Though Dreamworks’ “The Croods” is set four million years in the past, make no mistake that putting together the animated box office hit took a lot of effort using modern-day technology.
Directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, star Nicolas Cage and Glen Ballard in the music department got together for a Q&A as part of the Variety Screening Series Nov. 2 to talk about the prehistoric comedy, which follows a caveman’s family as their sheltered world is destroyed.
De Micco and Sanders had at least one goal from the start: Incorporate 3D without making it a gimmick. De Micco explained his vision in the early stages, which made its way to the big screen.
“We worked with Roger Deakins, our visual consultant, on building a style for the camera that was very handheld and very POV, like you would find a documentary that would be done for any nature show,” he said. “We wanted to make that happen so you would be right there with them going on the battlefield in their shoes the entire time.”
After that, he said, it became easy to “figure out what the 3D was.” Even with that vision, there were plenty of changes: De Micco revealed that the film was originally meant to be shot in a stop-motion style.
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Sanders, whose animation resume includes co-directing and co-writing 2002’s “Lilo & Stitch” and 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” found that making the eccentric creatures found in the film wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be.
“‘Oh yeah, this is a caveman movie! We’re going to invent a world! We can do whatever we want!’” he recalled thinking. “And it sounds like this is going to be the best thing ever, and just within a few hours, you’re like, ‘I wish there was some sort of thing to direct us on this.’”
Cage faced his own difficulties in voice acting. He explained that his processes for preparing for roles on camera as opposed to voice work are vastly different.
“I know there’s been a lot that’s been said about animated voice work, as though it’s ‘you can do this in your jeans and there’s no camera and no pressure there. It’s no big deal. It’s easy,’” he said. “The truth is, it’s really a great test: how deep is your ability is to access your imagination?”
“You have to imagine these other people, these other members of your family are in the room with you,” he said. “You have to imagine that these animals are attacking you, and you have to imagine you’re going to fall off this cliff or get trapped. It’s a great way to stay in shape as a film performer.”
Another very large difference in on-camera work versus voice acting for Cage? Remembering the lines. He admitted that, as he’s drawing on 50 years old, he puts a lot of effort into memorizing his lines when he appears on the screen, but takes a different approach to animation.
“I never want to know my dialogue the night before,” he said of voice acting. “I come in fresh. I want it to be spontaneous. I want there to be an electricity to the experience so it feels like I’m in the moment with the other characters.”
“The Croods” was released March 22 and culled $587 million worldwide. A sequel is already being planned.