Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dr. Seuss, Dan Barker and Horton Hears A What? (Introduction and background to the Interview)

If you think about it it's pretty amazing

Two world's collided this morning (at least in my world). Mikale and I got shepherded through the Gallo and Nu Metro caves...festooned with posters, CD's and DVD's stuffed into wall and office space, cocooned rooms filled with creative human beings talking music and movies. The Entertainment brands may be part of the AVUSA stable, but it feels like a different world to the Newsroom where we're based. We went down into a private cinema at Gallo's entrance - I didn't even know it existed. It's a mini cinema with a small kiosk for popcorn and, well, everything you'd expect going to the movies.

We were here, armed with cameras, notepads, me with a microcasette recorder, to get the foreground of Horton Hears A Who, and get one of the animators takes on the background stuff.

I was a bit jittery going in, possibly because it was the first time I'd been in a tie for about a year. When Dan Barker arrived in a t-shirt, a friendly looking fellow (28 years old), blue eyes and dark hair, his wife discreetly beside him, my shadow tore off the tie and tossed it over my shoulder.

At around 9:45am we settled down to watch a preview of the movie, made by Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age, Robots). Dan sat behind me; it would be his second viewing of the whole film, and I had the feeling he'd be watching us to gauge reactions. Right off the bat the Dr. Seussy stuff - the fur, the gadgets, the strange silliness, came crackling through. Dr. Seuss has been very carefully and sensitively rendered, in all its unique magic and mayhem. I haven't laughed this much in a movie since...well, I can't remember when, perhaps when I was ten.

I went into the movie expecting it to be a bit awkward; about an elephant, and then a speck...but what actually happens? Well, a lot happens, and there are plenty of characters in both worlds, and as the flick progresses, so does the perception of one world of another. The premise of the flick is also charming: a large elephant is the only creature able to discern the tinny miniature world within the speck...

The script is great, performances (many of them) are awesome, and all of this is rendered with sparkling wit and precision by an army of animators, Dan Barker being one of them. Dan's signature scene (one of a whole couple, more on that later) is the ape cannon, shooting banananas at a fleeing Horton. Morton, a zippy blue mouse, is voiced by Knocked Up star Seth Rogen. Vlad the evil misshapen vulture (voiced by Will Arnett) is another memorable character. There are many character besides, filling the movie to the brim with Seussian chaos.

We all spoke at length to Dan after the flick; which demonstrates the extent that the imagination invested into the film fires up everyones creative flicker. Even the SABC2 cameramen asked Dan a lot of questions, out of curiosity, not as part of just 'doing the job'. And Dan's experience, and the experience that animation is, is fascinating. It is a painstaking, detailed process of perceiving our own imaginations, and then rendering these in technicolor, through creatures invented by some other imagineer. Dan's exposition of the process - and the American collaborative styles - was particularly insightful.

I read Dr. Seuss as a kid (you're supposed to pronounce Seuss as you do 'voice', with with an S, but no one ever does). The careful consideration and the consistent loyalty to the spirit of Seuss is what makes this flick so much fun. Considering the original book (Horton hears a Who) is 8 pages long, the director and animators stocked their libraries with everything Seuss, and worked hard to deliver 88 minutes of Seussian magic. They do, bringing in Seussian wisdom, and some existential tickles, that will deliver the feel good factor straight to the guts of both adults and children.

Score: 8/10

To buy the book, go here.
To buy the DVD go here.

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