in the end everybody loved it and girls love it and, you know it all worked out. The idea of an upbeat, fun, simple movie just appealed to me.
The original process was to make a movie that is the difference between being infatuated and being truly in love. (after my divorce) I said well I’ll never fall in love again – it’s just not gonna happen, I was the old cranky Bog King. And then I found somebody who doesn’t look at all like me, – I’m a 60s radical, government unhappy, Wall Street-hating person from San Francisco, and I ended up meeting a woman who’s a head of a big investment management firm who’s on Wall Street. As time went on it became more meaningful to me because I realized that in the end, we fell in love because we were exactly alike inside.
It’s a story that needs to be told every generation because the little girls growing up, or boys, they don’t know any of this stuff, by the time they reach 12 they’re very confused. And, even though we all know it, it needs to continue to be told over and over again, you can’t let kids slip through the cracks and say “I was in the generation that didn’t get that message.” The message is so simple and, you know it’s been around for thousands of years that it’s, you know it can always be retold.
The Music of Strange Magic
One of the inspirations was, for this was, I wonder if I could tell a love story using love songs, I could just take them and string them all together so they actually told the story. which was the original challenge and now, in the beginning the movie was about twice as long as it is now which means it had about twice as much music and I feel pained at the fact that some of the sequences were cut.
You could go to the Beatles catalogue and anything that’s got love in the title is something we had in there. But you know there’s a real world and that real world, this is a relatively inexpensive movie, small, very small, and so, just like American Graffiti I couldn’t afford to put Elvis Presley in there. and so I didn’t but I survived you know, it’s like everything else you have to kinda be strong, be brave and sometimes trim some of the things you really love.
It’s the difference between having a button-down movie and a indulgent movie. I’m extremely happy with the way it turned out, the story’s told very efficiently and the songs I wanted are still there, . It’s great when you have uh what we had, what did we have like a hundred? They were all wonderful, they were all spectacular, and now we have about 25.
They’re all great. We don’t go through long periods without music and so to me, it’s fun and again there’s the part where you actually have to tell a story so I think it melded correctly between the-the actual story and the dialogue and the characters and the music, and it feels like it belongs together.
On the Style of Strange Magic
Every movie has a style. The whole idea of animation, the art of animation, is to create a style that is different from shooting a live action movie.
The style is part of the art of it. You know in some feature films in live action you use style that’s very distinctive, but animation is demanded of it, because if you aren’t gonna make it look realistic why not just shoot it? Right, use actors and shoot the thing. So there was a period where they were trying to go for that, and we can still do it, we do it in special effects, which is to say we create realistic versions of actors and intercut them.
So the idea of making an animated character look real we’ve already accomplished. But the one thing you can’t do – a computer can’t act, only a human being can act. It’s just computers aren’t crazy enough so, and that magical thing called talent, which is what an actor uses to create empathy, to create character, that’s something you can’t do.
We can make copies of people, but they can’t be human. You need a human being behind them to be the voice, and that’s why, when we go and you put a camera on the actor, you wanna capture the magic of that actor. An animator can do it, and that’s part of the art of animation, but it helps an animator if he’s got something to work with.
There were some animators over in Singapore and places like that from all over the place, pretending to be Elijah (Kelley). Looking in the mirror, making faces, improving his performance. Elijah does it out of his soul, he does it you know, standing there and being himself, playing a part that he has conceived of in his head.
An animator does the same thing but they’re in the scene, and they’re looking into a, they’re saying I’m gonna try to make this fit in this scene and to make his facial expressions as they go to that next level. And it’s hard to be in the place as an actor to do that so you need the help of a co-actor, which is the animator.
And so, those two work as a team to create the character. It takes twice as many actors to do an animated film as it does to do a real one.
See? I was totally there! That’s me to George’s right. I’m the one who had my hand on his back (in a last-ditch effort to grab some talent through osmosis. Didn’t work, but at least I tried!).
This experience was, in a word, MAGICAL. And I am not just saying that because of the movie title. It truly was magic.
Strange Magic is in theaters everywhere January 23rd!