I not only got the chance to review the movie Epic before it came to theaters on May 24th, but I also had the amazing opportunity to spend some time interviewing Epic‘s director, Chris Wedge. Chris Wedge is also the director of great movies such as Ice Age and my children’s favorite, Robots, as well as Executive Producer of Rio. Wedge started his career in stop-motion animation but when I asked him which style he preferred stop-motion, regular animation, or CGI, he replied, “I don’t think I would want to go backwards. I don’t have the patience anymore to move things around for stop-motion. We can now use computers to simulate stop-motion animation and it is much easier that way.” Wedge’s initial inspiration for EPIC came when he attended an art exhibition of 100-year-old paintings that showed intricate realms existing in the woods. “The paintings had magical notions of tiny civilizations living in the trees and bushes,” Wedge recalls. “They looked like magnificent worlds, and I thought there had to be a movie here.” That was back in 1998 when Wedge got the idea of a world in the woods with tiny creatures. It took him over decade to actually get the idea off the ground and begin working on the film. Overall, it took Wedge and his team at Blue Sky Studios about 4 years to complete this project.
Blue Sky Studios’ cutting-edge animation was the perfect fit to bring EPIC alive. “Some places you can’t go any other way but animation,” Wedge explains. “We had been developing our artistic and technical capabilities, and we now had the ability to create entire worlds based in nature. I thought I could immerse audiences – visually, intellectually and emotionally – in a realm we could experience only through animation.”
When asked about how Wedge created characters for his movies he replied, “I model characters after people I know. You sometimes start off with an archetype in mind when your writing. You have a character in mind when your designing it. Sometimes you think of movie stars. Sometimes they are contemporary. Sometimes they are from the 50’s. Or maybe (you think of) a neighbor because you remember how specific there mannerisms are. You can always model the character after some combination of things your familiar with. And I think about what the character would do and why would the character do it.”
I asked Mr. Wedge if he had actors in mind when he wrote each character and he said,”No, the voice is the last part to be decided after both the story and the characters.” Once the story and the characters were created, then they began the process of deciding what actors and actresses would sound right to voice each character.
When asked who is favorite character in Epic is, Wedge replied, “(Professor) Bomba. I enjoyed creating him the most. He was a great challenge, one that I enjoyed. He is a character that’s complete and quirky and I loved his story. There’s more to him than you think there is.”
I would like to thank Chris Wedge for taking time out of his busy schedule to spend some time with us answering our questions.
Chris Wedge’s Bio
CHRIS WEDGE (Director, Story) is an Oscar winning film director, producer, and co-founder of Blue Sky Studios. Beginning his career as a stop-motion animator, Wedge later joined MAGI/SynthaVision, where he was one of the principal animators for the groundbreaking Disney movie Tron (1982). He directed the character animation sequences for the Warner Bros./Geffen Films production Joe’s Apartment (1996), and served as creative supervisor on numerous feature films and commercials.
Wedge wrote and directed Blue Sky’s first film, the touching short, Bunny (1998), which won an Academy Award for best animated short film. It was the first film to use radiosity, Blue Sky’s own advanced ambient lighting technology. In addition to the Academy Award, Bunny has won more than 25 international awards for animation excellence. Wedge went on to direct Blue Sky’s first two computer-generated animated feature films, Ice Age (2002), nominated for an Academy Award for best animated feature film, and Robots (2005). He was executive producer of Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006), which has grossed more than $638 million worldwide, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (2008), the first Dr. Seuss CG animated feature film; Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which grossed over $887 million worldwide; and the global hits Rio (2011) and Ice Age: Continental Drift.
Wedge is a 1981 graduate of the SUNY Purchase film department. He received his Master of Arts degree in computer graphics and art education from the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and at Ohio State University.
Disclosure- I did not receive any compensation for this post but I was given the opportunity to meet Chris Wedge for the purpose of this interview post.