Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) directs his first animated feature film, bringing the first few books of Kathryn Lasky's owl series to life on the screen as Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. Lasky's fictional tale of a group of young barn owls who fight against evil owls is rendered in 3-D, with the animation done by the same company, AnimalLogic, who brought us Happy Feet. Snyder said AnimalLogic actually introduced him to the books, although one of his kids had already read all of the books of the series.
"They felt like these were awesome adventure stories," Snyder told About.com during a special screening of 3-D footage in LA in support of the Warner Bros Pictures film. "I don't know the actual motivation, but it was a cool world. They had done a couple paintings. Grant Freckelton, the art director, he worked on 300 so when he showed me these paintings that they had created, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is cool.'"
Snyder's not known for family-friendly fare, however he promises there will not be a bloody director's cut of Legend of the Guardians. But there will be plenty of action, including a climatic battle scene that's still being worked on, as well as something Snyder always seems to manage to include in his films: slow-motion. "How could you not? Rain and owls and flying, why would you not? That’s what slow motion was invented for, especially when you have no cameras limited by frame rates and things like that," said Snyder.
Behind the Scenes of Legend of the GuardiansOn the Warner Bros lot, Snyder explained what he and writers John Orloff and Emil Stern envisioned when they set out to make Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. "We saw that we could make a thing that is like a Knights of the Round Table-type adventure for kids. That was the thing I really thought had value and commanded my attention and as much effort creatively as we could muster. I have kids and I want to make them a movie they can enjoy, and I do feel that making a family film is as much of a challenge as making any kind of film."
"The story basically centers around Soren and Kludd, I think is really the crux of the story," offered Snyder. "They’re two brothers. Soren’s the dreamer. He’s the Jim Sturgess character and Kludd is his brother [voiced by Ryan Kwanten]. Kludd is kind of the realist and wants to have people tell him that he’s good at what he does and he chooses a dark path."
As for the look of the film, Snyder said he had something very specific in mind. "It didn’t want to be a cartoon, but it still wanted to be fantastical and live in a fantastical world. That was the balance we tried to strike with the visuals was trying to get to this place where the characters can be incredibly expressive, so much can be done in the eyes and then also with being able to create this technology that allowed the feathers to not include each other but lay next to each other and be affected by the wind and movement and the expression. I think that was the thing we worked really hard on to get these owls to feel like you could almost touch them."
"It’s been an opportunity to really combine what I would call classic cinematic storytelling in the sense that we try to make these shots feel like a movie, but also you weren’t restricted by gravity and how the camera moves. There’s no physicality to how you do that. You’re really able to - I don’t want to say stretch your wings because that would sound horrible - but you know what I’m saying. You really can take an opportunity to have a lot of fun with it, and it has been a lot of fun with me to do a drawing that I would normally say, ‘Oh, this would be difficult to shoot.’ In the case of this, we really could go, ‘No problem. Put the camera exactly there.'"
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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole hits theaters on September 24, 2010.