Wizards of Hollywood

March 12, 2013 | 10:50 a.m.

‘Oz the Great and Powerful’: Scott Stokdyk on visual splendor, monkeys

Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” might have earned some mixed reviews from critics, but there’s no question that there’s magnificent spectacle on display in the $200-million movie. Scott Stokdyk served as the film’s visual effects supervisor — he worked with Raimi on the director’s three “Spider-Man” films — and played a key role in conjuring the otherworldly imagery that fascinated moviegoers. Hero Complex caught up with him briefly to talk about the project’s Technicolor aesthetic and the design of Finley, the sweetly comic flying monkey voiced by Zach Braff. HC: Often production designers will talk about how they approach creating a film’s design, but I’m guessing very similar conversations must take place about a movie’s visual effects — determining what role they will play in helping to craft the overall look? SS: I worked on the project for […]
Feb. 07, 2013 | 1:47 p.m.

‘Star Wars’: Stuart Freeborn, the makeup artist behind Yoda, dies

The Yoda puppet used in "Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
Legendary Hollywood makeup man Stuart Freeborn, who created some of the most memorable characters ever in science fiction including Yoda in the “Star Wars” films and the ape men of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” has died at the age of 98. Freeborn’s daughter, Michelle, told the Associated Press that the legendary makeup man died in London from a combination of ailments due to his age. In a statement, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas said, “Stuart was already a makeup legend when he started on ‘Star Wars.’ He brought with him not only decades of experience, but boundless creative energy. His artistry and craftsmanship will live on forever in the characters he created. His ‘Star Wars’ creatures may be reinterpreted in new forms by new generations, but at their heart, they continue to be what Stuart created for the […]
Jan. 10, 2013 | 4:05 p.m.

Composing wizard Danny Elfman talks sweeping, gigantic ‘Oz’ score

'Oz: The Great and Powerful' composer Danny Elfman
“The Wizard of Oz” features some of the most beloved songs in movie musical history: “Over the Rainbow,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead.” But with Disney’s March 8 release, “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” director Sam Raimi and composer Danny Elfman were quite conscious of putting a wholly unique stamp on a project inspired by author L. Frank Baum’s original books, not the Oscar-winning 1939 movie. In one instance, though, that directive proved especially tricky — when writing a song for a sequence in which a group of happy Munchkins welcome James Franco’s Oz to the Emerald City, Elfman found himself in something of a predicament. “These Munchkins are little people in a joyous town of fantasy singing an up-tempo welcoming song. There really aren’t that many ways to apply that,” Elfman said during […]
Dec. 05, 2012 | 7:00 a.m.

‘Hobbit’: Dan Hennah brings eastern influence to production design

Production designer Dan Hennah on the set of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." (James Fisher / New Line Cinema / MGM / Warner Bros.)
Few people know Middle-earth better than Dan Hennah, the production designer tasked with translating J.R.R. Tolkien’s words and director Peter Jackson’s vision to the big screen for “The Hobbit” trilogy. Hennah has been working on the film for three years, but it’s not his first visit to the land of dwarfs, elves, hobbits and Orcs. Hennah served as art director for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and won the art direction and set decoration Academy Award for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” along with Grant Major and Alan Lee in 2004. Hero Complex spoke with Hennah about his return to Tolkien’s world, what’s different in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and the challenges of bringing to life new corners of Middle-earth. HC: Can you start by explaining what your job entails? Production design must […]
Nov. 30, 2012 | 6:46 p.m.

‘Hobbit’: Tami Lane on dwarf wrangling, silicone magic

Tami Lane, prosthetic artist behind 'The Hobbit' (featured image)
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” won’t reach theaters until Dec. 14, but just Thursday, the movie’s visual effects team made the shortlist for Oscar consideration. Working in the non-digital realm, Academy Award winner Tami Lane supervised all of the prosthetic makeup that had to be applied for the films in Peter Jackson’s return trip to Middle-earth. It was a job that kept her in New Zealand for 18 months, but she knew the landscape well — Lane was a key part of the prosthetics team on both “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” The Peoria, Ill., native recently spoke with Hero Complex about getting the tale’s coterie of dwarfs ready for their trip to the Misty Mountains and beyond and how Jackson’s decision to use the groundbreaking […]
July 11, 2012 | 6:02 p.m.

‘The Hobbit’ at Comic-Con: Peter Jackson’s San Diego plan

thehobbit8-cp2
COMIC-CON: BURNING QUESTIONS As we close in on the 2012 edition of Comic-Con International, we look at some of the burning questions that will be answered in San Diego. Does “The Hobbit” need a magic moment in Hall H? Peter Jackson rarely hears grumbles from Middle-earth fans — just the opposite. “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy not enjoyed success in epic proportions, but it was also the rare triple-threat as far as box-office numbers,  industry awards and  critical acclaim. But in April, at a preview in Las Vegas,  reactions were divided about Jackson’s new Tolkien footage; it was screened at 48 frames per second (the norm is 24 frames) and in the view of some the added clarity actually sapped the majesty out of Middle-earth. The first part of the two-film adaptation hits theaters in December, but how is Jackson approaching this […]
July 11, 2012 | 2:55 p.m.

‘Amazing Spider-Man’: The secrets of off-the-wall visual effects

Andrew Garfield stars as Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man." (Columbia Pictures)
What’s the most effective way to depict a teenage superhero swinging through the urban canyons of New York City, trudging through subterranean tunnels and battling a 9-foot humanoid reptile? Such were the questions faced by “The Amazing Spider-Man” director Marc Webb and the visual effects artists at Sony Imageworks. For many key scenes, the answer was to create and animate fully digital environments and actors, which allowed for a great deal of creative freedom but presented their own artistic and practical challenges. We caught up with digital effects supervisor Dave Smith to talk about his team’s vision for Spidey’s return to the big screen. The exclusive video below (narrated by David Schaub, supervisor of additional animation) demonstrates how digital effects were used to bring some of Spider-Man’s classic comic-book poses to life and to re-create New York streetscapes in painstaking detail. HC: […]
July 05, 2012 | 7:58 p.m.

‘Dark Knight Rises’: Christopher Nolan takes Batman to new place

The Cardington sheds, home of Gotham City. (Credit: Tony Crowe, courtesy of TheStudioTour.com )
From a distance, Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City sure doesn’t look like much. The “skyline” begins to emerge over the horizon in the rolling green farmlands about 50 miles north of London, but there are no gothic spires or granite citadels, just the slanted, pocked roofs of two boxy metal buildings. But nearing the complex on a winding two-lane road, the immensity of the filmmaker’s make-believe metropolis comes into focus: The structures that looked squat from afar are actually 15 stories tall — and as long as 81-story skyscrapers lying on their sides. Constructed more than 85 years ago to house Britain’s Royal Airship Works, the giant coffin-shaped sheds sat unused or ignored for years, and waiting for some great undertaking, after the nation’s flagship dirigible went down in flames in a horrific 1930 crash in France. The field mice had […]
June 06, 2012 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Transformers’ taking new shape with Universal ride and fourth film

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This post has been corrected. See the note below for details. Film critics who put down Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies by calling them theme-park rides in disguise won’t change their mind after hopping on Transformers: The Ride — 3D at Universal Studios, but they might have a dramatically improved opinion of theme-park rides. The $100-million ride, which officially opened May 24, is being hailed as a game-changer by the reviewers and bloggers who cover such things (yes, there is quite a bit of room on the Internet), and even rivals at Disney Imagineering have, in private, acknowledged that the shiny new kid on the block is pretty impressive and possibly, well, transformative. Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, opening this month, has been the big theme park story this summer due to the scale of the project and […]
May 24, 2012 | 9:46 a.m.

‘Avengers’ deconstructed: Helicarrier, Stark Tower design secrets

The Littoral Combat Ship program influenced "The Avengers" production designer. (United States Navy)
“The Avengers” is closing in on $1.2 billion in worldwide box office and has passed “The Dark Knight” to become the biggest superhero film in Hollywood history. The scale of the movie feels as big as those numbers, and one major reason for that is the work of James Chinlund, the production designer whose credits include Darren Aronofsky films “The Fountain” and “Requiem for a Dream.” The New York native has a fine arts background and studied at Cal Arts but also learned a lot in the pages of Marvel Comics. We caught up with him to talk about making a universe big enough for a cosmic team of box-office heroes. HC: What did you see as the biggest hurdle when you first took on the movie? JC: In May of 2010, when I was first approached by Marvel about the […]
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