“There is one genuinely delightful sequence, when the miniaturized M.K. and her companions find themselves trapped in her dad’s laboratory: Her beloved dog suddenly becomes a lumbering, terrifying monster, and the little people’s interactions with common household phenomena like lint and static cling produce fun results.” – Vulture.com
“There is also a very cool sequence in which MK, Ronin, and Nod go back to her house to gather supplies and her giant father sees her and attempts to suck them all up into a vacuum machine he’s made. It’s like Honey I Shrunk the Kids if the kids could jump really high and swing around while a one-eyed, three-legged pug chased them about the place. Terrific stuff.” – The Nerdist.com
“You did that? Nice. There was only 6 or 7 shots where we didn’t know quite where we were in the room. Easiest sequence to block out, considering it’s size.” – Renato Falcão
That last compliment means the most. Renato’s the cinematographer at Blue Sky. If I helped make his department’s job easier, it’s bonus points. I went off script for this sequence, coming up with stuff for Chris Wedge to veto or not. We mainly talked about what WASN’T in the script. There was a lot of action written down which he didn’t use, but he wanted some of the dialogue saved.
What wasn’t in the script?
What does it feel like to have to keep a secret from your friends for fear of judgement? What would it be like to see the one person in your life whom you have the biggest issues with, suddenly the size of Godzilla? How could you use stuff you’ve learned from your past life in your present situation?
For reference, I had some basic stuff like these images (as seen in the ‘Art of’ book), what the characters looked like, the location, a rough idea of who these people were. It was really early on in the project, so you’ll notice that in the full sequence posted below, the wardrobe is different than the final movie. At the time it had ‘Leafmen’ as a working title:
Whenever I get a set piece sequence, one thing that really helps organize my thoughts is doing the ‘play-by-play’. I basically try to find the marks the actors are gonna hit to progress the story, and figure out camera placement with the ortho. The rest is sorting out what the camera would be capturing while on the set in that position – the composition, the BG elements, character blocking. Here I’m moving the camera an awful lot. Considering the characters were two inches tall, there was actually a lot of ground to cover in there. Not everything worked, either. You can see how I’m trying to sneak in and out of neutral camera setups to switch the camera axis, but when I boarded it out, it didn’t always work, especially if I couldn’t cheat it a bit using eye-trace to aid the cut.
After that left-brained stuff gets organized, I try to shut it off and take my right brain off the leash – start jamming on acting choices and how to spin a line, make up little gags along the way to add texture to the characterization and reach for an ‘in-the-moment’ feel.
Gags developed off script include the static gag, Nod playing off of Bomba’s line ‘I hurt my elbow!’, MK knowing Ozzy’s weakness, Nod feeling guilty about burning MK with his comments, etc etc.
Chris Wedge, the director, wanted to keep Bomba fainting away after seeing MK – I had tried a version where he slammed his head into a bit of furniture but the staging got awkward for the tail end. The director’s objective was to get to the pin by the final shot, so we staged it the way it is.
I tested all of this and WAY more (chases, gags, destruction) with thumbnail pitches at my desktop, which often looked like these scribbles. Did literally thousands of these over the course of 8 weeks, because I was working at 64% view in Pshop and not getting fussy. I hate getting fussy, to be honest. This stage is always pretty fun, coming up with alternate versions depending on what decisions your characters make:
Mix liberally with an adventure-comedic tone, and this is what I came up with, after a few tries. OK, a LOT of tries. Like, I don’t know how many pitches:
This is a step-through QuickTime. To view click once to load, pause it, then use your arrow keys to scroll through it.
Boarding this sequence pretty much hit the spot for me. I felt like I was watching a movie and I was just trying to draw what I was watching in my head – record it with the stylus. The snake ate its own tail when this thought hit me at the staff premiere: the part of a movie that I saw in my head and tried to record with sketches, after the help of 400 truly skilled people, has now become a part of a movie that anyone could watch in real life. There are definitely worse ways to make a living…