This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
William Joyce first began crafting back stories for Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy nearly 20 years ago, as bedtime tales for his own children. Now Joyce’s storytelling is spawning the 2012 Dreamworks Animation movie “Rise of the Guardians” and an accompanying series of young adult fantasy novels, the first of which, “Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King,” hit stores in October.
“It seemed odd and slightly criminal that we know what Superman’s origins are, but these guys that we believe in, we don’t know,” said Joyce, a children’s author and illustrator whose book “A Day with Wilbur Robinson” was the basis for the 2007 Walt Disney animated movie “Meet the Robinsons” and whose Disney Channel series “Rolie Polie Olie” has won three Emmy awards. “I remember as a kid asking my parents, ‘Where does Santa come from? How does he do what he does?’ The answers were very unsatisfying.”
In “Rise of the Guardians,” Santa (voiced by a Russian accented Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman (a silent, Buddhalike character) team up, a la “The Magnificent Seven,” to protect children’s hopes and dreams from a nightmare bringer named Pitch, a.k.a. the Boogeyman (Jude Law). Jack Frost (Chris Pine) is a teenager torn between allegiance to the Guardians and Pitch.
Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, who wrote the Nicole Kidman movie “Rabbit Hole,” is penning the screenplay for “Rise of the Guardians,” which is being directed by Peter Ramsay and executive produced by Joyce and Guillermo del Toro.
Joyce said he drew inspiration for the characters from a broad range of sources, including “The Wizard of Oz,” Marvel comic books and “She,” the pulp adventure novel by Henry Rider Haggard.
The filmmakers have thought through and updated the logic of all the childhood icons–the Tooth Fairy, who resembles a hummingbird, collects baby teeth because they store happy memories; the Easter Bunny delivers Easter eggs — which can walk — through a network of secret underground tunnels; and Santa is a bit more roguish than the jolly, shopping-mall variety — he has tattoos on his beefy forearms that say “Naughty” and “Nice,” and was once a daredevil swordsman.
“I was trying to reinvigorate the guardians’ mythologies a little bit,” Joyce said. “They had become so commercialized they had lost some of their potency. When I was growing up, Santa Claus seemed a figure of majesty. He’s not just a puffball. I wanted to give Santa back some of that conviction.”
“Rise of the Guardians” arrives in theaters Nov. 21 2012.
[For the record, 9:52 a.m., Jan. 3: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that “Rise of the Guardians” opens in theaters on Nov. 12, 2012. The film arrives in theaters Nov. 21, 2012.]
— Rebecca Keegan
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