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Alec Baldwin called them “the Justice League of childhood.” Actress Isla Fisher called them the “animated Avengers.” They are the Guardians, the title characters in the 3D animated movie Rise of the Guardians, that DreamWorks Animation will open stateside Nov. 21.
In what has become an annual tradition for the Burbank, Ca.-based studio, DWA is using the Cannes Film Festival to show off its latest wares to the assembled international press. On Friday, DWA’s summer release Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted will get the full red-carpet treatment when it screens at the Palais. And as a sort of curtain-raiser, on Wednesday morning as the festival was just getting under way, the studio staged a press event of its own to show off footage from Guardians.
Introducing the show-and-tell, DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg credited author and illustrator William Joyce for the project’s genesis. It all began when Joyce’s daughter asked him if any of the characters that fuel kids’ imaginations – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy – had ever met. “You’re going to hear the answers to that today,” Katzenberg said.
Director Peter Ramsey then took the stage to lay out how the movie, based on Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood book series, has reinvented the iconic characters: Santa Claus is North, a big guy, with a booming, Russian-inflected accent voiced by Baldwin; the Easter Bunny becomes the tunnel-travelling Bunnymund, voiced by Hugh Jackman; ToothFairy is a half-hummingbird, half-human creature to whom Fisher lends her voice; and the Sandman is a silent character, who Ramsay described as “a cross between Harpo Marx and Bhudda.” In the movie, they are joined by a new recruit, Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine, as they all do battle with the Boogeyman, who goes by the name of Pitch and is voiced by Jude Law.
After showing select scenes from the film that set up the characters and plot, Ramsey was joined by Baldwin, Fisher and Pine, who all earnestly offered testimonials on the film’s behalf.
“It reminds you of old, old animated cells,” Baldwin said of the movie’s look. “It’s very beautiful, arresting.”
“It shows the joy of imagination,” Pine added.
Ramsey explained that as the filmmakers – who include Guillermo del Toro, who served as an executive producer – developed the film, they constantly asked themselves what sort of film it was. Is it a fairy tale?, they asked themselves, until Del Toro offered, “It’s a superhero movie where the superheroes get their powers from belief.”
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