NarniaWeb Set Report #2: Howard Berger & Dean Wright

Read the first part of this report

Exclusive: Prince Caspian Set Report #2 – Creatures & Visual Effects (continued)
Report by GlumPuddle

The very last stop on our incredible two-day tour was Modranská, where the second unit was filming a complicated sequence for the battle. Howard Berger (Makeup, KNB EFX) and Dean Wright (Visual Effects Supervisor) were on set, and gave us 40 minutes of their valuable time for an interview. Both men received an Academy Award nomination for their work on “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Their challenge on the this film, “Prince Caspian,” is that Director Andrew Adamson wants the scale to be even bigger than the first film. We started the interview at the smaller-scale set built for Wimbleweather, but it got too loud in there, so we eventually moved outside.

Howard Berger Dean Wright

Wright: What we’ve actually been prepping and shooting all day is the scene that’s sort of at the end of this whole special plan that Peter and Caspian have to try and outsmart the Telmarines. We’ve been prepping and prepping and prepping this shot all morning, all the bits, the dust, the debris, the creatures, getting the camera movements and lighting right, and then we just shot it right before you got here.

Berger: But we’re going to do another take.

Wright: We’re going to do another pick-up of it, so you can see on the take. So what this is, down in the ground with our team is a giant named Wimbleweather, and in order to try and photograph that, what we did was we built a scale version of that so the actor who’s the giant can run through.

Berger: I was wondering what we were doing.

Wright: Yeah! That was a secret that we had planned, because we could put the giant in there [the other set/soundstage] and it wouldn’t work.

Berger: He wouldn’t look so giant.

Wright: He’d look big but not giant.

Berger: And he’s a big guy.

Wright: He is a big guy, but we wanted a REALLY big guy, and you can’t really shoot a motion control pass in there because it’s all crazy. What we’ve been doing in there, you’ll see the camera moves on a big cable camera rig that goes from one side of the stage to the other and swinging all over the place. So what we’ve done with this is for more insert shots for the sequence, capturing those moments where he’s actually smashing it, so we’ll just come in here and focus on him doing it and then we have to pull all the CG guys in there and we scale them down and make them look half the size roughly to fit in with Wimbleweather so it all looks good. Then of course, we have to add in all the rest of the environment. You’ll see a small piece here and a small piece over there, and basically, it goes on, left, right, beyond in every direction, just continuing to add more creatures in.

Q: You’re actually creating CG minotaurs or doing them with Performance Capture?

Wright: No, we’re actually using Howard’s. Howard is giving us about 20 creatures for the scene right now, because the rest are being used with main unit. This is a second unit shoot right now, so we’re having to share resources. So we have about half our centaurs and half our minotaurs. And the set is kind of narrow anyway, so we’re just focusing all the stuff that Howard’s creating in the center closest to the camera and then we extend left, right and beyond digitally.

Q: What was the most difficult part about creating one of these creatures? Was it the face or the body?

Berger: No, you know what, what was good was that we were both on the first film, so as far as design goes, everything was relatively the same feel. We made things look better and changed things as far as the cosmetic aspect. But on this particular film, the hardest thing has been that we built things blindly again. Usually we build suits based on actors, but obviously, since we’re here in the Czech Republic, we knew that we’d end up hiring local talent, so it really was a lot of retrofitting and some guys are really gigantic, and some guys are really small. That’s a pretty big challenge and also the logistical aspect makes it difficult. It’s not so much what it takes to make a minotaur head or a centaur this or that.

Q: We understand there’s a bit of a time crunch on this one, too.

Berger: Yeah, always. I think Dean has got it worse. We lost two months of our prep in the very beginning, which was fine. And then of course, we’re shooting as fast as we can, and then Dean takes over. The movie will already be out in a year.

Wright: Less than a year. May 16 is the release date.

Berger (to Wright): So you have less than a year, how does that feel?

Wright: Um, help! We were prepared for this in terms of alerting the facilities that we’d have less time. Of course, what’s still unknown is how long we’re going to shoot. It’s just the beginning of June, and we’re scheduled to shoot till August, but these are big films and a lot of times, it extends on a little bit. I’m sure it’ll only be a couple days here and there but in case it goes longer, that cuts into our post time. Andrew’s having to cut the film now with the editor, Sim [Evan-Jones], and give it to us to provide to the facilities so they can start work. We’ve just turned over our first sequences right now to the digital FX companies. It’s going to be tight. If we end up shooting into August or September, that will give us less than eight months to finish everything, because we have to be done by the beginning of April.

Berger (to Wright): And what did you have on the first one?

Wright: We had almost a year really. I mean, we started turning stuff over in November and we turned our last shots back over in October, so just over a year.

Berger: What’s good is that if you do this one eight, the next one you can do in six.

Wright: In four.

Berger: Eventually it’s going to take a week.

Wright: Let’s do it live on set. (laughter)

Berger: That’s also the thing that’s fun about these movies and also what Dean and I experienced on the first film was that. Usually it’s practical effects vs. digital effects. But Dean and I became such good friends and worked so well together on the first film and then again on this, that it really works as a partnership.

Wright: We’re neighbors even.

Berger: Yeah, we are. We live two blocks away from each other, which is great.

Wright: The kids play together.

Berger: We drive by a throw eggs at Dean’s house (laughter). So it’s not like Dean goes up to Andrew and says “oh, we should do this all digital” or I’ll go over and say “we should do all this practical.” I’ve been on films where that has happened, where certain FX companies will go in and want to nix everything we’ve worked hard on just to get more shots or grandstand. But especially with Dean’s schedule, as much practical FX as we can shoot, the easier and better and little bit less stress for Dean at the end of the day I think.

Wright: And I think we’ve got Andrew’s support on that too.

Berger: Yeah, absolutely.

Wright: We’re constantly trying to put everything that we can real in the frame. And in some cases, we’ll end up taking over and just putting legs on creatures that he’s done. In some cases, we have to put a hero CG character right next to some of his characters, cause they don’t exist in prosthetics like a gryphon or a mouse, Reepicheep, something like that. So we’re constantly working together to give us whatever we can for both units, because that’s the key. We’re shooting just as critical stuff here as on our main units. We’ll have hero stuff, lead actors with us.

Berger: Which is very unusual for hero actors or lead actors to be on second unit as much as they are on this, but it’s because of the time crunch, it’s just the way it needs to go. There are so many things that like Dean was saying, we have this big sequence and we need a couple of the lead actors and we couldn’t do it without them, and first unit just didn’t have time to facilitate that so second unit will.

Wright: I mean, this film, the other thing, are the challenges. Andrew has said that he definitely wants to make this film bigger, more exciting, have more complicated stuff to throw at us that we can try to pull off. Not just for the sake of amazing the audience but to do it to have you get sucked into the world more. The more we can make the CG feel real, the more you’ll forget that there’s visual FX and you can just enjoy the film. So on this film, we’ve got a big battle right in the middle of the film where the kids go to this castle and they’re trying to actually capture someone there in order to help restore peace to Narnia and put Caspian back where he belongs, which is ruling the Narnian world. And it doesn’t go well. Let’s just say that, or else the movie would be over about an hour in (laughter). But the work there is beyond anything we did in the last film. We’ve got tons of CG characters. We’ve got a whole miniature environment that’s going to be shot in multiple scales, 24th scale, which is a pretty big size for an entire castle, and then we’ve got even larger scales and smaller scales that are going to be built down in New Zealand by Richard Taylor’s company Weta Workshop and shot by Alex Funke and his miniature leads who did all the work on “The Lord of the Rings” and King Kong. So we’re really excited to have them on board helping us to create that work because they’re so good at that. And again, it’s just that effort of shooting something that’s real and tangible to help create this very cool looking castle. I saw it on “Rings.” When you have a very well-lit, photographed miniature, again, you have fallen into this world of believing everything you’re seeing, and that’s what we want to do. We just want to suck you into the movie, follow the movie. Andrew insists that all of the work pushes the story along, drives you through where the important emotional beats of the film are. We’re there to help make that real when you can’t shoot it live and enhance what you can shoot.

Q: This time, you have a Co-VFX Supervisor [Wendy Rogers]. Did she work on the last movie?

Wright: No, she’s known Andrew for many, many years, and because of the tight schedule and the enormous amount of work–we’ve doubled the shots going out this time–we decided to split the sequences. She’s got about half and I’ve got about half. The night raid that happens at the castle, that’s my sequence. The battle that’s going on in Ústí right now, that’s one of her scenes, but we help each other out. This is all stuff that’s going to go on her work, but I’m supervising it because there’s too much going on at the same time.

Q: What’s the deal with the two balls we see them filming, the silver one and the gray one?

Wright: They’re used for lighting reference. There’s a whole bunch of new tools that we use for lighting reference. The chrome and silver and grey balls have been used for years in terms of capturing what the lights are doing on-set, that’s what the chrome ball gives you, the position of the lights and the intensity, and the gray ball just gives you a nice gray scale, so you can match your colors when you’re bringing your shots into the computer world. You know exactly what that gray ball should look like in terms of what percentage gray. You match that in the computer digitally and then all the colors will line up right into place for you. And then we have this other huge contraption that Bill calls “Voyager” because it looks like it’s a spaceship. We bring that out on set and it’s got four eyes and a bunch of digital cameras inside, and it takes a whole bunch of photographs with a wide exposure range, and this is something that’s been explored for several years in film and the technology is getting better and better. We’re getting very, very high quality images to be able to tell exactly what the lighting situation is. The visual FX companies are writing software to suck that into their pipelines as well, so as soon as we turn our shots over to them, they run this little software and the digital characters pop right in, they look like they belong there. Then it’s time to beauty light them as if a DP [Director of Photography] would. He’d get in there and adjust the lighting to make them look better, so it looks real from the start. But always, even if we’re doing digital shots, we’ll bring Howard’s stuff in to shoot reference for character, for size and all that kind of stuff. So we’re constantly counting on each other for that.

Q: Why are you working at Modranská and also at Barrandov Studios?

Wright: We looked everywhere, all over Europe to find these fields, and we wanted to be close to Prague, so it wasn’t a big, big move, so they found this place in Ústí, which was a place we were based out of on the last film when we did the winter stuff that we shot here, because we were here a few years ago, and we shot all the beautiful winter vista stuff, then we shot all the kids in the dump tank on the side of the river where they go down the frozen river when the waterfall breaks and crashes, they go down the river, that was all shot over at Barrandov. This time we’re using about every stage we can, and there’s an enormous castle courtyard that’s been built on the back lot. We’re going to make it about 2 1/2 times taller than that with other buildings that go behind what you saw or get attached, like there are some towers that get attached. There’s plenty of other towers that go around that. It’s all sitting on top of a hill and then the bridge that you see actually goes down about a thousand feet and then there’s a river down below and then that goes over to the village, which is probably about a thousand different houses ultimately. We’re building about 30.

Q: We saw Aslan’s How today, we saw that that’s got the blue on the top too…

Wright: That’s again about a third the size it’s going to be ultimately and there’s probably going to be more and more creatures up there too. That’s where Howard comes in with live dwarfs.

Berger: Yeah, I like the dwarfs. I think they’re my favorite characters on this show.

Wright: And I think your two hero ones are just amazing.

Berger: We have two heroes. There’s Trumpkin played by Peter Dinklage, and Nikabrik played by Warwick Davis, and they’re really cool. Where I thought we had a bit of a misstep on the first film was that we ended up not hiring dwarves but little people, and we got little people from Thailand and from India and they were great people but they were little people and we couldn’t do very much with them and they were sensitive, their skin was really sensitive and they were just fragile little guys and their heads were like little grapefruits, so you can’t do much with them. This time, Andrew and I and Dean talked about it and said, “Well, there’s two options. We can get average-size actors and scale them down…”

Wright: Like we did on [Lord of the Rings].

Berger: …and Andrew’s like “I don’t want to get into that.” And I said “Or dwarfs, but the thing is that there’s not a lot of great dwarf actors. There’s Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis and a few other ones.” So they were able to make a deal with those guys and they’re fantastic.

Wright: They’re awesome. When they’re on set, they just take over the set.

Berger: Yeah, it’s really great and they’re both so different in personality and in real life and in the film of course, and their makeups are so beautiful, and then all the other dwarf characters. The casting people here found local talent, short people, and they’re just really fantastic, and all different looks and we have female dwarfs and male dwarfs and old and young and really fun to mix it up. It’s my favorite part, when we bring dwarfs in. Everybody wants to makeup a dwarf.

Wright: There’s a big dwarf fight too. I think it’s the first time in history, a dwarf battle.

Berger: Yeah there is. It’s cool though. They’re really fun to do makeup on and they’re really sweet. That’s the other thing, too. I was sure that when we came here, and we have 150 practical creatures, that we’d have drop-off, which means they’d show up and say, “This is horrible. I’m out of here.” And they’d leave. But we haven’t had any of that. We’ve had two guys that had to leave because they were asthmatic, but outside of that, we’ve been able to keep everyone the entire run. I’m really, really surprised. I think it’s once again, on the first film, we made all the extras and creature players feel like part of the family and did it again. It’s important to know their names and they know you and if they have any issues, they come talk to you. It’s not just “Hey, #5576, sit here in the chair.” Definitely the dwarfs are my favorite characters on this film, and especially the two lead ones, Trumpkin and Nikabrik and then all the other dwarf characters are cool.

Wright: Two things that have made this film even more challenging for us again are Howard’s idea, which is a great idea, but it causes a bit of work for us to deal with as well, is he wanted to bring more of a variety to the characters that we have, in terms of ages and sexes and all that. So we don’t just have 23-year-old fauns.

Berger: We wanted to have old-age fauns, which we’re going to get to when we get to the Dancing Lawn, and heavy-set characters, black centaurs, and just a whole big variety. African-Narnian centaurs.

Wright: Well, the whole point is to add more of a variety to the look of the characters, which again we will then have to build into our digital characters.

Berger: It actually creates more work for you, doesn’t it? (laughter)

Wright: You didn’t think of that. (laughter)

Berger: “It will be great! How about this? How about this?”

Wright: No, but you know what? It’s great, because when we do it, it will look more realistic as you extend and add more creatures because there’s more variety and that’s something, when we worked with Isis on costumes as well, it’s the same sort of thing. She always gives us a whole pattern of “this is what I can give you on set and then this is what it should be when you make a thousand of them. This many of this, this many of this, and here’s how you can mix it all up” and she gives us like a whole book at the end of the show that’s like this big (which is about a foot tall) and we hand it off to the visual FX companies and they follow it, so it looks like you have a real crowd and not cookie cutter, here we’re cutting and pasting this over to here, so that’s one thing that added more work to us. The other is Andrew wanted to make again the challenge of breaking the CG/real barrier here and make us intermingle the two more. We got much more contact between the real players and the CG characters, and Lucy doesn’t only reach out and try to touch Aslan, they hug and fall on the ground and she rolls on top of him and we gotta make that all work. We’ve got the kids being carried by gryphons all through and riding gryphons, and we’ve got the kids riding on centaurs sometimes, so it’s a big challenge for us to make all that work and look real.

We’re striving for stuff that doesn’t grab your eye and take it away. It should look like it belongs there. That’s the key for us whenever we do any of this. I’m definitely a big believer in that the visual FX should not dominate the story. Even in a film like this, it’s not about visual FX, it’s about the kids. The first film was the same way, it’s all about the kids and their story and their journey. It’s the same thing with the kids; they each have their own struggle that they have to go through. They come to Narnia with their own preconceived ideas of where they should be in their lives before they come there. When they’re there, Peter thinks he can do stuff on his own; Lucy doesn’t have the courage to stand up for her beliefs; Susan doesn’t admit that she wants to be in Narnia, but can’t face that she’s really there or wants to leave or doesn’t want to leave; Edmund’s just trying to grow up and have a piece of the action and be a man, and they all have their struggles they have to go through. If you get in and just take over that and just take things that are cool visually but distracting from what you’re supposed to focus on or the story then we haven’t helped the movie, we’ve hurt the film.

This film is going to come out in the summer, but it’s not going to be perceived like a typical summer you-know blockbuster. We want it to have meaning, the books did for 50 years for a lot of people, and we wanted to make sure we carry that one, so the film’s definitely going to have a little bit of a slightly darker tone. It’s still going to be a PG film, but it’s a little bit harsher for the kids. It’s a rougher time, it’s a thousand years and there’s a tremendous amount of guilt that they have. Even though they didn’t mean to leave, they left not of their own accord, they just sort of wandered through the wardrobe. But what they left behind when they left is this chaos. The Telmarines came in, they slaughtered a lot of their friends or the children of their friends, and these poor creatures have had to live underground and so, they have to sort of atone for that, and no matter what, they’re going to help these creatures take back what’s rightfully theirs and hopefully, do it in a way that they can all live peacefully at the end. So that’s the message of the film, along with the individual messages the kids have and that’s got to be what you take away when you leave the film.

Q: I notice you have a lot of remote sensors being used along the walls of the set. Does that have to be done in the castle as well?

Wright: We’re not doing as much, were doing more witness cam stuff instead of on set motion capture. We are markering up all the characters. All the creatures get markered up for reference and again, we probably have at the end of the day maybe a few more Narnians this time?

Berger: Yeah something like that. We’ve had 175.

Q: I’m curious about how you’re incorporating them because on the last one you had a lot of the creatures outside in the fields whereas here you have a castle…

Wright: Exactly. They have to integrate into the environment and walk in amongst all the stuff that’s there. We had fauns leaping and jumping all over the place. And it’s a challenge. What we did this time, last time we ended up using a lot of these platforms to get the centaurs to the right height because they have to be about 18 inches taller than a human. But it was restrictive for shooting, and other creatures couldn’t walk between the paths because the platform was in the way. So it was used limitedly. When we were in the battle, once we started to move generally became CG or we used horses and replaced the top half. This film, Andrew had seen these things that looked like mini pogo sticks called power risers. So Alan said like “I’ll train the guys” and he has. So were able to be a lot more free, but we still have limitations. We still have to use platforms but it helps us in terms of when their moving around in the courtyard we only used platforms once. We’re constantly on the boogieman patrol making sure that they don’t break their character. From the centaurs to the minotaurs.

Berger: Once in awhile we catch other characters running through other centaur bodies because there’s nothing there spatially to keep them from it, so Dean’s always watching and is like hold on, hold on you just walked through that horse butt.

Wright: So we’ve had to watch a little bit more for that because the platforms actually prevented that from happening.

Q: Howard, they saw your animatronic minotaur head yesterday, can you tell us more about Asterius?

Berger: What was cool was Andrew wrote in more minotaurs. They were really popular in the first film and I was sad they were bad and might not come back. Then Andrew called and said were going to throw some minotaurs in, especially this one, Asterius, which is the lead minotaur. It was really cool because I wanted to do an old-age minotaur so Andrew was up for it and designed it. The first person I wanted to hire, as far as suit performers, was Shane Rangi who played Otmin in the first film and in this movie plays six characters. We’re not doing as many mechanical heads this time. Last time we did 25. This time were actually just doing six: Two satyrs and four minotaurs, not a big mechanical show. Seeing how much augmentation you guys did on the first film we all felt that “ok we didn’t have to do all these mechanical heads, but we’ll just have hero ones.” But Asterius is really nice, it’s a full fabricated suit. It has flexible muscles and water bags in the chest. The suit is all hand tied which means all the hair you saw on the suit is tied one hair at a time into the spandex unitard and then sewn over the muscle suit, and then the same with the head. The head is all punch, one hair at a time. Rob Derry, our key mechanic on the show did a whole radio control mechanism for it so it does all this really cool stuff. It can do dialogue, although it doesn’t have dialogue. It says “Shhh” in one scene. But we did it just in case. Well in the last one we had to throw a line, so I think he tweaked it a bit so that worked out even better.

Wright: The more he can do, and then if we just have to do a minor tweak than that’s great.

Tyrus mechanical head Berger: Well on the first film originally we weren’t going to do any mechanical heads. That’s what they wanted: no mechanical heads or do it all digitally. And I was just like, “we should just do some mechanical heads, it will just give you that more information,” so we just went ahead and did them anyhow and it proved to be successful. Then we have a satyr named Tyrus, who’s a hero satyr who we did another mechanical hero head and body and all that stuff.

Wright: They did a whole redesign on the satyrs too. The last film and we kind of came to them and what happened was we were going to have them all digital on the last film and then we had budget crunch and so we were like what’s one thing we could do. Well if we had practical satyrs on set, we wouldn’t have to use digital satyrs and all these 50 shots. We’re like “ok, Howard, can you build satyrs?”

Berger: I was like, “ok I can do it.” So we took the design that Weta Workshop had done and kind of modified it to a human being. But this time, Andrew said, “you know really change the design,” try and break the human form the best that we can but we still have to have somebody in the suit. We went ahead and redesigned it to feel more animalistic and more goat-like. It’s got like the big ram horns; you guys probably saw it yesterday.

Wright: It’s really cool-looking.

Berger: The horns are pretty beat up, they’re pretty trashed out. That’s the other thing why we wanted to have the old-aged minotaur because he’s been around for awhile and is pretty scarred up and messed up and a little flea-bitten. Once again, Dean keeps talking about the realism, that the movie doesn’t stop and hit the movie on the head and go hey look there’s an effect, there’s a makeup effect, there’s a digital effect. You didn’t get that in the first film. I mean even I didn’t remember sitting in the theater when we went to see it at the director’s guild and it’s the first time I saw Mr. Tumnus complete and it was like for the whole show just kept seeing James McAvoy in little green pants and stuff and I gasped and my kids looks at me and were like, “Shhh you’re being loud.” And I was like “ah, oh my gosh look at that, that’s Mr. Tumnus, he’s finished!” And I’m sure this one will be the same thing. It’s always really fun and even though on the first one Andrew had invited me down a bunch of times to see stuff, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to go see the film in any form other than completed. I wanted to be surprised to see all the stuff Dean had done. I think this will be the same thing. There’s so much stuff it’s always really breathtaking to sit there and see what was on set and what’s now on film, it’s a big difference. Dean and his company will add thousands of creatures.

Q: When you’re designing these creatures, do you have any accidents, like happy accidents that happen? Maybe someone turns out older or younger?

Berger: You know on this one, there’s been a couple cool things going back to old-age stuff. One of the guys designed an old-age fawn that I really liked and it looked like David Nibbons. So right now we’re trying to find an extra or an actor who has kind of a very slender, older body. But he looks just like David Nibbons so I really like that. Then we hopefully have a big heavy set fawn whose kind of John Goodman-ish. (laugher) So we kind of designed stuff around that. And then we have a really old, old centaur that we’re going to do as well that’s kind of like Little Big Man centaur. There are kid centaurs too and Isis the costume designer’s son Gomez plays Lightning Bolt.

Wright: They’re all wacky names.

Berger: He was really fun to deal to do; he’s seven years old but is really excited. He’s already planned his whole career that he’s going to be the only child centaur in all the Narnia movies. It was funny because we were finishing taking Warwick Davis out of his make up for the 40th time and I was taking Gomez out of his makeup for the 2nd time and he just looked at me and goes “I know exactly how he feels.” And I’m like “oh yeah, because this is day two and he’s at day forty.” But it was very funny, he really connected. He did great, he really did good. To put a seven-year-old in prosthetic makeup, I was really apprehensive about it but was glad it was Gomez because we all know him and he’s a good kid, and patient. Do we have other kid centaurs?

Wright: Rumor has it there might be more.

Berger: We might have to have a family guest spot of centaurs which, is right there on the schedule. You know it’s all really fun, its fun to come back to Narnia. This film is a lot bigger, but it’s also really hard, it’s a really hard show. This is probably the hardest film I’ve ever worked on. I’m pretty exhausted. We’re only halfway there and I am pretty beat up.

Wright: I mean it started out as one of those things where we were go, “gosh wouldn’t that have been great if we had a script two years ago.”

Berger: Yeah so we could start prepping. When you’re making a film, you need as much time as possible obviously. And the more time you have in the front, fantastic, and in the back, and I guess all the way around and in the middle.

Wright: What was actually good was the fact that we did work on the first film and that we knew Andrew and we knew what he wanted. So I had to create a visual effects break down from a 20-page outline to figure out what the movie was going to take. So I sat with the editors and then Andrew and sort of extended it out. We had a list of scenes and kind of what happened. I took the first film and sort of extrapolated the two together and came up with a breakdown that is not very far off from what were going with right now for the movie. So based on that we went around and talked to a lot of companies and that’s why Andrew decided well this time we’re going to try the London companies. We’re here in Europe, with easy access to them. They’ve done some great work, especially recently so they’re on board. And we’re also able to work with Weta Digital who is going to do about 300 shots for the movie as well. Moving Picture Companies and Framestore are the two companies in London and then Weta Digital down in New Zealand. So those are our three facilities that we’ve booked so far, and I’m sure there will be a few more.

Q: I have one quick question about Reepicheep. How’s he shaping up to look?

Wright: He’s going to be very cool. We have some designs, like Howard’s stuffy sorts that we have on set. The company that is actually designing it is Moving Picture Company. They are going to do the work on it. He’s very cool, he’s very dashing, he’s very dangerous. He has a good look. He’s cute, you know, you want him to look cute but he’s also got an air of danger, because when he’s actually going, he’s got to fight and he takes out guys. You don’t want to laugh at him when he’s doing that; it could be silly you know? It’s that fine line, we have in this film that we did in the last film. We’ve got CG characters that have to be animals and look real and not be cartoony, especially with Reepicheep. The Badgers can be a little bit more serious than the Beavers, which were comic relief in the last film. Reepicheep has a lot of funny moments but also serious moments, very touching moments. You’ve got to really care about him and his gang, his posse. The audience will care about him in certain moments. Reepicheep and his family look very similar to each other in the book but in the film each will look very different and has his own characteristics.

Berger: But it’ll interesting because they’re definitely similarities in the book, but there are also differences. So we’ll see how people react to that.

Wright: It will be cool.

Berger: It will be very cool.

Wright: He does some really cool stuff. And we want to get down and get that mouse view, which we didn’t do that in the last one.

Q: I was wondering how you were going to get down in there, with a character that’s so small and everyone around him is so huge.

Wright: Yeah, very low steady cams, and cable cam type stuff. We attached a camera to an ATV just inches off the ground and we’re riding it through.

Berger: Didn’t you just attach one to a real mouse and just let it run? (laughter)

Wright: Actually for our reference, what we did do was we got a remote control car. You didn’t know this?

Berger: No.

Wright: And we got a little Velcro to his feet and stuck him to the car and ran him through. It was fun.

Q: Do you know how many effects shots you’re looking at total?

Wright: Probably about 1600 shots right now, which again is double what we started with on the last film and that’s what we know right now. It could grow, but we hope not. It will probably be a few more as there’s always something that pops up. “Oh by the way, we’re not going to build that part of the set. Here you get a plan from the art department.” And everyone’s a visual effects expert nowadays. You walk around and there’s blue screen and you’re like “there’s going to be a whole scene there.” So yeah, that will pop up every now and then. You can’t find a location you want to shoot at, so something’s got to be built digitally. So yeah, they tend to turn to us. But we always try to fill it out by using real photography and make it all look as real as we can. I’m not a huge believer in complete digital environments. I think the more you can shoot, where it’s miniature or real photography or other live action pieces you can put together and then use digital when you have to when it’s the right tool. Many, many times real creatures are the right tool, sometimes CG, sometimes both, and that’s the key.