25 Things to Know from Our Visit to DisneyToon Studios for SECRET OF THE WINGS

     August 19, 2012

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Last week, at DisneyToon Studios in Glendale, I attended the global press day for the Walt Disney Studios new CG-animated feature film, Secret of the Wings.  My first stop was the recording studio where sound engineer Paul McGrath explained the recording process and let me go into the booth to record some vocals and experience what it was like to be behind the microphone.  McGrath is responsible for mixing original dialogue, ADR recording and re-recording sessions, mixing temp audio for screenings, recording and editing auditions, and scratch sessions.  In addition to Secret of the Wings, his feature film projects for Disney are Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue and Disney Channel’s Pixie Hollow GamesHit the jump for more.

secret-of-the-wingsMcGrath further explained that they do all their recordings in-house which is a treat for the talent because they get to come to Disney, see the artwork and be a part of the creative process.  It also allows the directors to come in and out very easily.  With animation, the voice is one of the only things that’s not computer driven and it carries through all the stages of production from storyboards to pre-viz and layout.  They do hundreds and hundreds of thousands of takes in a movie.  Once the film is finished and comes back, if there’s any animation that doesn’t quite work – for example, the lip flaps don’t match or there’s something that’s changed or the filmmakers want to change the performance — they’ll do ADR to replace dialogue and use other techniques like that to produce the best film possible. 

After laying down tracks in the recording studio and having fun watching McGrath drop my voice into the production of Secret of the Wings as Periwinkle, the newest character in the highly successful Disney Fairies series, I got to talk to the filmmakers behind the fourth installment of the franchise:  screenwriter/director Peggy Holmes & producer Michael Wigert, associate producer Lorri Broda & character designer Ritsuko Notani, and art director Fred Warter & lead lighting compositor Nickie Huai.  My full interviews with them will be posted soon.  Until then, for those of you that can’t wait, I’ve come up with a list of 25 things you need to know about Secret of the Wings, which debuts on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital on October 23, 2012:

tinkerbell-secret-of-the-wings1. Secret of the Wings stars Tinker Bell, one of Disney’s most beloved and iconic characters, and her fairy friends (Fawn, Iridessa, Rosetta, Silvermist and Vidia), and introduces a sparkling new winter fairy named Periwinkle.

2. Secret of the Wings is the first movie in the Disney Fairies franchise to be released in 3D and marks the first time ever Tinker Bell will fly on Disney Blu-ray 3D.

3. Secret of the Wings 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 (the voice of Periwinkle).

4. Tinker Bell’s adventure in Secret of the Wings marks her first journey into the mysterious but exciting Winter World of Pixie Hollow where she discovers a magical secret that changes her life forever.

5. The production of Secret of the Wings took approximately three years from set to on the screen, which is considered a normal schedule.

disney-secret-of-the-wings6. During those three years, there was a director, producer, story team, artistic team, animators and lighters all working to tell the story of these worlds coming together.

7. With animation, the voice is the one element that’s not computer-driven and carries through all the stages of production from storyboards to pre-viz and layout.

8. John Lasseter is the film’s executive producer and was involved in every step of the animated film’s production.

9. Director Peggy Holmes enjoyed a successful career as a choreographer before becoming an animation director on The Little Mermaid:  Ariel’s Beginning.

10. One of the key story inspirations for Holmes was the idea of how sisters are connected, and how through connections of the heart, worlds can come together.

11. As part of her research for the film, Holmes brought in a twins expert who talked about what happens when sisters and twins that have been separated at birth come back together.

tinker-bell-secret-of-the-wings12. Two of the most difficult scenes to animate were when Tinker Bell and Periwinkle first meet and getting the flight of the White Snowy Owls to look real and majestic.

13. 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?”

14. Character designer Ritsuko Notani designed all the characters for the Fairy series including the original Tinker Bell, Rosetta, Fawn, Iridessa and the new Periwinkle.

15. Periwinkle’s hair design was created by Ken Paves who is one of the world’s foremost hairstylists and was inspired by an icicle known as a “frost flower.”

16. Nearly all of the fairy characters start and are built from the Tinker Bell model to ensure that they all look like they’re from the same world.  Tink is only 5-1/2 inches tall and everything about her and her friends has to fit within that world.

17. The director, art director, character designer, and character painter are a very close knit team.  Before the crew came onboard, the director worked on the film for a good year while coming up with the story.

Secret-of-the-Wings-Winter-fairies18. Ritsuko Notani, the film’s character designer, came up with her initial designs based on an iterative back and forth process between her and the director.  Then it went to the painting stage, the modeling stage, and finally the color model stage.  Sometimes it goes back to the character designer for changes.  The character designer is involved from the very beginning until the film hits the screen in theaters.

19. The velveteen textured leaves of the Lamb’s Ear flower were the inspiration for Periwinkle’s costume.

20. The wings were an interesting challenge because they had to represent visually the emotional connection between the two sisters, Tinker Bell and Periwinkle.

21. In the film’s mythology, each fairy has individual wings that are unique to them like a fingerprint, but Tinker Bell and Periwinkle are sisters so their wings are identical.

22. It was important in the lighting of the wings that the veins were highlighted in such a way so that when Tinker Bell and Periwinkle are together it’s obvious their wings are identical.

periwinkle-secret-of-the-wings23. John Lasseter’s mantra of “always look to nature for your inspiration” played an important role in the development and evolution of the wing design.  Art Director Fred Warter and Lead Lighting Compositor Nicki Huai looked at insects, birds, abalone shells, jewels, and images of oil and water as inspiration for the iridescent lighting quality they wanted for the wings.  Then, Huai took it the next step and brought it to 3D.

24. Depicting winter was a new challenge for the franchise.  There haven’t been many CG-animated films with snow and falling snow is especially difficult.   It was important to choreograph the speed and the direction of the falling snow because you don’t want a snowflake coming across a character’s face at a critical emotional moment to distract the audience and pull them out of the movie.

25. The filmmakers had to pick palettes that were appealing but could also be threatening for both a warm season and a winter world.  To get the right look for the sky when the winter frost invades the warmer season, they consulted with a weather expert.

Look for more on Secret of the Wings in the coming days.  Also, Secret of the Wings gets released on both DVD and Blu-ray October 23.

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