Interview with director Peter Ramsay & Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg

Rise Of The Guardians is the ambitious new animation from producer Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Ramsey, it cleverly reinvents classic childhood characters like Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny as an Avengers style team. Irish audiences were lucky enough to see a 30 minute preview at Movie Fest in September and the sound of disappointment when the 30 minute clip ended was a testament to how strong the movie is. Brogen Hayes caught up with director Peter Ramsay when he unveiled the movie in Cannes earlier this year. 

Where did the idea for the film come from?
Jeffrey Katzenberg: This is an idea for a movie that was introduced to us some time ago by a very wonderful and creative force; Bill Joyce. Bill has been an amazing success as an author, illustrator came across the big idea for this in a wonderful little conversation one day – at least that’s how he related it to me – his daughter actually asked him if any of these wonderful icons of our childhood had ever met one another? Has Santa Claus ever met Easter Bunny, has the Easter Bunny ever met the Tooth Fairy and so on.

Peter Ramsay: As Jeffrey said, the idea for the film came from Bill Joyce and the idea to reinvent these icons came from such a beautiful, genuine place; his daughter’s belief. That’s the thing about the project that has inspired all of us working on it more than anything; all of these characters, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy – really any versions of these characters from all over the world – they have one thing in common, they get their power from the belief of children in them. The things that they represent, the values that they pass on, all these things endure. Our entire crew are deeply inspired by this one idea; when you are young, you believe in these characters and that belief gives them reality and power.

Can you tell us about the characters?
PR: The big man himself… He goes by many names; Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Father Christmas. His real name is North. North is a warrior, he is a force of nature, he is kind of like a hurricane, he blows into a room and takes over. For North, nothing is impossible if he is believed in. Portraying North we have a great actor who is equally and icon, equally a force of nature; Mr Alec Baldwin. Next up we have The Easter Bunny or Bunnymund as he is known in our mythology. He is a warrior, a tracker, a protector of nature, the bringer of springtime and the renewer of life; he represents Easter, which also represents hope. He is portrayed by Mr Hugh Jackman, who brings all of his comedic, leading man and showmanship to the role. The Tooth Fairy is a beautiful, shimmering, half hummingbird, half human character. The Tooth Fairy that many of us have grown up with… You leave your teeth under your pillow, someone collects them in the night and leaves you with a wonderful little gift. The real story is that in each of those teeth is captured the most precious memories of childhood, so the Tooth Fairy collects those and keeps them safe for you and when you need their inspiration later in life, they’re there for you. Tooth is portrayed by the wonderful Isla Fisher who brings her comedic chops as well as a beautiful, delicate emotion to the role. The sandman is the bringer of dreams, the architect of good dreams. No-one is voicing him in the movie because he doesn’t really have a voice. Sandy is a cross between Harpo Marx and Buddha; he is the wisest and most charming of the Guardians. He communicated by weaving beautiful images out of his golden Dream Sand, which he spreads around the world ever night so he brings beautiful dreams to kids all over the world. Those four characters are the core Guardians, they protect children, they bring things like hope, wonder, joy, dreams to the world. That’s their mission, that’s their shared goal. In the film they are joined by a new character who is on the way to becoming a Guardian, but has a lot to learn and that is Jack Frost. Jack Frost, like the others, is a supernatural being. He has control over the signs of winter; frost, snow, wind, with the help of his incredible magic staff. He can actually fly on the wind and control the weather. Jack has a little problem though – remember I have been talking about belief and how important that is? – in our world if you are not believed in, you don’t really exist and Jack Frost is not believed in, not even by himself. To bring Jack to life, we are very luck to have an amazing actor who combines both Jack’s sense of mischief, his adventurism and his humour with a deeper side; this longing, this yearning to be believed in and accepted. Chris Pine is portraying Jack Frost and he has done a wonderful job.

…And what about the villain?
PR: We have a great one. We have the original villain; the Boogeyman. Again, in cultures all over the world there is a character like this, he hides under the bed, hides in the dark and brings you bad dreams. Basically, he scares kids to death. The Boogeyman Pitch is no different; he has something against the Guardians as well. With the Guardians, everyone believes in them, parents teach their children to believe in them. With Pitch, it’s the opposite; ‘It’s OK, it was just a bad dream, there is nothing in the dark, there is nothing under your bed, there is no such thing as the Boogeyman’. In our story Pitch is determined to flip this equation on its head. Pitch is played spectacularly by the wonderful Jude Law who is incredible in the role.

Do you feel as though you have created a new breed of super hero with this film?
PR: yeah very much so. I think in fact when early on we were discussing what kind of movie this was going to be, we had Guillermo Del Toro – who is an executive producer on the film – and he and our creative team were talking about whether it is a fairy tale or what it was exactly, and we landed on it is a super hero movie where the super heroes get their powers from being believed in. So in that way it really is.

Do you remember who told you that these characters from our childhoods – like Santa – are not real?
PR: Wait, did you say they don’t exist? [laughs]

Words – Brogen Hayes
Rise Of The Guardians is now showing