Exclusive Interview with DreamWorks/20th Century Fox’ The Croods Directors, Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco

The Croods The Croods are coming to town, and last week, I had the exciting opportunity of interviewing the forever young directors of this new animated movie by Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox. Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco graciously came to Philadephia to talk with us about it. See below:

Tell us about the movie:

DeMicco: So The Croods is about this caveman family and they have been living the same way for many, many generations, that is — Grug’s way (the dad) and that is to hide away as much as possible.

Staying in and staying alive is all that matters. They run out, they get food, they run back. They are kind of like little squirrels or something. They run back in their hole and shut the door.

What happens is that one night, their teenage daughter, Eep (played by Emma Stone) sees a light and breaks the cardinal rules [don't leave the cave, don't try anything new]. She sneaks out, she follows this light. She finds a torch planted in the ground and that torch belongs to Ryan Reynold’s character called Guy. This is her first encounter not just with firelight but with a boy.

Her [Eep’s] dad comes out to rescue her and while he is out rescuing her, Guy, Reynold’s characters runs away. He scampers off and Grug and Eep are outside. Their family comes to join them and while they are outside, an earthquake happens.

Their cave is destroyed. With their cave destroyed, now they have to look to this new world that’s actually behind their cave because they live at this deadend. This rock comes down and smashes their cave but it opens up an opening to this new world.

This movie is their journey to find a new home as they are going but along the way it’s really being led by this boy, Ryan Reynold’s character Guy who is sorta Human Being 2.0. We say he’s armed with the world’s first imagination. And, Grug has no imagination. He only does what he does what he did before and that’s it. He never does anything new. He fears and he hates what’s new. And, so Grug, throughout the course of the movie learns to not fear change but to accept a little change in life in order to survive.

What appealed to you about this script:

Sanders: Well, actually, we wrote the script. The thing we like about the script is. . .

DeMicco: We like our own work.

Sanders: (Laughs) We love our own work so much. Well, this was an idea Kirk was on for awhile. I came on to it in 2007. And you [Kirk] had been on it since 2004.

DeMicco: So when we first started, the thing that was great about it was a) the cavemen – I love them as characters because they have giant hearts and there is this kind of innocence. There is a naiveté and they are sweet and they don’t have any ulterior motive. They have no real grand plan and they are completely unlike anyone else you know. [Take us, for example], when you are kids, you are trying to get into college and when you are adults, you are trying to get a better job. They just want to live and survive. There has always been that sort of warmth I liked and simplicity to them.

And, the other thing is the theme we were trying to explore was the fear of change as I mentioned before. That is one we can all relate to – universally, at any age – kids changing new schools, new sports, new friends. Same with adults: new jobs, new relationships. Everything – there is always trepidation involved in trying something new so it felt like that was a great theme to explore – the metaphor with these cavemen whose world was literally changing under their feet.

How do you appeal to both kids and adults?

Sanders: I love this question because it’s really the first time we think about it is when we get this question and it’s really a legitimate question. The first most important thing about doing one of these is to not exclude anyone. We believe that you can tell any story you want. It’s just a matter of how you tell it. .  . .We have this young. . . well, we never really grew up which is why we go into this kind of work and this kind of stuff just really, really amuses us.

Moments, in the film, [amuse us] for example, like when Grug is trying to decide who is going to go first in the hunt and he takes the grandmother and he flips her like a coin. That’s the kind of stuff we really like.

So, you work very hard not to exclude anyone but we have these moments that as we are finishing and doing test screenings, [we get] that moment of truth. You don’t even really need to wait for people to fill out their questionnaires – you know [when you are there] in the theaters, when it is live, as it’s happening, when people are engaged and disengaged.

The delightful thing about a kid’s audience is seeing how some times people react completely differently to things than in an adult audience. For example, there is this bit in the beginning of the movie, where Thunk hurls this impossibly huge rock that hits Grug and the kids love that bit. Adults really don’t laugh at that. They laugh for the first time when Grug thinks that the grandmother just might not make it out of the cave this morning. This is maybe the last. He’s always hoping.

One of the relationships that Kirk brought to the film was this antagonistic relationship between the mother-in-law and Grug. I have got to say, it’s one of my very favorite things in the film because she is so openly hostile to him and he’s fairly openly hostile to her which is a fun relationship. There is this moment in the second act where she actually says something nice to him. That is the great reward for establishing a relationship like that and working it through the whole [film] because when it turns, it is very emotionally resonate.

If you could go back and change one thing now that it’s done, what would it be:

Sanders: That’s a good question. I think I would continue to make the opening hunt a longer sequence. (laughs) This is one of my favorite things in the movie. I loved the idea of starting this movie with an action sequence. It’s just a fresh way to get to meet the characters, I think, and I think it’s appropriate for this film. We actually kept cutting that sequence down because everybody except for me didn’t have quite as much stomach for that much action.

I am really happy with the way this movie came out. I think that’s the kind of thing that later on,  maybe a year from now, that I will catch but right now there is nothing about it that I have caught that is something I would want to fix; but, I am sure that later on there will be something I see but it will be too late.

What is one of the advancements in the technology that has helped you the most?

Sanders: Without a doubt, in my mind, the ability to move the camera. In traditional animation, you could do a zoom and a pan but that was about it. If there was a moment where you wanted to truck forward and roll through a scene, that meant that the backgrounds would have to change dimension. Getting closer and closer to a hand-drawn character, presents a lot of problems.

In CG, storytelling-wise, that’s undoubtedly the most important thing. You often think about things like water and fire and all these other things and they are amazing. The surfacing is great but the ability to move the camera is the biggest storytelling tool that we have gotten.

(Thanks for coming to Philly, guys!)

DreamWorks/20th Century Fox’ THE CROODS – Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco
Release: March 22, 2013, in 3D
Directed by: Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco
Produced by: Kristine Belson and Jane Hartwell
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke

The Croods is a 3D comedy adventure that follows the world’s first modern family as they embark on a journey of a lifetime when the cave that has always been their home, is destroyed. Traveling across a spectacular landscape, the Croods are rocked by generational clashes and seismic shifts as they discover an incredible new world filled with fantastic creatures — and their outlook is changed forever.

OPENING IN THEATERS: March 22, 2013.

(Disclosure: No compensation was received for this interview or post.)

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