I was invited on an expenses paid trip to CA by Disney to cover the #StrangeMagicEvent and #PixarInsideOut in exchange for my posts of the trip experiences. All opinions are my own.
When I set out on an awesome adventure to San Francisco for the #StrangeMagicEvent I had no idea that we would be surprised with a once in a lifetime interview with George Lucas! We actually found out the night before while riding on the bus back to the hotel. When Marshall told us all we screamed, squealed, yelled, clapped. Yes we were all very excited! I got chills! What an incredible opportunity to sit down with such an industry icon.
I was so impressed with the kind of guy George Lucas is. From talking to him and being around him he seems so down to earth and real which is amazing since he is SO FAMOUS. He actually sat down and watched the screening of the Strange Magic Movie with us. Yes I watched a movie with George Lucas! Wow!
Then it was time to hear all about the Strange Magic movie from George himself.
Can you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to make this film?
GEORGE LUCAS: It started quite a while ago, about 15 years ago. I just got the idea that it would be fun. I mean I love to do musicals, I love to do musicals using my favorite music and, so it kinda harkens back to my pre-Star Wars days. I thought it would be fun to make a film that was more for tween girls than Star Wars which is for tween boys, even though in the end everybody loved it and girls love it.
So I’m hoping that this one, even though it’s more teen girl-centric, hopefully it will engage all the boys and everybody will like it. The idea of an upbeat, fun, simple movie just appealed to me. I’d finished all the Star Wars and everything and I was producing films but I wanted to do one that I could actually get my-my hands dirty.
So we started with a small group here designing things, doing animation tests and doing this, and so it went on for years and years and years, you know I was kinda doing it on the side. It kept growing and it’s one of those fun movies, I loved it because I love the music, I love coming to work on it, I love watching it, which is the key in the end for me, just it’s something I did for the fun.
I remember you said that the film is about how everyone deserves to be loved, and I think that that’s so true. How did that theme emerge for you?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well the-the-the original process was to make a movie that is the difference between being infatuated and being truly in love. Since being infatuated ultimately is about surface value, surface issues and being really in love is about interior issues. I wanted to make a movie about that which is in the end it’s very easy to be infatuated with somebody. And of course people are infatuated with boy bands and beautiful people and all the things you read in the magazines, all that kind of stuff, but in the end, from experience, you don’t really want to be married to somebody like that, you really don’t want to spend the rest of your life like that, and you really aren’t going to have a serious, deep relationship with somebody like that. It doesn’t last very long.
But as a result, it was just to play with that and say, and especially, again, for young girls who are prone to infatuations, to say, you know, it’s not always the cutest guy in class that you really want to be out with. So that kind of idea and then as I moved along obviously, for me, personally, I had been a bachelor for 20, I got married but then I go divorced but then I was a bachelor for 20. And I said well I’ll never fall in love again it’s just not gonna happen, I was the old cranky Bog king. No it’s never gonna happen to me, I just will never find anybody. And I found somebody who doesn’t look at all like me, doesn’t, you know, I’m a 60s radical, government unhappy, Wall Street-hating person from San Francisco, and I ended up meeting a woman who’s a head of a big investment management firm who’s on Wall Street who doesn’t look like me. Is the last person you would figure would fall in love with the Bog King. Or I’d fall in love with her since I am not into princesses.
GEORGE LUCAS: Yeah, now I got a princess. So as time went on it became more meaningful to me because I realized that in the end, with my wife, we fell in love because we were exactly alike inside. You know, it’s like the movie, you know first you say well, I hate this stuff, well that’s interest, you know?
It, you’re surprised and realize that you have so much in common that you would never have thought of on the surface, and it’s the same thing again with, Roland which is, you know the classic pretty boy. That story has been told over and over and over again but at the same time, it needs to be retold, it’s the same thing I did when I started doing Star Wars and thinking about mythological motifs and the fact that kids need to know at 12 years old. To me adolescence is a key period in a child’s life, and to make movies that say look, these are the issues, they may seem obvious to us ’cause we’ve been through it, maybe your parents have told you about this, maybe they haven’t but you need to know the story of why you have friendships and what a friendship means. Why there are things in the world that are bigger than you are, why your complicated feelings with your parents and all these kinds of things are not unusual, they’re not just you, this is something that everybody goes through.
So this is kind of the same thing it’s, I won’t call it a myth because I beat that one to death with Star Wars. But this is a fairytale. Same thing only much sweeter. It’s a story that needs to be told every generation, ’cause the little girls growing up, or boys, they don’t know any of this stuff, by the time they reach 12 they’re very confused. And, even though we all know it, and oh I’ve seen that, well that’s been told over and over and over again, well it needs to continue to be told over and over again. You can’t sort of let kids slip through the cracks and say oh yeah, I was in the generation that didn’t get that message. The message is so simple and, you know it’s been around for thousands of years that it can always be retold.
My favorite part is the-is the redemption at the end, like you might go through something really terrible but you can be surprised and find healing. Around the corner from the most unexpected experience is the most unexpected person.
GEORGE LUCAS: Well it’s also, there’s an issue on this one which is I made it for older kids. One of the things (message of the movie), especially for young girls, is to be brave. That’s a key element, you know the princesses are great, especially Marianne. She goes from being a princess who’s afraid of the dark forest and everything, to somebody who is actually facing things that are scary, and getting through them.
I’m gonna switch gears and talk about music for a little bit, because you were one of the first directors to use popular music as a soundtrack, an integral part of the story in American Graffiti, that’s what you did. Can you tell us a little bit about what attracts you to popular music as a filmmaker?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well I love music. Music is a huge part of my life, I love all kinds of music, and obviously I listen to music every day on the radio, top 40 and all that kinda stuff but I also listen to a lot of other kinds of music. But with this one, one of the inspirations was, I wonder if I could tell a love story using love songs? I could just take them and string them all together so they actually told the story. Which was the original challenge and in the beginning the movie was about twice as long as it is now. Which means it had about twice as much music.
There were great sequences with great songs and we had all these great things but ultimately there’s a thing called discipline, there’s a thing called, you know you have to, you know ’cause I could, I could is just, it’s like American Graffiti I could sit and listen to it all day. And that was part-that was a part of American Graffiti is I just wanted to have a movie that I could sit in the editing room and listen to and have a good time.
This my-my pre- Star Wars period, I’ve gone back, I’m going back in time. I tell people yeah I’m gonna go back and do experimental films like I did in college. Well this is getting myself back there, which is just a fun movie that I love to listen to. And a lot of the songs were my favorite songs but a lot of them really had to do with trying to tell the story, trying to say well we need, I need them to say this and that thing, let’s find a song where they say that, Steve who’s here somewhere, hiding back there.
I said I wanna song that has these words and so he came up with three or four songs and we go through them and say well that doesn’t really tell the story, this is a little off until we found the right one that actually had the musical mood that would get us from point A to point B but also actually say the words that the actors were supposed to say to each other, in the song. And that’s where Marius came in which is to say how are you gonna stitch all this stuff together when it goes, you know from one.
Different genres, different time period, different everything, but knit it all together so it sounds like it belongs in one thing. And he’s a genius at doing that, he did it and, you know long version we had a lot of faith in him, you know being able to pull it off, although, ultimately with all these guys I beat them to death, finally to the point where uh, you know, fortunately uh, Gary came in and said well we have to make these decisions we can’t just keep, have all this music that George loves. You know we have to, we have to get this down to a reasonable length.
How does being a parent inspire you with all your stories?
GEORGE LUCAS: I’m a big parent person, kid person. When my wife and I decided to have kids but tried and couldn’t. In the end I ended up adopting. When I was walking through the hospital with my daughter, she was only a couple of hours old. It was like lighting struck. I’ve never had a experience like that ever, and the magic of it hit me. And so I was raising my daughter and then my daughter said she always wanted a brother, and she said I wanna have a brother. And I knew how to adopt, I had become a sort of adoption specialist for all my friends ’cause I’d adopted her. A good friend of mine was an adoption lawyer helped us. So, I got talked into having another one and I think my daughter was seven. You know you do, you don’t, in the beginning you say well, it’s very easy to have another one.
You have one and you say oh God she’s walking now, she’s talking, she’s doing this and I wanna go back to that other thing, the only way you can do it if we have another one. And it gets better and better till obviously then they become teenagers and they’re programmed to be obnoxious. That’s the only way you can get rid of them, otherwise you baby them for the rest of their lives and all that kinda stuff. I went through three of them uh, and then wanted to have another one. I forgot, it’s like pregnancy I guess, you forget. You forget what they were like as teenagers and you say oh, but they’re so cute I want another one. So I ended up having another one but, and this one, because of technology and everything, we were able to have a natural baby.
I have a daughter who is Fairy Obsessed, did any of your girls go through a phase and was that kind of the inspiration for the fairy theme of the movie?
GEORGE LUCAS: Um, no. You know it was fairytale, my middle daughter she loved Wizard of Oz. So we spent years, ’cause we had to have the entire thing. We spent years reading The Wizard of Oz, you know every night we’d read a chapter.
And that’s, it’s fairytale of sorts, it’s not, I don’t know where you’d classify it but that obviously had an effect and she still cherishes it is something very special to her and I think that had an effect on me.
So did you start with a set of songs in mind to tell the story that are still in the film that we saw today?
GEORGE LUCAS: Some of them are yes. When I first started I took songs that told the story and then we went and, again this went over a period of a long time, but we then took and started doing storyboards. That’s when Steve started working, where we would actually get songs, we would actually get the words, we would actually weave it all together. But then obviously it ended up coming out very long.
It had to have an evolution where some of the story was told in dialogue, some of the story was told in music and the-the story itself had to be tightened down. You know things connected which, in just using music you couldn’t do.
So, compared to the animation and visual effects that were used in Rango, how have those changed or improved at all since that movie, you know compared to what you see now in Strange Magic?
GEORGE LUCAS: Every movie has a style, I mean animation, some people have made mistakes in animation by trying to say we want this to look realistic, which one, isn’t really possible and two, is not very bright. Because whole idea of animation, the art of animation, is to create a style that is different from shooting a live action movie. The style is part of the art of it. You know in some feature films in live action you use style that’s very distinctive, but animation sort of is demanded of it, ’cause if you aren’t gonna make it look realistic why not just shoot it? Right, use actors and shoot the thing. So there was a period where they were trying to go for that, and we can still do it, we do it in special effects, which is to say we create realistic versions of act-of actors and intercut them, for a lot of different reasons.
So the idea of making an animated character look real we’ve already accomplished. But the one thing you can’t do, which is the part that Elijah was talking about is, a computer can’t act, only a human being can act. It’s just computers aren’t crazy enough so, and that magical thing called talent, which is what an actor uses to create empathy, to create character, that’s something you can’t do.
You can actually make, I mean we can make copies of people, but they can’t be human. You need a human being behind them to be the voice, and that’s why, when we go and you put a camera on the actor, you wanna capture the-the magic of that actor. An animator can do it, and that’s part of the art of animation, but it helps an animator if he’s got something to work with.
So it’s a, it’s not something that people do to save money or for whatever other reason, they do it because ultimately in this particular case you’re using a style, a particular style, and in this case I wanted the style to be very realistic, much more realistic. Rango is, you know an animated film, it’s got some realistic looking stuff but this is a whole different level of realism. And the idea was that you could go out in your backyard and these guys all live out there somewhere.
Of all of the hundred songs that became 40 and then 25ish, out of those that made it in the film which would you say is maybe one of your favorites?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well the the one that started it is the opening song, that was the first song I picked. And I know it’s also at the end. But, I love that song.
I Can’t Help Falling In Love.
GEORGE LUCAS: I Can’t Help Falling In Love. I grew up under the tutelage of Elvis and my wife says I still have that pompous pompadour. But at the same time, it’s been recorded several times, each time it’s recorded it’s better and better. It to me was the inspiration to say this is what this movie’s about. You know, wise men say only fools fall in love.
And in my experience with love, as I was dating for those 20 years, I had some girlfriends who I knew weren’t right, I knew were, I would say high maintenance, difficult, all the things you don’t want. Yet I fell in love with them. And ultimately the only thing I can say is there’s no accounting for love, it’s just no matter how rational you think you’re being, you say well I’ll never do that, you do it.
Love is strange.
I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it was to sit down and talk with George Lucas (the inner Star Wars fan in me was flipping out!). He is such a nice and cool guy and I really enjoyed hearing about his inspiration for the Strange Magic Movie.
We were able to get a group photo with George Lucas, Elijah Kelley, & Director Gary Rydstrom!
Be sure to check out the Strange Magic trailer…
Strange Magic opens in theaters this Friday January 23rd! Be sure to plan on taking the whole family to see it!
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