Chris Wedge will not be doing the Scrat voice today. The creator of the Ice Age series, and chief force behind the Blue Sky CG animation studio - maker of Robots, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who! and Rio as well as the Ice Age sequels - has a nasty cough. Wedge is soldiering through a press day for his new film, Epic, a fantasy adventure in which a human teenager (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) is shrunk to teensy size to help a band of Leaf Men defend their forest from evil invaders.
The story unfolds in two separate but interwoven spheres. Was it tricky to balance the action in the world of the Leaf Men with the storyline in the normal-sized world?
It gave us more to work with. It's an ensemble of characters, and I wanted to weave them all together and then see how they come out at the end. We have a multitude of character perspectives; we also have different environments - you know, every action sequence has its own tone, its own personality - and then we also have this conceit in the movie that explains why [normal-sized humans] can't see these creatures. The overall effect is one that results from all these character, spatial and time perspectives coming together.
Did you worry about accommodating younger viewers, given the complexity of the story?
I don't think we lose 'em. I saw the finished film with my first audience the other night, and they were with it every second. When we previewed the movie, I was a little afraid it might not work for little kids, but nobody budged.
How did you cast the movie?
One character at a time. Actually, I cast pairs or triplets of characters that I knew had to work together. The voices are recorded before the animation is done, but the film is set - you've got the designs and you're just about ready to animate. So the tone is set, the look of the characters is set, how they're gonna move is set, but the voices aren't. So you just listen and listen and listen to the voices you think are gonna work for your character, and voices that are gonna work together.
I'd go insane trying to separate the dialogue from the sound. How do you keep it straight?
Well, you've got a very fuzzy version of the movie in your head all the time. It's like dreaming: you don't have all the details but you kinda know where you're headed, and you're always just trying to keep everybody focused [in that direction]. And the more of the movie you make together, the more everybody else can see, the more character and personality it gets. Then it's easier as you get to the end. "This is what we're doing." It's like we've paved the highway and now we're just rolling down it.