With Walt Disney Studios unveiling Secret of the Wings, its all-new, original full-length CG-animated feature film, I recently got to talk with writer/director Peggy Holmes and producer Michael Wigert, the filmmakers behind the latest addition to the highly successful Tinker Bell Disney Fairies movies. Holmes enjoyed a successful career as a choreographer before becoming an animation director on The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning. Wigert was, most recently, associate producer on Walt Disney Animation’s features Meet the Robinsons and Bolt.
The DisneyToon Studios production is executive produced by John Lasseter and stars Tinker Bell, one of Disney’s most beloved and iconic characters, along with her fairy friends (Fawn, Iridessa, Rosetta, Silvermist and Vidia), and introduces a sparkling new winter fairy, Periwinkle. The magical fairy adventure features a spectacular voice cast including Anjelica Huston, Timothy Dalton, Lucy Liu, Raven-Symoné, Megan Hilty, Pamela Adlon, Matt Lanter, Debby Ryan, Mae Whitman, and Lucy Hale who voices the newest fairy, Periwinkle. Secret of the Wings debuts on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital on October 23rd and marks the first time ever Tinker Bell will fly on Disney Blu-ray 3D. Read the interview after the jump.
During my exclusive interview with Holmes and Wigert, we talked about the exciting process of making Secret of the Wings. They told me how the production came together, what inspired the story and visual design, how Pixar’s development team and executive producer Lasseter were involved every step of the way in helping to shape the animated film, what were the most difficult scenes to animate, and why Tinker Bell continues to appeal to a broad audience and has been such a successful franchise for Disney.
Question: Can you talk about how Secret of the Wings came together?
Michael Wigert: The production of Secret of the Wings took course over approximately three years and we had a director and a producer and a story team and an artistic team and animators and lighters all working over the three years to tell the story of these worlds coming together.
How did the script change over the course of the production? Did Pixar see an early draft of it and give any notes?
Peggy Holmes: John Lasseter is our creative boss. He’s amazing. We love working with him. He works with you from the very beginning. John and some Pixar development people work with you from the very first meeting when you’re brainstorming and blue-skying. He’s involved every step of the way. The draft changes. What we do is we put the movie up and we see what we like and what we don’t like. You get rid of things and you put something else in its place. It’s a constantly evolving story all working toward the theme that you wanted to begin with. It’s a really exciting process.
What is it about Tinker Bell that makes her so appealing to a broad audience?
Holmes: Tinker Bell is so curious and so willing to take chances and I think that people love that about her.
What was the most difficult scene to animate and why?
Wigert: That’s a good question because I think we probably have two different answers for that. I would say the moment where the girls meet, where they see each other and they come together. It was such a ballet for us. The first time we did it, we didn’t get it right, to be honest. We needed to do another pass on it to really push that magic of the girls meeting and for the audience to feel that same swelling in your heart that the girls themselves are experiencing.
Holmes: One scene I anticipated would be difficult was there’s a moment where Tink and Peri run and hug. They hug each other for what they think is the very, very last time. I actually anticipated that being difficult and they nailed it. It was almost on the first take they nailed that scene. It was one of those magical moments where the scene comes in animated and it was almost perfect. Another big challenge in animation was the owls and getting the flight of the White Snowy Owls to look real and majestic. That was a challenge.
From a story as well as visual standpoint, what were some of the inspirations for Secret of the Wings?
Holmes: One of the story inspirations was I have three sisters. I am one of four sisters. I really wanted to talk about how sisters are connected and how you are connected to your family. So, that was an inspiration for me and I’ve always, always believed that through simple connections of the heart, worlds can come together. So that was really my inspiration. And visually, I just looked at lots and lots of photography in winter. I wanted to create what felt like a first snow and the magic that comes with seeing a first snow or a first winter.
What do you think would surprise people to learn about working on an animated film?
Wigert: I think the biggest surprise for people would be the iterative process that animation goes through. Peggy alluded to it a little earlier when she was talking about putting the story up on reels and then addressing the things that don’t work. Unlike live action, where you go out and shoot a movie and then you bring it back to editorial and that’s your movie, with animation, you’re working on it for years and you’re working to plus it at every step of the way. From the performances of the actors to the animation itself to the final color, it’s always an opportunity to question “Can it be better?”
What do you think has been the key to the success of the Tinker Bell franchise for Disney?
Holmes: I think the key is we’ve created really appealing characters that audiences can relate to. That has been the success – that the audience can find themselves in this group of fairy girls. They can find themselves, they can find their best friend, and they can relate to the characters.