With only ten days until the opening of BRAVE the countdown has begun. Having only had the opportunity to see the first half hour of the film, in its raw version at that – I NEED to see the rest. It’s like hearing a joke without the punchline or returning a library book without reading the last chapter – I’ve GOT to know what happens.
Last month I had the chance to sit down with Brave’s director, Mark Andrews. While he was FULL OF GREAT information, he still wouldn’t spill the beans…so, I’m going to have to buy myself a ticket and sit in the nice cool theater, with a large popcorn and a big lemonade (and some Junior Mints of course) and see for myself.
Here’s what he DID have to say ~
What made you get into animation?
MARK ANDREWS : I kind of fell into animation. I’ve been drawing all my life just because I like drawing. Self taught. I didn’t have my first actual art lesson until I was out high school and I went into city college and I took perspective in drawing and life drawing and all that stuff. I was gonna be a Marine. I was going into military. All my friends were going into the Army and Navy and stuff. My best friend is a Navy fire pilot so I said, okay, when I get out of high school I’m gonna join the Marines. They were all – “you better not”. “You’d better do something with your drawing.” I’m all, “what?” because back then there was nothing, nothing that I knew of. We didn’t have computers back then, or have the internet to know everything that’s out there, to talk to anybody else. So, through a class in city college I found at about Cal Arts down in Los Angeles which was a school started by Walt Disney. I said, I can actually have a career where I’m just drawing all the time? Done. Check. Everything else, doors just opened for me and I just jumped through.
How did you manage to work on John Carter while working on Brave?
MARK ANDREWS : Well actually — one ended, and then the other one started.
So it wasn’t simultaneous?
MARK ANDREWS : It wasn’t simultaneous. Because live action is so much faster and Brave started a year before we even started to work on John Carter. It just kind of landed that way. they moved up John Carter’s schedule. it was supposed to come out summer of 2012 and John Carter in competition with our own movie, Brave. So, and also the summer was crowded so they moved it into the, into the spring slot.
Tell me about Brad Bird.
MARK ANDREWS : Brad Bird. When Pixar approached Brad Bird to come up here and make a film with Pixar there were about 12 of us that he brought up from his Iron Giant days. He calls us his dirty dozen because we come in and we make movies gorilla style. We do whatever it takes to get it done – we’re down and dirty and coming in to this hollow halls of Pixar we were like garbage. We were like trash. There was a lot of “who are you”?
Oh, you worked on Iron Giant? I guess it was okay at the beginning. but Brad is kind of that down and dirty shoot from the hip guy and so are all of we so we kind of came in and kind of infected Pixar in a good way. I mean we’re 12 hundred people right now. When I came up here, there were 400 people so we’ve hired a lot more to do a lot more movies. There are just a lot more voices in the pot now from all different aspects. Most of the people who worked at Pixar, when we got up here, that’s all they’d ever done.
They didn’t come from any other studios so they don’t know what hardships are like. It’s like we respect being rich all of a sudden, being from the poorsville. You know, you guys don’t know what it’s like…so the echo here has kind of changed. We’re looking to do cheats and do it as cheap as we can, finding other solutions that we have to do, like when we were outside of Pixar.
Being a rebel did you ever think you’d be directing a film here?
MARK ANDREWS : I never gave it a thought. I was black listed at Disney. They wouldn’t hire me after being an intern. I went to the Disney internship after Cal Arts, after four years of Cal Arts. I got my BFA. I was one of five who got the Disney internship. After three months of the internship they would never hire me again. Just being myself, being a rebel.
John Lasseter has the same story. He got fired from Disney. Brad Bird has the same story. It’s expectations. It’s hard to swallow. Brad has a term for it. He says, strong coffee and a lot of people don’t like strong coffee, but, sometimes strong coffee’s exactly what you need to wake up in the morning and get going, so…
So this movie took seven years to put together. What were your thoughts going in?
MARK ANDREWS : I go in, I go in full throttle. I’m not timid. I’ve been a director here at Pixar, and sitting in at the branch after we see the reels each time that a movie is done here, for every movie, there is this feel of – What’s wrong with it? How can we fix it, and give suggestions to the director, help them navigate because story’s the hardest thing there is? To come up with a story, to do a story and make it compelling and have all these ingredients make sense, and kind of go through to make you believe, and care, and feel. It’s just a pain in the butt. You know, it’s really hard.
We have a saying, it’s the story is hell, because it’s different every time. You lose ground just as much as you gain ground, right? So, I mean it’s like doing a marble statue and every time you go clink, it falls to pieces and you go darn. Then you glue it back together again from scratch to start again hoping it’s not gonna break that way. So, it’s hard. They were also developing new technology to make this film a reality for the demands of this film – which kind of slowed down the process. When they first started making and developing this film, their release date was way, way out there so they’d have the time to do it.
But, every project gets bogged down with story, every single one. Andrew Stanton was up against the line in Wall-E. You know, Pete Doctor takes his time developing films. He’s like six to seven years after film..he never mixes, you know. The fastest film we ever had was with Brad Bird, from start to finish – Incredibles. Ratatouille also took forever and it got bogged down with storyboard and it just got stuck and even Brave did.
We can move it. You know, something has to happen or change and we’ve had director changes here at Pixar before and this is just, the thing that needed to happen to free it up to break it. They asked me to take over. I come in, I look at it. It’s a great story with great characters. This character theme, this parent-child story, right? Set in Scotland – that I love. It’s medieval that I love, right? I’m all okay, what, how do we fix this? So kind of coming in and being an objective eye.
First, the easiest thing that I did was going in and just kill everything that I thought wasn’t needed and get down to the bare bones of what the story was. That kind of freed it from the mud that kind of blurred it, but, it left a lot of holes for me and for my story team who had been on the project from the beginning. It was really hard for them to kind of go, okay we’re not going that direction and we’re now going in this direction, with the new director. So,kudos to them and the whole crew to have worked on years of developing.
You know, years of developing this thing that I never see or years of, you know, animating this one thing and we’re not gonna do it, not because I don’t want to but because once you take away the clutter and you see what you’ve got and I have to rebuild it, that there are holes and new things. So, now we’ve got new sets and new characters and I wanted a light of weather in there so we got weather back in – like it rained and stuff like that. There’s one scene that I had. it’ll be on the DVD, that has snow in an alternative opening that I thought was fabulous, but, we didn’t start with Merida and mom right off the bat.
So we dumped that for story reason. Even, in my process, I got it up three times before the final piece, the part of which you guys saw yesterday. So I even had my run ins with getting stuck, you know.
To see JUST what Mark Andrews is talking about, I guess you’ll have to do what I am…
GO SEE BRAVE – opening June 22, 2012.
While I was a guest of Disney/Pixar on a junket, all opinions are strictly my own.