Jerry Bruckheimer talks G-FORCE – His New Animated Movie

     April 22, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

Last week I went to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank as a reporter for our partner website Omelete. They were invited to an international press event for Disney’s upcoming movie “G-Force” so they sent me. Before arriving, we were told they were going to show us about 15 or so minutes from the movie and then let us ask producer Jerry Bruckheimer some questions.

The first thing to know is going in I didn’t think much of the movie. I’d seen the trailer and heard about the film, but it never caught my attention, and I wasn’t planning on pushing it here on Collider. Also, it’s a kid’s movie, and they’re definitely hit or miss when it comes to appealing to adults.

But after watching about 15 or so minutes in 2D (regular viewing), and then seeing about 6 minutes in 3-D, I have to say I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed what I saw. The animation that was finished looked great, and it was a LOT funnier than I expected. Of course having a voice cast featuring Tracy Morgan, Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz, Sam Rockwell and Steve Buscemi, I probably should’ve realized it might have been better than some of the average kid’s stuff that gets released.

We also saw some of the same footage in 3-D and it really jumped out at you…and not in that annoying way that feels forced. While I was hesitant going in, I’ll definitely say the footge sold me on the project and I think kids are going to love it.

So you may be asking yourself what the hell is “G-Force” about.

It’s a mix of live action and animation and it’s about a covert government program to train animals to work in espionage. Armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment, these highly trained guinea pigs discover that the fate of the world is in their paws. Tapped for the G-Force are guinea pigs Darwin (voice of Sam Rockwell), the squad leader determined to succeed at all costs; Blaster (voice of Tracy Morgan), an outrageous weapons expert with tons of attitude and a love for all things extreme; and Juarez (voice of Penelope Cruz), a sexy martial arts pro; plus the literal fly-on-the-wall reconnaissance expert, Mooch, and a star-nosed mole, Speckles (voice of Nicolas Cage), the computer and information specialist. It’s directed by two-time Oscar-winning visual effects master Hoyt Yeatman. Check out the films he’s worked on. You’ll be very impressed.

Anyway, when we were there we saw three scenes in a regular screening room (not 3-D). Before and after each clip Jerry spoke to us. Here’s what he said followed by my comments on the footage. Further down is the Q & A that happened after we finished watching the clips. Jerry talks about why he did the movie, where the idea came from, what he thinks about 3-D in both movies and on TV, and a lot more.

1st Clip

Jerry Bruckheimer: I’m going to show you some little segments of our “G-Force” film, which is very much in progress. The music, of course, is something that is taken from other movies, because our score isn’t finished. The first thing we’re going show you is our little guinea pigs, who consider themselves like the Special Forces and are working for Homeland Security or the FBI. And they’ve infiltrated a mansion that’s supposedly being run by a guy who’s selling chips to the Far East, with military implications. And the whole thing goes bad. And now they’ve been relegated to a pet store, and they’re actually going to be like guinea pigs. So we’re gonna show you right now, the sequence with them going into the pet store. Against their will. That’s the first segment…

In the opening clip we got to see the team dynamic and it’s also where the team meets Bucky and Hurley – a hamster and another guinea pig. Bucky is played by Steve Buscemi and he’s great. He delivers some very funny lines. Hurley ends up becoming important in a future clip….

2nd Clip

Jerry Bruckheimer: We first block the scene and then add [the characters in], so it’s a whole process you’re being exposed to showing how this animation works, and it takes a very long time, as you can see with these segments. We’ve been working on this thing for a couple years, and it’s a long process to get it right. Also, this is in 3D, so when the snake comes out and he flies through the air, it’s going to go flying into the audience. Now I’m going to show you a sequence where two of them get adopted, as you saw there, and then I’m going to show you the escape of the other two, which is coming up right now. So we’ll get that story.

The second clip is more stuff in the pet store. Some humans come in looking to adopt and Bucky and Hurley explain what they have to do to get adopted. Basically, it’s look cute. Needless to say, a team of trained government agents isn’t happy to do this and it makes for a funny set up. When the humans finally come over, the little girl wants to dress up her guinea pig and the teenage boy just wants to have fun at the expense of the animal. We see him fly one of the team into a snake tank and then he takes a different one home. This is the scene where the team gets split up.

3rd Clip

Jerry Bruckheimer: The villain has created this whole plot where all these appliances communicate with one another and they become alive. So you’re watching all these appliances come together and they’re trying to stop G-Force, which has broken in, and you’ll see a sequence where Hurley gets trapped in a microwave.

The third clip was all action. Hurley see’s a piece of chocolate cake in a microwave and goes after it. Of course he gets trapped inside and the microwave is attached to a machine of some sort that attacks everything in the room and the rest of the team trying to rescue him. This is the kind of scene that will probably look great in 3-D.

While I’ve done a mediocre job explaining what we saw in each scene, it’s hard to write about dialogue used by the characters and the animation we saw. You’ve got to trust me when I saw it was funnier than I expected, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished film.

Here’s the Q & A with Jerry Bruckheimer. “G-Force” arrives in theater July 24th. And I’m on the ever growing world of Twitter.

Question: Why is it important for you to make this in 3D, and what’s the difference between 3D today, and the way it was years ago?

Jerry Bruckheimer: Well, I think the technology’s so much better. You don’t get the fatigue you used to get with your eyes the way the projection is, the whole technology. We’re doing things that no other movie has done before as far as 3D goes. And so it’s so exciting that you can actually bring things out to an audience, especially since this is a kids’ movie, so it’s great. They love it, they grab at it, they have a blast when they see it.

But from the start, what sold you on the idea?

Jerry: James Cameron invited me over to his place and showed me what he was doing with 3D and showed me a bunch of tests that he’d done, and it was really exciting—it adds another experience for the audience. And that’s what we try to do. We try to draw in as many people as possible and show them new experiences.

What did Mr. Cameron show you?

Jerry: He showed me some tests that he did, not for his movie, just tests of various scenes that he’d done that he actually shot in 3D. Which I thought were superb. We actually didn’t shoot in 3D. Since all our animated stuff is done digitally, it’s easy to convert it to 3D, but the live actors were shot with conventional technology.

Jerry: I’m curious if this 3D experience has influenced you to possibly take any of your other films in the future and go into the 3D medium.

Jerry: Yeah, I would love to. You know, it’s going to depend on how quickly they convert the normal theaters into ones with 3D projectors. It’s gotten slowed down a little bit with the economy right now. So it’s not quite going as quickly as we had hoped it would be at this point.

Well could you see something like a Pirates 4 or any of your future films being in 3D?

Jerry: It’s possible. It’s all possible.

Do you think the 3D could also get into the TV side of the business in a few years, or is it going to be too tough?

Jerry: I think that’s a little harder, you know, but listen, anything’s possible. I was at the Consumer Electronics Show about three years ago and they were showing video games in 3D. You know, it’s fantastic, when you play these car racing games and it’s all 3D. But I don’t know if it’s hit the consumer markets yet. I haven’t seen it. It might be in Japan, but it’s certainly not here yet.

How important is that side of the business—when you compare the story, the director, the filmmakers you are working with—the technology side of the business?

Jerry: Well, the most important thing is the story, the characters, the themes. You know, no matter how you dress it up, if those things don’t work, it doesn’t matter…whatever kind of bells and whistles you put on, 3D or otherwise. It’s all about the story and characters.

As a producer, when a new medium like 3D comes out, it must be really exciting, but at the same time it’s expensive and difficult to get. What is more important to you?

Jerry: Well, anytime I can bring something new and fresh to an audience, it’s exciting to us. Anytime you can give a better moviegoing experience, if you do it right with the story and the characters, and then you add something on that’s new.

Why Penelope Cruz, because she’s never done a voiceover, and I don’t know if she’s a perfect match for domestic audiences.

Jerry: Well, she’s a wonderful actress, and a voice, it’s acting also.

Why did you choose a Spanish character, and she also speaks Spanish in some parts of the movie?

Jerry: Yeah. It was just the way the character was created. You know, the character’s always been a Hispanic character.

I’m sure I’m probably forgetting something, but I don’t really remember you doing anything for such a young audience. Do you find it a completely different experience for you trying to gauge for that demographic?

Jerry: Yeah, I’m still figuring that out. [LAUGHTER] Still working on that. Yeah, it’s a much different experience. You know, a lot of the stuff that I like, and some of the stuff we’ve shot, gets a little too violent for that audience. And not for the kids, because the kids really want it. You know, they want more! It’s the parents that say, ‘I don’t want my kid to see it,’ and yet, two weeks later, and he’s watching it on DVD at his friend’s house. So they’ll see it. But, the parents, when their kids are this age – five, six, seven years old – they make the choices. Even though there’s a nag factor, the kids see it on the various TV commercials and nag their parents until they finally get to go see it. So, it’s a whole different game for me to try to figure this out.

What genre do you prefer personally?

Jerry: Me? I still like our big action stuff. When Hoyt Yeatman created this, it was based on his six-year-old son who came home with a guinea pig one day, from school, and said wouldn’t it be cool if these guys were Special Forces? [laughing] And could do all these things? And Hoyt said, ‘Yeah.’ So he started developing this—he had an artist draw up the various characters, which you see here. It’s pretty close to what he imagined. And I just love the characters. Love the concept of it. They’re so cute, they’re just adorable. And when you see it finished… You saw that little bit with the cherry scene, where he’s eating the cherries, how expressive it is. Just imagine the whole thing being like that, the way they move their hands and the fur moves and their eyes. It’s just fantastic to watch. You really only get about thirty, forty percent of what I’m showing you here, because a lot of the animation isn’t finished. So when you see it is finished, it’s a whole different experience. And I’m getting the same kind of thrill as these animation shots come in. We usually get about fifty in a day. We have nineteen hundred shots in the whole show, so I think we’re at thirteen hundred right now, so a little over half of the shots that are in. So every day it’s fun to go into the editor and see what the animators have come up with.

Why did you pick this cast for the voices?

Jerry: You know, Nick, we’ve done a lot of movies with him. I sent him the script and he picked the character he wanted to play. He wanted to be the Mole. [laughing] You know, I think he’s quirky guy. Love that character. And John Favreau just has got a wonderful voice. He plays Hurley. He’s got this really warm, kinda funny voice. This is a whole different cast, and the way you cast this they send you just voice tapes and you just listen to it on your computer. You don’t see their faces, you just hear their voices. And what we did is we took it from other movies and so you have a whole selection of actors and you make the choices really based on their voice.

How long do you think it will take the 3D technology to become a major trend with the regular movies and when do you think that can happen?

Jerry: I think that the economy has a lot to do with it, so if the economy turns in the next year or so, let’s hope it turns a lot sooner than that, it’ll happen fairly quickly. But again, it comes down to the economy. But, you know, fortunately for us movies have been up, attendance has been up for about the last three or four months, so that’s good. So maybe that’ll fuel the conversion to 3D projectors faster.

Did you ask Penelope to also be the voice in different languages or is she going be in just the English version?

Jerry: That I don’t know. We haven’t gotten to that point yet. What we’re doing with other countries.

You were talking about the economy, are you finding that actors are lining up to do animated features?

Jerry: Well, I think with the success of some of these animated pictures, they’re kind of easy for actors to do. They work four or five days on these things and that’s it—other than maybe going out and promoting them. So, they don’t get paid nearly what they get paid for showing their images onscreen, but it’s a nice gig for them and it’s creative, so they have fun. And the truth is, a lot of these actors have kids. And most of the movies they make the kids can’t see them. So it’s great when they have a four, five, six-year-old and they make a movie for them. And they become a hero at home.

Speaking of the four, five, six-year-olds, another project you’re working on, “Lone Ranger,” traditionally has always been geared towards young kids back in the fifties. Is that how yours is gonna go? Or are you going for a Pirates audience?

Jerry: No, it’s more of a “Pirates” audience. It’s everybody. But it’s not geared for the young ones. It’s like eight and up.

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