Did you see Strange Magic over the weekend?! It hit theaters on Friday, January 23. If you haven’t, be sure to read our Strange Magic Review! We’ve also already shared Strange Magic interviews with George Lucas and Elijah Kelley. While at Skywalker Ranch though, we also got to sit down with Strange Magic Director Gary Rydstrom! Gary has had an amazing career–already the proud owner of seven Academy Awards for sound & editing! And, he’s done some work as a director for Pixar animated shorts like Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation. Here’s what he had to say about wanting to work on the film…
Well, um, the karma and the irony of this movie for me is that I did have a long career, in this building mostly, a career as a sound designer, doing sound effects for movies. Um, and then by the end, I found that I often felt at odds with the composer, so it was kind of a fight between the composer and I to, you know, have our stuff heard. So I thought of it as karmic revenge from the universe that I get to direct a feature film here and it’s a musical. But I was really attracted to it as, as George is, and American Graffiti is one of my favorite movies.
The use of song to help tell a story was really attractive to me and this was such a great idea to tell a love story. And, if you think about the songs in the movie that are love songs, there aren’t that many positive love songs, which I always like to point out, you know, because love is hard, it’s it’s not always happy. But I love that part of it and- and, making a musical was really fun.
We talked a little about the whole process of making the film. We had already learned in the George Lucas interview that they wanted a level of realism to it – like you could go into the backyard and find these characters. Here’s what he had to say on the artwork inspiration for the film:
A lot about artwork that goes back to, you know, some of the early stuff that George did. I think they drew inspiration from classic sort of fairy tale art and some people did classic fairies, but made it their own. There is, as, as George said, a realism to it, so it’s not quite as ethereal as some classic fairy art might be from the classic fairy books and all that…
The fairies were drawn from butterflies, so things that really exist. If we see the fairies from a distance, we just think they’re butterflies. So that works for the story as well as a design thing, and then characters like Bog King and some of the other were mashups–visual mashups of insects and different creatures.
I have no idea what the Bog King is, he’s not a cockroach. I don’t know what he is. When I first came on this show, there were a lot of things – bugs inn glass and butterflies and stuffed mammals. And the imp, I don’t know what the imp is
either. The imp is just kind of a mashup of different small mammals. So I think nature was kind of one of the key things to draw on–what really exists in nature and kind of build it together into a world that makes sense and holds together, and feels like it’s part of our world.
Well, I’ll give two answers. Strange Magic is my favorite musical moment in the movie because it kind of sums up the movie. It’s a beautiful song, an ELO song, Evan Rachel Wood and Al Cumming sing it beautifully and the arrangement of it is beautiful. It’s a duet, and originally it’s not a duet, and it’s a beautiful duet. It’s also one of my favorite looking sequences in the movie. So that works.
But the moment that makes me cry, with Elijah here — the song that makes me cry every time is when Elijah sings Three Little Birds to Dawn at the end.
I completely agree that both are great parts in the movie. The animation sequence for the “Strange Magic” song is really pretty and really speaks to one of the main messages of the movie. Gary talked a bit about that and said that, “We always have to get past that outside–you know, the cover of the book, to find out what’s great inside.”
Too often, we are WAY too quick to judge – whether it be a literal book, a movie, a place, or a person. Seeing past that snap judgment is an important theme in the movie! Have you seen Strange Magic yet?
Disclosure: Disney hosted me in San Francisco in order to attend the Strange Magic screening and participate in group interviews & media events. As always, all opinions, experiences, and love of Disney (and George Lucas & Star Wars) are entirely my own!