Interview
Mike Johnson
© Warner Bros. Entertainment
Were all the sets practical or did you do any digital set extensions. Because it seemed like it really felt practical.

Yes, almost all of it. I would say for the sets, 99%. I think there were just a couple of shots. We did over 1100 shots and there were of that a very small handful that had digital set extensions. For example, when the Corpse Bride catches Victor on the bridge the camera starts swirling around with her and a flock of crows closes in around them. The bridge was practical, but we had a 360-degree greenscreen around that. So that was done as a digital background. Other times, when we would comp in a background we were shooting the real set. Actual sets, popping it in.

It looks great. It comes out nice. The tone of the film, I was really surprised at too, because I wasn't sure what to expect. I was expecting a family film and I brought my seven-year-old and my four-year-old and I was thrilled to see the audience wasn't just packed with goths. There were families and all ages. They opened it early in LA, just in two theatres a week early. So I went with my kids and I thought tonally you guys nailed it because even as scary as it is, when the Bride is coming out of the ground and as jarring as that moment is, the scariest moment is when he turns around on the bridge and she startles him on the bridge. That was the moment where I thought, "Oh no!" My four-year-old was on my lap and he jumped, and I was worried I was going to lose him, but that was it. He was completely into it at that point. So even despite those few shocking moments, I thought tonally you guys had nailed it so much so that he hung in there and I still couldn't believe he's still talking about the skeleton kids. You did a great job.

That's great! Thanks. A lot of that is the Tim Burton influence. He really knows how to walk the line between funhouse spooky and sweet. He was always very aware of the tone and sort of had an overview of tonally how that should play out. I think it's good, because we wanted something that adults would enjoy, but nothing that would be too horrific for children and you're right, that's the one moment where we play it up for a real horror movie moment, when she rises from the ground and she chases him, but that was a lot of fun because that's when we could indulge in that. The rest of the time, hopefully there's nothing there that's going to put off the kids.

It seems like a successful collaboration and I'm sure it was an intense collaboration. Did you and Tim ever "have it out?" Where there any things that you really believed in that you guys didn't see eye-to-eye on?

A few. We never really "had it out." I didn't feel like my job was to have it out with him. I felt like I was there to help him realize the film that he would want to make if he could sit there for three years and do it himself. I think we had a sort of mutual respect. I was grateful that he treated me that way. Basically, we would meet and he would have ideas of where he wanted it to go and then he would give me the space and the time to develop those options and come up with those ideas. I would meet with him again and he would dial it in from there. It was a good collaboration that way. There were a few things that in the end I wasn't sure about but they seemed to work. Just some fine cutting of things and you change a few shots in scenes, but it's so minor. Mostly he just wanted to add close-ups. We were always on the same page for most of it. We never had a blowout.

I'm sure what probably seemed like huge issues at the time you can probably look back and say, "Oh well." I guess in the heat of production things always seem more important, more crucial than they are sometimes.

Exactly. We were both trying to make the same movie, which was a good thing. There were inserts, or this or that, minor things. Like you said on the grand scale we were on the same page. So it was good. I had a really good time with it.

That's great! It really shows.

Thanks.
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