With director Chris Wedge’s animated adventure comedy Epic set to debut at the end of May, we were recently granted a behind-the-scenes preview of the Blue Sky and 20th Century Fox production. While the trailer gives a nice idea of the world the film exists in, the footage we were shown – some of it still a work in progress – was absolutely beautiful. On a storytelling note, many have drawn comparisons between Epic and that of 1992’s FernGully: The Last Rainforest and 1989’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and those comments are certainly not unfounded. Though Epic is aimed at audiences too young to have seen either of those films when they opened, there is much more to the story here than just a rehashing of familiar elements.
Featuring the voices of Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Beyonce Knowles, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Aziz Ansari, Blake Anderson, and Judah Friedlander, Epic opens in 3D on May 24, 2013. Hit the jump for more on our behind-the-scenes preview and here’s the new trailer.
After inadvertently crashing the international investors meeting for 20th Century Fox (whoops), we were treated to a presentation by Wedge. The Oscar-winner and director of the first film that kicked off the wildly popular Ice Age franchise, and the voice of Scrat, Wedge walked us through the conceptualization for Epic. It all started images of your ordinary backyard or grassy meadow or wooded forest, but Wedge quickly explained that, overlooked by the casual observer, there’s an eternal war raging between the forces of life and the agents of decay.
This battle is personified on screen by ongoing skirmishes between the Leafmen – two-inch tall humanoid creatures with grasshopper-like jumping abilities and who fly around saddled on the back of hummingbirds – and the Boggans – dim-witted creepy crawlers who far outnumber the Leafmen and sow disease and rot wherever they attack. Colin Farrell voices the leader of the Leafmen, Ronin, while Josh Hutcherson lends his voice to Nod, a young recruit with his own way of doing things. They fight the Boggans in service to Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles) but may be outmatched by the nefarious plan of the Boggan leader, Mandrake (Christoph Waltz, who will also be voicing the German version of his character). The balance between the two forces hinges upon choices made by a human girl, Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) who is magically shrunken down to their size.
Though unfinished, the footage that was screened was absolutely gorgeous. The attention to detail and sheer liveliness from the characters and their design, to the backgrounds and the way the two interacted was beyond anything I’ve seen from recent animated efforts. The plot of Epic might not be the most original story ever conceived but it promises more than just a mash-up of memorable moments from FernGully and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, with very real stakes for the characters, no matter their size. Tonally, there’s plenty of humor to be found and it’s spread around with enough style to provide something for everyone. The snail and slug duo of Grub and Mub, voiced by Chris O’Dowd and Aziz Ansari respectively, might elicit groans from adults but will probably win kids over with their antics. Epic also boasts a strong musical component with a score done by the Oscar-nominated Danny Elfman and a voice cast that also features Steven Syler and Pitbull in addition to Beyonce.
If you’d like to avoid spoilers, skip the rest of the article and be sure to see Epic when it debuts on May 24th. For the rest of you, I’ve recapped some of the clips we were shown at the preview event:
- Dr. Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), a zany scientist more intent on proving his theory about tiny forest life than spending time with his estranged daughter, runs through the forest, tripping over a number of rocks in an effort to find evidence of the Leafmen. The scene transitions to a battle between the Leafmen and the Boggans that showcases the movie’s action, as well as an introduction to the comedic tone via Ansari’s character, Mub.
- Queen Tara performs a ceremony in which she selects a seed pod upon which she will bestow her powers in order for the flower to become the next queen of the forest. Mub and Grub are the wise-cracking pod protectors.
- During the ceremony, the Boggans ambush the queen and attempt to take her and the pod hostage. The battle looks tremendous and there is a lot going on but the animation looks very clean. Just when you think that this queen might not be anything more than a pretty face, she shows you just how tough she really is.
- After Mary Katherine has been magically shrunken down to their size, she’s chased into a burrow with Nod. She finds out that she now possesses similar powers to the Leafmen. Mub once again shows up with his particular brand of humor.
- Another clip features Tyler’s character, Nim Galuu, the Keeper of the Scrolls. He’s essentially an archivist who keeps a history of everything that goes on in the world, which is written within the rings of a tree. As Wedge said, “[Tyler brought] not a lot of acting, but a lot of himself.” Mub and Grub get up to more antics here, some of which were seen in the most recent trailer.
- The final clip showed an ill-advised rescue attempt that takes our heroes into the domain of Wrathwood, the stronghold of Mandrake. There was a great aesthetic here which shows the different tone and feel of a place built on decay contrasted to the forest which is so full of life.