I don't tend to like Dreamworks movies. They're too quippy for me, too fixated on pop culture jokes, too quick to go to the Dreamworks Face. And when I first saw the advertising for Rise of the Guardians - Santa with tattoos, a badass Easter Bunny - I thought this was going to be more of the same. Maybe Santa could make jokes riffing on Oprah Winfrey's "And one for you! And one for you!" thing, I figured.
I was wrong. Really, really wrong. Dreamworks had a small group of journalists visit their Glendale campus this week to do a series of presentations about the new film and then to also show the movie. The presentations, frankly, were really entry level - I've been doing this over a decade, as have some of the other folks who were there, and we didn't need an Animation 101 demonstration. But once the day was over, I realized what Dreamworks was doing: they were preparing us to understand that they took this one seriously.
And it worked. Talking with producer Guillermo del Toro and director Peter Ramsey, it's obvious why: they cared. They gave it thought. They didn't approach this film, inspired by the children's books of William Joyce, as just an entertainment or a way to make a buck. They don't have huge licensing plans yet (although, as always, there is some licensing). They tackled some big themes, and went some intriguingly dark and smart places (Christians, how will you feel about the pagan trappings of the Easter Bunny's warren?) - while also making a light, fun movie perfect for children.
In a couple of weeks I'll be free to share with you a video I shot on the day, as well as my complete review. In the meantime, here's a clip where the Guardians - mythologicial figures tasked by the Man in the Moon to safeguard children from Pitch Black, Lord of Nightmares - attempt to recruit relative newbie Jack Frost into their group.
And here's a featurette about the behind the scenes animation that goes into creating Sandman's dream sand: