Creating Environments for ‘Rise of the Guardians’

The posted an article on the aesthetics and design of the environments in ‘Rise of the Guardians.’

The premise, with its visual possibilities and holiday connections, seemed obvious for this season. So while Mr. Joyce was creating more books in his series, DreamWorks Animation worked with him to develop “Rise of the Guardians,” due Nov. 21. The playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole”) wrote the adaptation, and Peter Ramsey, a former storyboard artist on live-action films like “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” was brought on to direct.

While the tales of fairies, tooth and otherwise, are involved, Mr. Ramsey and his team sought to structure the film less like a fairy tale and more like an adventure. “We were going for a light epic fantasy tone,” he said during a recent interview in New York. “At its heart it’s a superhero movie, where the superheroes get their powers from belief. It all depends on a kind of magic that is created by children themselves.”

The Guardians’ environments are rich, varied and textured, and surprisingly distinct from Mr. Joyce’s illustrations. Mr. Ramsey and the production designer, Patrick Hanenberger, who helped develop the look of “Monsters vs. Aliens,” were influenced by the resonant children’s book illustrations of Edmund Dulac, among others, and sought a fantastical yet practical look for each Guardian’s world.

Regarding Jack Frost and the cool hues of his character:

DreamWorks Animation/Paramount Pictures

Jack Frost is among the first characters to appear in the film, but he is invisible to most of the people in the town where he wanders. His sadness about his isolation, and his yearning for something more, is reflected by the dark gray colors in the opening scenes, depicted here by a concept painting and a still of Jack from the finished film.

DreamWorks Animation/Paramount Pictures

Production designer Patrick Hanenberger said this:

“We wanted to have very strong visuals, with the opening of the movie being dark and cold, and the end of the movie being light, bright and warm.”

Regarding Santa’s Toy Shop:

DreamWorks Animation/Paramount Pictures

Since red is the color most associated with the holiday, that was played up in tapestries and carpets, as seen in an image with the Guardians gathered in North’s home. And because North is Russian, Mr. Hanenberger turned to Russian Orthodox churches and the Kremlin. (North’s Russian heritage was retained from the Joyce books, unlike his big-eared, small-statured toy-making companions, who provide comic relief.) The space, in the production design above, includes tall ceilings and lots of light. And because the character has a bold, masculine aspect, the filmmakers wanted to reflect that in the architecture, using thick, interlocking pieces of wood to hold the structure together.

Regarding the Easter Bunny’s Egg Garden:

DreamWorks Animation/Paramount Pictures

“We wanted it to be an oasis of life, or springtime beneath the earth,” Mr. Ramsey said. “We also wanted it to be an homage to” the Japanese animator “Hayao Miyazaki and his design sensibility. So the whole place took on a kind of Japanese moss garden kind of feel.” Bold greens, bright plants and a range of flowers emphasize the natural focus. Mr. Hanenberger also studied cultures that have a close connection to nature.

It looks like they took of lot of things into consideration with the characters and their heritage and inspiration.

You can read more about it at

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