Helen Kalafatic and Bradley Raymond Talk Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
You can explore the latest adventure of your favorite pixie with Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, which will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on September 21. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment invited us to one of their innovative virtual online junkets where we submitted our questions to producer Helen Kalafatic and director Bradley Raymond. Here's what they had to say.
Helen, how long did it take to create the new Tinker Bell movie - and roughly how many people were involved in the production?
Helen Kalafatic: It took several years. Development started when the first Tinker Bell film wrapped and it took us about two years to produce this film.
What was the most difficult scene to animate and why was it so difficult?
Bradley Raymond: The scene where Lizzy learns Tinker Bell's name was a very important scene in the movie. I wanted to capture the first moment that they start their friendship. This was the longest scene in the movie and was very dependent upon both character's performances. Although it was the most difficult scene to accomplish, it is the one I am most proud of.
Bradley, what story were you trying to tell with this film?
Bradley Raymond: I wanted to tell a story of the first time that Tinker Bell meets a human. That human is a little girl named Lizzy. She believes in Fairies and when she meets Tinker Bell, she gets to learn about the world of Pixie Hollow. For the audience, they get to see how Tinker Bell learns to communicate with humans. We get to see Lizzy discover that Tinker Bell speaks in jingling bells and how to communicate with her. The most magical moment for me is when Tinker Bell teaches Lizzy how to fly.
Helen, what were some of the visual and story inspirations for the Great Fairy Rescue?
Helen Kalafatic: Our art director, Fred Warter and his team were inspired by the period and the place. Fred spent time in London and the English countryside and we did extensive research throughout production to make sure that the world we were creating was accurate and magical at the same time.
Bradley, what was your toughest challenge in creating this movie?
Bradley Raymond: I wanted to tell a magical story of a little girl that we can relate to who meets Tinker Bell and discovers that magic truly does exist. The biggest challenge was to create the feeling of magic for the audience. I believe that the best way to do this is to first create a believable world that the audience can identify with. Then when the magical moments happen, the audience could feel as though it were happening to them as well.
Helen, before you worked on Tinker Bell, you`ve already worked on TV cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants. In what way is there a difference in your current work and does it influence your work?
Helen Kalafatic:SpongeBob SquarePants was produced in traditional 2-D animation and on a completely different schedule for television. Tinker Bell is a CG animated film that requires a completely different schedule and creative process and resources.
Bradley, in previous interviews with Disney directors, they've mentioned giving their work to Pixar's infamous Brain Trust for evaluation. Did you consult with the Brain Trust for this film, and who was instrumental in offering advice?
Bradley Raymond: The key person that I relied on for advice was none other than the Executive Producer, John Lasseter. He has been such a huge inspiration to me during the making of this movie. His influence is everywhere throughout this film. John brought the Pixar philosophy to our division and we have loved how it has benefited our projects immensely.
Helen, what's different about this film as compared to previous Tinker Bell movies?
Helen Kalafatic: This is Tinker Bell's second time on the Mainland, it's her first visit to Fairy Camp and she's interacting with and befriending a human. The fairy world and human world intersect resulting in a true wish fulfillment story - Lizzy finally meets a fairy!
Bradley, where did the idea for this film come from?
Bradley Raymond: I absolutely loved Disney's Peter Pan when I was growing up. I really connected to the idea of Wendy getting to meet Peter and Tink. The idea of an ordinary character that the audience could relate to, getting to experience a magical world was my inspiration for this story.
Helen, which Fairy do you like most?
Helen Kalafatic: All of the fairies are special so it's hard to say which one I like the most because I love them all. If I had to choose one then I would say I feel the most nostalgic affection for Tinker Bell. It's an honor to be working on a film with such an iconic and beloved Disney character.
Helen, where did the idea for this film come from?
Helen Kalafatic: The idea came from Brad's desire to want to tell the story of Tinker Bell meeting a human prior to Peter Pan. Meeting Lizzy is the first time Tink's ever met a human.
Bradley, when I chatted with Klay Hall and Sean Lurie about Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, they said that each film is set in a particular season. Is that still true with this film, and how did it influence the movies story and look?
Bradley Raymond: That is true. This movie takes place in the countryside of England during the summer. This created a beautiful and lush backdrop to the story of Tinker Bell meeting a human for the first time.
You also wrote the story for both Tinker Bell movies. Is it easier and more fun to create a movie coming from your own ideas?
Bradley Raymond: To me a movie is the visual telling of a story. I think that the story is the most important part of a movie. So when the director is deeply connected to the story it is easier and more fun to direct.
Bradley, which Fairy do you like most?
Bradley Raymond: My favorite fairy is Tinker Bell. She has been one of my favorite Disney characters of all time. And it has been a huge honor and privilege to tell more stories about her. She is such a great character to work with!
Bradley, how and why did you choose Michael Sheen as the voice of Mr. Griffiths?
Bradley Raymond: When I was listening for the voice of Dr. Griffiths, Michael Sheen was suggested to me by our head of casting, Jason Henkel. When I heard Michael's voice, I heard a sense of warmth in his voice. He gives Lizzy's father a likeability that is so crucial to the story. You want to root for Lizzy and her father to come together. Then when I had the pleasure to work with him, I got to witness his true greatness. Michael has the uncanny ability to act with his voice. That is so important in animation, because the actor's voice is what inspires the animator's performance on the screen.
Does it help in any way that you have a history in animation, now that you direct animated movies?
Bradley Raymond: Having experience working in animation is a huge help when directing animated movies. It gives the director the understanding of what to ask for from their team. Working in computer generated animation was new to me when directing the first Michael Sheen movie. So I relied heavily on my amazing team to guide me throughout the production.
The Tinker Bell franchise has brought in a nice selection of top actors like Anjelica Huston, Lucy Liu, and now Michael Sheen to the series. How's working with them and how did they get into the production?
Helen Kalafatic: All of the actors have been wonderful and they are really comfortable with Brad's direction and sense of humor. Michael Sheen is an amazing actor, he is such a sweet person and I was impressed with how down to earth he is. He told us how his daughter watched Tinker Bell and she even used to make fairy houses herself. I can't think of anyone else who could have played Dr. Griffiths with such authenticity.
What has Mae Whitman brought to Tinker Bell over the course of these, now three, films?
Bradley Raymond:Mae Whitman has truly become Tinker Bell. Her voice has brought a whole new level to Tinker Bell's character and at the same time kept the integrity of the character that we already know and love. And the amazing part is that Mae does this all with her voice!
Can you describe how Tinker Bell developed over the 3 movies?
Bradley Raymond: These films take place before Disney's original Peter Pan. I look at Tinker Bell as a fully developed fairy in Peter Pan. So when Jeff Howard and I started thinking about the story for the first Tinker Bell film, we decided to tell her origin story. So our whole team has set out to give Tinker Bell a character arc that spans across multiple movies. So the audience gets to see how Tinker Bell got to be the amazing character that we've all grown to love.
In what way does this adventure change the relation between Tinker Bell, Vidia and the other fairies?
Bradley Raymond: Tinker Bell and Vidia were anything other than friends after the first movie. And Vidia was a willing outsider to the other fairies. She prefers to be alone. But when she witnesses Tinker Bell being captured by a human, Vidia shows Tinker Bell and the other fairies her true colors and leads the Great Fairy Rescue!
There was a small indication in the first film of connecting to the original Disney Peter Pan film, will this be developed any more in this or the fourth film?
Bradley Raymond: We were all influenced by the great characters and world that Walt Disney brought us in Peter Pan. In this movie, the audience gets to see the first interaction Tinker Bell has with a human. We get to see Lizzy learn that Tinker Bell jingles when she talks to humans and we see Tinker Bell sprinkle pixie dust on Lizzy and help a human fly for the first time! We even get to hear the famous words, "Think happy thoughts" for the first time!
In the previous Fairies films, we saw some places of Neverland. In this new film, the audience will see any new places of Fairies town?
Helen Kalafatic: Tinker Bell and the other fairies visit Fairy Camp on the mainland for the first time and the audience gets to go along with them! During the summer season the fairies go there and you'll see in the opening of this film how special Fairy Camp is and how the fairies work together to prepare for the season - like painting butterfly wings, gathering berries, and weaving Queen Anne's Lace.
With a few more films already planned, what has been the key to the success of the Tinker Bell franchise for the films and Disney?
Helen Kalafatic: Our creative team's ability to tell great stories and to create multi-faceted and believable characters. The ability to stay true to the world in which the characters live have been important in the success of Tinker Bell.
The animation, in my opinion, has been better with each film, and this film looks no different. Was there a conscious effort to improve or was it a by-product of the team getting comfortable with the technology, time frame, and each other?
Helen Kalafatic: We are always striving for the highest quality so yes, there is always a conscious effort to improve. The individuals working on this film have an innate desire to be the best at their craft, the whole crew has a great sense of pride and it shows on the screen.
Bradley Raymond: I agree that the animation is great in these movies. We have an amazing team of artists who are so dedicated. Our animation supervisor, Sheryl Sackett, works so closely with our animation team and she deserves a huge part of the credit.
Do you feel a special responsibility since you're dealing with such an iconic character in Tinker Bell?
Helen Kalafatic: Absolutely! It's such an honor to be working on a Tinker Bell film. We all feel a responsibility because Tinker Bell is an integral part of the Disney history and tradition and her character is part of so many people's childhoods.
What is it about Tinker Bell that makes her so appealing to such a mass audience considering her character was never the focal point of a film until the first Tinker Bell film?
Bradley Raymond: Even though she is from a far away magical world, Tinker Bell is one of the most relatable characters in movie history. She has so many facets to her personality. One of the most memorable moments in Walt Disney's Peter Pan is when Tinker Bell gets angry and turns red. There are so many stories that could be told with such a multi-dimensional character.
Why was the decision taken to base the four sequels around the seasons?
Bradley Raymond: In the world of Pixie Hollow, fairies bring the magic of nature to our world. They arrive and change the seasons. This is such a magical and relatable idea that it seemed natural to set each movie around the backdrop of the four seasons.