Croods Sneak Peak: Behind the Scenes at Dreamworks Animation Studios

West coast correspondent, Kristin Flannery gives us a sneak peak at the new Dreamworks Animated film “Croods”
Last month, Rolemommy was invited to a parenting blogger summit and we were given an exclusive tour of DreamWorks Animation in Glendale, California, as well as presentations that detailed the many behind the scenes secrets that went into creating “The Croods,” which will be released in theaters on March 22.
During the summit day, they covered so many topics from the original idea, the first script, and how it “evolved” (sorry, had to say it since it’s a caveman movie), the storyboarding, character movement and voices, the 3D process, and the creation of the creatures and lands the Croods live in.
We were also pleasantly surprised by a guest appearance from DreamWorks Animation’s CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg!
As we get ready for the nationwide premiere of Croods, Rolemommy kicks off our coverage by taking you through the story pitch presentations….
The producers Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco with their story artist Steve MacLeod took us through a typical storyboard meeting and presentation.
Chris explained that he and Kirk started out by writing a script like you would do for any movie. Then up on the wall we saw what goes into the next step, which are storyboards mocked up so they can visually seen the scene before it goes to the artists. If you have ever wondered what it looks like it is exactly like a scene from an ad agency that you see in the movies with each scene in individual cubes, almost like a comic book.
Chris explained that story boards are really critical to the animation process because the story boards enable the team to develop the story and script as a fluid process. Through storyboarding, animators can change the dialogue, the setup, they can add elements to the scene and they can write dialogue to move the story along. Chris believes that this is where the rubber meets the road in animation as far as he is concerned is the story process.
Steve MacLeod was a guest story artist actually storyboarded a great deal on this movie. He began as a story trainee and worked on this film for five years when he was right out of college. Can you imagine beginning something when your child is born and then having them at the premiere? Steve’s daughter is in kindergarten now and old enough to see the movie! As Chris Sanders pointed out “That’s the shocking truth of how long it takes to make these. If you have a child at the beginning, they will be going to the premiere.”
Story board artists take the original script, in this case, “The Croods” written by Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sander, work on the sequence (those squares I mentioned before) then, we’d come into a room, which happened to be the room we were in and he would do this pitch. It would go through the pipeline and they get a lot of notes which are any ideas how to make it better. Steve said “It’s kind of a back and forth. I’ll get the script, I’ll read through it, and then we’ll do what they call a launch, and that’s where the directors will tell me all the little specifics or details that they want to include in the script, anything they don’t want to take out, what things are flexible. We’ll start storyboarding, and then we’ll do an even rougher drawing, if you can imagine. After that, I’ll pitch a rough, they’ll give me notes, we’ll see how close we are, and we’ll do a couple more times. It’s a vicious cycle until finally we feel like it’s really close, we’ll send it to editorial who starts putting all the dialogue and some temp music and scratch dialogue. It won’t be the celebrities quite yet.”
Steve didn’t just work on one character, “Well, it’s hugely collaborative. So, it actually happened simultaneously. Some people are developing the look of the characters, and then we’ll try to use their drawing designs and incorporate them into the drawings.”
What you will notice about the film is that the main character, Eep, (voiced by Emma Stone) is not a classic prototype but a girl a little bit chubby, big boned which was a conscious decision. Steve clarified, “Well, you know, we got these designers Carter Goodrich, Shane Prigmore and Shannon Tindle. They were looking at all these primitive cave paintings. And they tended to have certain shapes. They had to fit with the story, so we really wanted like cavemen. That extended to the voice actors, as well. We wanted to make sure the voices inhabited that kind of body type, and that body type belonged in this kind of a world. It’s a pretty rugged world, so we wanted characters that looked about as resilient and real as we could.” Kirk added ” We also always wanted Eep to be athletic and make you feel like she actually could do everything she’s doing, which usually those princesses can’t do. So, we always were looking at more like beach volleyball players and downhill skiers and just people that were athletic and for the whole family because we wanted it to feel real that they could actually do what we’re making them do.”
When the voice actors are cast this could change some of the characteristics of the animation. Even though they have been storyboarding a character a certain way once they get the actor in the recording booth the have a video camera recording them from two different angles. Chris explains, “A lot of the time, we’ll grab a take that they did, and we’ll take the video as well as the voice, and we’ll give that to the animator because there might be something kind of special that the actor did during that take. Emma Stone (Eep), I think we pulled more video on than any of the other actors because she is so animated. She could change expression in one frame of film. So, she’d be like happy and she’d suddenly have this cartoony upset face. And when we would go back and play it, it would be like one frame she’s happy, one frame of transition, bam, she’s unhappy. So, the speed at which she could change expressions was extreme.”
The Croods is in theaters March 22nd but you can check out Emma Stone’s animated expression in this trailer….