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Enchanted - Barry Josephson and Christopher Chase interview

Barry Josephson and Christopher Chase, producers of Enchanted

Interview by Rob Carnevale

BARRY Josephson and Christopher Chase, the producer and executive producer of animated hit Enchanted, talk about some of the challenges involved in getting the movie completed, including shooting in New York and the numerous nods to past Disney classics.

They also talk about the importance of getting the casting right for the film and recall their favourite Disney movies…

Q. How did you get involved with Enchanted?
Barry Josephson: I brought the script to the studio many years ago and set it up as Disney. I then developed and worked on it until two years ago we finally had a script that the studio really loved and they introduced me to Kevin [Lima, director]. So, for me it was a long journey in terms of development, writers, meeting with different directors and so on. It wasn’t until I met Kevin that I felt: “OK, this guy has a vision for the movie.” I could see it happening. I had an interesting experience when I was a studio executive and working on Men In Black… I realised that it needed somebody to take it from point A to point B. On that occasion, I was fortunate enough to have Steven Spielberg as producer and Barry Sonnenfeld as director and they had a really great vision for the movie.

On Enchanted, it was purely Kevin’s vision for what the material could potentially be. Everything that he said to me became true to the movie – from 2D animation to live action, how to have music in the movie, how to have the animated characters come into the world etc. All of those things were notes that Kevin gave me from one day. That made me very happy as a producer.

How did you enjoy working with Kevin Lima?
Christopher Chase: At the very beginning, when Kevin came onto the movie, he hired a bunch of artists and started exploring his visual ideas. This meant putting the ideas in his head – based on the script and his own vision – up on this hallway at Disney. You could literally walk through the movie with him. So, 100 discussions and three years later we were looking at the movie and said: “Do you know what? That’s exactly what he did!”

What was your role on a day-to-day basis once the cameras started rolling?
Barry Josephson: I was producing the movie day in, day out – you know, bringing it to New York, hiring the right people, consulting with Kevin about the work crew. Chris [Chase] and I had different responsibilities but we did merge on how to put the animation together and what the characters were going to look like. Fortunately, we were able to work hand in hand from the very start to the very finish.

Christopher Chase: What was really nice is that Kevin is really easy in essence to support. As long as you give him the right collaborators around him he will explore and tell you exactly what he wants.

Barry Josephson: I also insisted that it was all shot in New York – whether it was New York, London or Paris I wanted it all to be shot in the once city so that it could happen organically. It was important for our well-being during the movie – going from the sound stage to the city and coping with weather and permits and whether we could shoot in Central Park now or later; Times Square the same. It was a daunting task, especially with several musical numbers as well.

In fact, one of the funny things that happened is that during the time we were scouting for locations together and Kevin was always blown away by the fact that anytime we found a location we’d come back two or three weeks later and there’d be scaffolding up! New York’s just in a constant state of new stores, scaffolding and renovation! So that became our joke throughout the production of the movie.

Q. Do you get the sense that hand-drawn animation is becoming a lost art? Or are you still keen to embrace digital animation as well?
Christopher Chase: As well. I think for artists – and Kevin is a perfect example – they’ll embrace any tool that gives him whatever the emotional thing is he wants to achieve in the moment. So, he loves 3D but he also loves the hand-drawn and it all has its own feel and tone to it.

Q. How involved were you in assembling the numerous nods to past Disney classics?
Barry Josephson: Kevin went through the script and re-named or changed every single thing to do the “where’s Waldo” puzzle of Disney in the movie. I don’t have one one hundredth of the knowledge that he does of those movies. I thought I did. There are cameos throughout the movie of different voices but even things like the name of the law firm or the Italian restaurant. In fact, that was the one that caught me off-guard, naming the restaurant Bella Notte in a nod to Lady & The Tramp. I just thought it was so great.

Christopher Chase: You also have Jodi Benson, who was the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, sitting at the reception desk in the law firm at one stage before the camera shoots across to a huge fish. You don’t put all the pieces together until you really think about it. But you also don’t have to know it – it doesn’t matter at all if you don’t. But it’s great fun when you really start to lift the lid.

Q. As much as Enchanted is an ode to Disney’s glorious past, it’s also a love letter to New York isn’t it?
Barry Josephson: It is. I grew up there, so to me it was very important. Kevin was also committed to it as well – he’d say: “For sure, there’s Central Park but let’s maybe look at the city differently. Let’s look at some of it iconographically but let’s make some other choices!” The Woolworth Tower, where the movie ends, was the first skyscraper in the United States and is a very famous building. So, we used that as opposed to the more obvious choices like The Chrysler Building. But also places like Central Park I feel we’ve really done them justice.

Christopher Chase: I also think it was such a great choice because it’s such a polar opposite to have this classic old world animation brought into the most abrupt, hard-edged, in your face city in the world. So, it just puts you right into it once Giselle comes through the two worlds.

Q. How involved were you with the casting and, in particular, Amy Adams?
Barry Josephson: I had a long time developing the material during which I thought about actors and over the years I would watch different things and think: “Wow, Reese Witherspoon, or this person or that person and so on…” I think that one of the most fortunate things to have happened was the movie coming together when it did and that Kevin wanted to discover someone new. He felt strongly – and I agreed – that once Giselle pops out of that manhole cover you shouldn’t stare, point your finger and go: “Oh, that’s Julia Roberts!” I thought it was a very strong instinct of his to say: “We’ve watched her now in animation, she comes to the real world and she’s Giselle, not a famous actor.” It was really fortunate that when Amy read for the role her reading was just spot-on. She was Giselle and she is Giselle. She just owned the character.

The harder thing tonally was James Marsden and Timothy Spall. The Giselle thing just happened in a very organic way. But then it became about finding the right person to play this prince and pull it off – who could be big and funny? But Jimmy just owned it. There were many times we thought it could only be a British actor, a royal Shakespearean actor. But James just read and nailed it. And Timothy Spall was the same. I think we got very lucky. Another important thing to mention was that Susan Sarandon called me years and years before this movie was put together to say: “I want to play this woman.” She’d read the script and said: “I love her and I know what to do with her.” She gave me notes, she gave Kevin and I notes, of not just her part but other things too. She was very smart about it and really wanted to do it badly and to do it brilliantly. I think timing is everything.

Patrick Dempsey, for instance, is perfect for Robert. He plays this very jaded character early on so well and then in the Italian restaurant opens up so much and realises that the last thing he thinks he needs in his life is the thing he wants the most. I feel so good about him at the end of the movie.

Q. Did he bring any of his own ideas?
Barry Josephson: An interesting thing that he did was at the end of the movie where he dances into the living room, I actually was on set that day and thought it was really goofy. I wasn’t sure about it. But then Kevin looked at me and said: “This is right. He’s opened up completely.” It was then that I realised how much Patrick had embraced the role. He was OK looking silly and it worked. You feel good for him. It’s just a marvellous thing when your actors are full of joy and also think so much about the character.

Christopher Chase: Patrick actually came to one of our very first casting meetings and said: “I have this young daughter and this movie has everything I want to be able to put on and share with her when she’s old enough to appreciate the movie.” So, I think the timing was right for him.

Q. Was it always going to be the classic old-style animation during the animated sequences?
Christopher Chase: There were always discussions but I think it was clear from the very first conversation that Kevin, Barry and I had that we wanted it hark back to your memory of Disney – maybe not even what Disney was, but you remember as a child when you saw that movie you have this fond memory of something special. So, that’s not 3D, that’s hand-drawn. There were artists, too, that I’d worked with on Tarzan and many of those movies, who were so hungry to draw again and put the computer away for a little while. So we got the real benefit of that and it was really fun.

What are your favourite Disney films of all-time?
Christopher Chase: I’ve always liked Sleeping Beauty. I always thought it was just pure Disney fun. There was also a live action film they did that was right at the beginning of special effects called The Gnome-Mobile (1967). It was one of those goofy little weird movies that Disney did in that period about little tiny people that would jump from tree-top to tree-top. When I was a little kid I thought: “Man, that looks like the funnest thing ever!” That for me is classic Disney.

Barry Josephson: For me it was Tarzan, Beauty & The Beast and I think The Lion King because of the themes and the stories and what I found in each one. I think I grew up as a real jock as a boy and I don’t know that as a kid I was willing to embrace the fairytales per se. I was more moved by it as an adult than I was as a kid.

b>Read our interview with Alan Menken (composer)