Guillermo del Toro has an insatiable appetite for new projects, it seems. He set fanboy sites sizzling recently with the news that he's in talks to direct DC’s “Dark Universe” for Warner Bros. That would give him the chance to bring to life Deadman, Zatanna, Sargon, Etrigan the Demon and Phantom Stranger…
For the moment, he's still focused on another set of characters in new animated feature “Rise of the Guardians," in which Jack Frost (Chris Pine) teams up with Santa (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and a wordless Sand Man. Their enemy is Pitch (Jude Law), who aims to snuff out the innocent wonder of childhood.
“When we started the movie, ‘Avengers’ was not even a blip on the radar,” said executive-producer Del Toro. Best known for directing the ‘Hell Boy’ movies as well as Oscar-nominated “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Del Toro has been quietly getting to know animation by executive producing “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Puss in Boots." He also has a digital remake of the classic “Pinocchio” and “Kung Fu Panda 3” in the works.
But before that, he has the giant monster epic “Pacific Rim” hitting theaters next summer and a TV vampire saga, “The Strain” prepping for FX. Del Toro sat down to talk about finding the right look for his characters in "Rise" and clashing with Warners over whether “Pacific Rim” should be in 3-D.
Jordan Riefe: On 'Rise of the Guardians' you’re credited as executive producer, but how hands-on are you creatively?
Guillermo del Toro: My main function is creative. I was able to work on the story, the themes, the characters, the design of the characters, the storyboards, talk about animation, color, color patterns, textures, creation of the worlds, everything all the way to the finished product. We all say what we think and (director) Peter (Ramsey) takes what he wants.
JR: What were some of specific design challenges you faced?
GDT: The character that we took the most time designing was Bunny. We went with a bunny that has sort of baggy pants and little vest and he was a little prissy. And there was another one where he was wearing leather and physically was very different, he was much more close to a real bunny. Finally we decided he was dressed by his natural fur. We gave him broad shoulders and we sculpted the fur to make it ornamental.
JR: You’ve executive produced several, what makes a great family film?
GDT: The first and foremost function is a ride, a great ride. You can go and insinuate darkness and show darkness but ultimately it needs to stay on the tracks. And this is a tradition that is old as the oldest fairytales but also corresponds perfectly with Walt Disney. Disney has very intense moments in 'Snow White' and 'Pinocchio' and 'Cinderella' and 'Sleeping Beauty' – moments that are truly terrifying because he understood that you need that.
JR: You’re doing 'The Strain' for FX. After 'Twilight,' how do you make vampires fresh again? Do you stick to the old rules? Do you change them?
GLT: You do change them, but not enough to make them unrecognizable. The vampires in 'The Strain' are parasitic monsters. They are not guys that will take you on a date.
JR: Do they reflect in glass? Can they come out in the daylight?
GDT: They cannot be seen in mirrors, they cannot be in daylight. They are effected by silver. So the rules are there like that but we tell you why they work. We are prepping it already and we’re going to shot that pilot for FX next year.
JR: And you have 'Pacific Rim' coming next year, too. There’s been a lot of talk about Warner Bros. insisting the movie be in 3-D.
GDT: The decision to shoot 3-D came in very late and I didn’t feel it was needed and I went through a very rigorous process of discussion with the studio asking them to allow ILM to composite the shots. I shot the movie with a lot of elements that are particularly difficult for 3-D, like water, steam, reflections in the glass and so forth. I went to Stereo D, the guys who are doing the conversion, and I gave them the most difficult shots in the movie. I told them turn them around in a week and make ‘em perfect, and then I’ll consider it. And they did.
JR: You love your monsters. Talk about designing them, what are we going to see?
GDT: We designed dozens of monsters and then we would do 'American Idol' – we would all get together every week and vote the monsters out and vote the monsters in, and that way we came up with the monsters that we all love the most.
JR:: There’s one called Karloff that didn’t make the cut. Can you talk about those that did and didn’t make it?
GDT: We have flying kaijus, we have underwater kaijus, we have kaijus that spew acid, kaijus that have multi-parted jaws that have an incredibly strong bite. We have kaijus that are mostly giant edifices; they are brawny like they are just brutes. They are demolishers, exterminators, we have many kinds of kaijus.
JR: You’ve been working on the sound effects for them?
GDT: We went to one of these places that compacts and destroys the cars. And we put microphones inside the car, outside the car, in the trunk, inside the seats and we basically proceeded to crunch the car and tried to salvage the recordings. We then filled a trash container with microphones and started banging the container and then elevated it on a crane and then dropped the container from a great height to hear the wind rushing by and the container crumpling. And on the characters we are using everything including my own voice. I do the voice of at least a monster in every movie I do.
JR: Which monster are you doing yourself?
GDT: I’m doing the voice for a monster called Leatherback and I’m doing a few efforts for a monster called Hitachi and I’m doing the voice for one of the creatures that is very crazy and it is a spoiler if I tell you who it is.