Last week I had the incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview George Lucas and tour Skywalker Ranch. There were 25 amazing bloggers invited to the Strange Magic Press Day to conduct a George Lucas interview and chat with him about his newest creation Strange Magic, which is out in theatres this Friday, January 23. (Read more of the interview here.)
Strange Magic Q&A with George Lucas
Q: With Strange Magic, it seems like it's very much inspired by your children. How does being a parent inspire you with all your stories?
GL: “I didn't think much about kids when I was working a lot. And then when my then-wife and I decided to have kids, we tried and we couldn’t. We ended up adopting kids. The first one I adopted with my wife, but within a short time we got divorced. When I was walking through the hospital with my daughter—you know she was a couple of hours old—it was like lightning struck me. I've never had a experience like that ever, the magic of it hit me. And so I was raising my daughter, and then my daughter said she wanted a brother. So I got talked into having another one; I think my daughter was 7.”
“When I was walking through the hospital with my daughter—you know she was a couple of hours old—it was like lightning struck me. I've never had a experience like that ever, the magic of it hit me.”
“In the beginning, it's very easy to have another one. You have one and you say, ‘Oh God, she's walking now, she's talking, she's doing this…I want to go back.' The only way you can do it is if you have another one. And it gets better and better till they become teenagers, and they're programmed to be obnoxious, and that's the only way you can get rid of them. Otherwise you'd baby them for the rest of their lives. I went through three of them, and then wanted to have another one. I forgot. It's like pregnancy, I guess. You forget what they were like as teenagers, and you say, ‘Oh, but they're so cute, I want another one!' So, I ended up having another one. But because of technology and everything, we were able to have a natural baby.”
Q: I have a daughter, she's into fairies. Did any of your girls go through a phase, and was that a kind of the inspiration for the fairy theme of the movie?
GL: “No, it was fairytale. My middle daughter is now doing music videos. She's 26 now, and she loved Wizard of Oz. So we spent years—because we had to read the entire thing—reading The Wizard of Oz. Every night we'd read a chapter. It's fairytale of sorts. I don't know where you'd classify it, but that obviously had an effect. She still cherishes it as something very special to her, and I think that had an effect on me.”
Q: I read that that you originally had a bunch of Beatles‘ songs for the movie. What were those songs, and were you actually listening to those songs when you came up with the idea?
GL: “You could go to the Beatles catalogue, and anything that's got ‘love' in the title is something we had in there. And All You Need Is Love is in there. You know there's a real world, and that real world that this is a relatively inexpensive movie—small, very small—and so just like American Graffiti, I couldn't afford to put all Elvis Presley in there. It's like everything else: you have to 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. As I said, we all love it, and we've seen movies that have a lot of other stuff in it, which is fun, but I'm extremely happy with the way it turned out. The story's told very efficiently.”
Q: Did you start with a set of songs in mind, with this notion in mind to tell the story that are still in the film that we saw today?
GL: “When I first started, I took songs that told the story. Then we went and started doing storyboards, and we started putting actual songs, we would actually get the words, we would actually weave it all together. But then obviously it ended up coming out very long. It had to have an evolution where some of the story was told in dialogue, some of the story was told in music. The story itself had to be tightened down.”
Q: Compared to the animation and visual effects that Industrial Light and Magic used in Rango, how have those changed or improved at all since that movie, compared to what you see now in Strange Magic?
GL: “Every movie has a style, animation. Some people have made mistakes in animation by trying to say, ‘We want this to look realistic.' Which, one, isn't really possible, and two, is not very bright. 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.”
“In some feature films, in live action, you use style that's very distinctive. But animation sort of is demanded of it, because if you are going 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, for a lot of different reasons.”
“So the idea of making an animated character look real we've already accomplished. But the one thing you can't do is that a computer can't act, only a human being can act. Computers aren't crazy enough, 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. That's why, when we put a camera on the actor, you want to 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.”
“For example, there were some animators over in Singapore pretending to be Elijah. Looking in the mirror, making faces, as they would say, ‘improving his performance.' Which is controversial, but at the same time it's different. Elijah does it out of his soul, he does it 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 saying, ‘I'm going to try to make this fit in this scene and to make his facial expressions,' as they go to that next level. Because Elijah couldn't do it because he was locked in a room 5 feet by 5 feet, all green and dark. 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.”
“Those two work as a team to create the character, and of course, like with digital technology, you're just going to create all the actors. Well, you can't. It takes twice as many actors to do an animated film as it does to do a real one.”
“It takes twice as many actors to do an animated film as it does to do a real one.”
“It's not something that people do to save money or for whatever other reason, they do it because ultimately in this particular case you're de-using a style, a particular style, and in this case I wanted the style to be very realistic, much more realistic. Rango is an animated film, it's got some realistic looking stuff, but this is a whole different level of realism. The idea was that you could go out in your backyard and these guys all live out there somewhere.”
Watch the Strange Magic Trailer
Disclaimer: I was selected to attend an all-expense paid trip to the San Francisco area courtesy of Disney to experience these incredible events, along with a group of 24 other bloggers. All opinions, excitement, and smiles are my own.