Just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to screen STRANGE MAGIC at Skywalker Ranch with George Lucas, Gary Rydstrom, and Elijah Kelley! STRANGE MAGIC is now playing in theaters EVERYWHERE! This is a great animated fantasy musical…perfect for the whole family! Goblins, elves and imps…oh my! You can follow their misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful love potion in a theater new you!
Everyone deserves to be love!
STRANGE MAGIC is directed by Gary Rydstrom. Gary is well-known for his work on Finding Nemo, Saving Private Ryan, Lifted, Toy Story Toon: Hawaiian Vacation…just to name a few! His amazing talent has earned him seven Academy Awards for sound design and editing! It was a pleasure sitting down and speaking with him about STRANGE MAGIC.
Gary started off the interview saying, “The karma and the irony of this movie for me is that I did have a long career, in this building mostly, a career as a sound designer, doing sound effects for movies. Then by the end, I found that I often felt at odds with the composer, so it was kind of a fight between the composer and I to have our stuff heard. So I thought of it as karmic revenge from the universe that I get to direct a feature film here and it’s a musical.”
American Graffiti is one of Gary’s favorite movies. The fact that the song helps tell the story was attractive to him. It’s one of the reasons he wanted to work on STRANGE MAGIC. He was interested in working on an animated film using songs to tell the love story.
He said, “If you think about the songs in the movie that are love songs, there aren’t that many positive love songs, which I always like to point out, you know, because love is hard… it’s not always happy.”
Gary loved being a part of this movie. He thought making a musical was really fun. STRANGE MAGIC was a great movie, allowing for a “beautiful chance for sound effects to tell the story too.” Gary said, “In our story we have a lizard that sounds like a dinosaur, but by the end it’s fallen in love.” The lizard starts to purr, showing love through sound.
Casting for Strange Magic
Gary told us, “Casting is pretty key for a movie like this and as George said, you have to find people who both act and sing and that the whole Alan Cumming, both actor and singer amazing, Evan Rachel Wood is as good a singer as she is an actress. And Sam Palladio who plays Roland is an amazing singer, as well as a very funny actor. Then Kristin Chenoweth who is funny and as I have said before, I was in the room with her as I was with all the actors when they were singing their songs and when she hit some of those high notes in Love Is Strange, it was like my glasses broke [the bloggers giggled], but it was amazing.”
For many years Gary focused on sound effects that he hadn’t work much with actors. When he started to work on animation, he began working more with the actors and really enjoyed it. “I love being in the room with actors and it’s really hard for them, because they’re acting alone, they’re not acting with other actors, it’s be great if they did but it just doesn’t work out so it’s them. You describe the scene as best you can, you do line readings with them to set up the scene. Elijah made me work the hardest, because I would line read with him, but he’s very active and it requires a lot of energy, so I was often playing either the Sugar Plum Fairy or Dawn. And I was actually pretty good at it. [we all laughed]”
“Part of directing the actors for animation is taking on that role and working with them, that’s why it’s fun, you know, since I don’t really act, I’m terrible at it. But it’s fun to help draw that out from the actors and be surprised by what they brought to it, and they all brought their own personalities to the characters once we cast them, they all brought something of themselves to it,” said Gary.
“Simple things, like Alan Cumming is Scottish and the Bog King has… about a twenty percent Scottish accent… and Evan Rachel Wood is very much like Marianne but she’s the sweetest, she’s got the most amazing happy laugh. And she’s the sweetest thing but she can be tough as nails if she needs to be and so they all brought something of themselves to the role. So,I love that part of it, I love what the actors brought to this and I’m actually most proud, as George said, and I’m going to quote this, I’ve never heard it before, but it’s a great idea. It’s that it takes twice as many actors to make an animated film, that’s brilliant.”
Gary is “really proud in this movie of that combination of the animators drawing on what the actors do with the voice and creating that side of the acting, and together creating a character that it’s still magic to me when that works.”
The Message in Strange Magic
The message behind STRANGE MAGIC is very relatable….love, heartbreak, finding your own strength, family.
Gary was the most engaged by the Bog King’s character. We discussed heartbreak and Gary said it’s “a completely natural thing, it’s when you get your heart broken, you say I’m not going to let myself be vulnerable ever again.” The Bog King is a little extreme, but it’s something many people can relate too. Getting hurt makes you feel like you don’t want to do it again. “So your solution for it is to put up this shield and never let anyone in again.” We all tend to do that in some way.
Love is strange… “if you think about it, we are really surprised I think by how we fall in love and who, and it comes at us, I hear this over and over from people, it comes at us as a surprise.” When you look at love, it’s only when you reveal your true self that you can find true love. Many times we hide behind what others expect of us that we can’t find the perfect match. “But then we fall in love with that what makes you unique.”
Gary “wanted Marianne to essentially be told by her father and everyone else in some ways that you’re being a little odd… after her heart’s broken, what she becomes it’s her version of what the Bog King becomes, this kind of Goth protective tough girl.” She is no longer the pretty little princess, but a strong woman…and the Bog King likes that part of her, because that’s the real her. “So being, being different is not only okay, it’s what’s required. And learning what’s different about each other is what’s required for falling in love. ”
You know, the true magic is when it happens for real without any potion and that’s more magical than a potion itself. ~ Gary Rydstrom
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