Interview
Mike Johnson
© Warner Bros. Entertainment
Bride is one of the most tragic and sympathetic characters I've ever seen on film. I was so completely in awe of her, and her performance was unbelievable. I kept catching myself wanting her to get the man. Then I was like, "No! She's dead! Victoria's waiting!" I was completely torn! I thought it was an amazing balancing act you guys pulled off, and I was wondering if you could talk a bit about that aspect of the story and how hard that was to do.

That was difficult. We had it on the page roughed out. You know, the points we need to hit. But it's just balancing the sympathies between the characters and trying not make anyone be the bad character, like you said. It was difficult and, again, that came through in the storyboards. Our storyboard artists were on there the whole time and we would just try scenes over and over again. When it came time to shoot, of course we tried shoot as close to one-to-one ratio when we could, but we could at least board these scenes as many times as we needed to. So it took a long time to dial that in and I'm glad it worked out, because that part was a little tricky: making all the characters pathetic.

It works great and I especially love the Christopher Lee character.

Yeah, that was a lot of fun actually. The real thrill for me was just being in the same room with some of these actors. Christopher Lee, his voice is just a force of nature. There's such short scenes; he had so much to do with it. He was great.

Great casting throughout. The voices were all just perfect. I was as blown away by the number of characters you had in the film and the number of characters that you actually serviced and you could relate to. I guess my four-year-old's favourite characters were the dead kids. The skeleton kids. How many characters did you have and how did you manage all that?

I think in the end, we had about 70. Seventy different characters. For puppets, we had multiples on most of these characters, so there were probably just under 300 puppets in the end.

Oh my God.

We had a whole department just dedicated to maintaining these puppets and scheduling them so they'd arrive on the set at the right moment and it was a whole juggling act. Graham Maiden was our puppet maintenance supervisor. He and his crew just kept that running. It was tricky.

Even how they were managed storywise. There's so many great recurring characters. You only have momentary glimpses of them, yet we completely know who they are and we completely can track them through the story. I thought that was really brilliant storywise, too.

I'm glad that worked out. That was a lucky thing, because we had to design all of these characters before the story was locked. As we were working on various drafts of the script and storyboarding scenes, simultaneously we were building puppets. We'd come up with an idea, a gag for a character we wanted. You know, "Hey, wouldn't it be great if one of the guys had a big cannonball through his chest," or something like that. We'd show that to Tim and if he approved that character we'd start building that. Then we'd have to go back and figure out later how we'd layer him into the story. It kind of worked that way, but the great thing was we had the resources to indulge in all these crazy puppets and characters and I'm glad that we got to get most of them in front of the camera.

It looks great. It feels so rich. It feels like such a huge world you've created.

Thank you.

And I loved the use of butterflies as bookends. I didn't really catch it until the second time I saw it or I didn't really make the connection with the butterfly at the beginning. I know when I met you, your son was obsessed with butterflies. Did that come from you guys?

That's part of the inspiration, I guess. It seemed like a fitting symbol and I think also it does give it this folktale quality. It worked out that way. My son sometimes criticizes the fact that it's not specific species of butterfly that we chose. I guess it works!

Well, it's great. It's a beautiful ending and it resonates. On the second viewing, the beginning kind of hit me and I was just like, "Oh my God." I thought that was brilliant.
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