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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – Zack Snyder interview

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ZACK Snyder talks about some of the technical challenges behind children’s animated movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, as well as his reasons for taking them on. He also speaks of his excitement at directing the new Superman movie.

Q. What was the appeal of directing Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole?
Zack Snyder: I think the hook was basically the visual potential of the world. I like making pictures and there’s a guy, Grant Freckelton, the visual effects art director on 300, and the art director on this movie… we collaborated a lot on 300 and when I heard that he was working on this we started talking about how it would look and all of the details that were possible and the design of the world that we were going to create. So, I thought: “Yeah, that could be super cool! That gets me excited.” So, I guess that was the jumping off point.

Q. How did it differ technically from films like 300?
Zack Snyder: I guess the difference, of course, is that in animation there’s absolutely nothing you get for free, so you really have to design everything super carefully – not that you don’t do that in a live action film but there are certain physical realities that you get. In that, at the very least you get the atmosphere, whereas in animated films you don’t get any of that. And, of course, you don’t get the actors! You get the voice from a lot of different, gifted actors, but the actual guy that you’re filming isn’t there, so that’s quite challenging.

Q. What was the scene you’re most proud of that was perhaps the most difficult to pull off?
Zack Snyder: One of the scenes that I’m really super proud of is during the final battle between Soren and Kludd, and Kludd’s hanging down and Soren’s trying to pull him up… in the middle of that scene there’s an amazing view. So, that particular scene… part of it because it’s the fire in the background mixed with the night-time. That came late in our cycle when everyone was 100% on their game.

Q. Jim Sturgess has said there were times you’d be directing him when he was in England and you were in Australia. How was that to get your head around?
Zack Snyder: It was hard but weird. Once I got into a rhythm with it I think it was harder for the actors than it was for me because I was used to it. I’d done so much Skyping with actors all over the world that were on different projects. The thing about an animated performance is that it’s done over a long period of time, so sometimes I’d deal with them for real, sometimes I’d be on a computer, sometimes I’d be on the phone. But for me, it was constantly a different medium for gathering it from them.

So, for the actors it was harder because I was used to it. I’d get on the phone with Geoffrey Rush, or Helen [Mirren] would be in England and I’d be in LA. Sometimes Ryan [Kwanten] would be in LA and I would be in Australia, and it was like we had switched [laughs]. They adapted amazingly well, so I guess it was more unorthodox than anything. But we all did an amazing job, so it worked out.

Q. I gather your kids kept giving you a hard time about making a children’s film, so they could watch something you’d directed?
Zack Snyder: Yeah, they were and they’ve been a little bit impatient for a film they could enjoy. But they really love this movie and they’ve been really helpful all along the way. I’d show them little bits and they’d be like: “That’s boring!” Or whatever!

Q. So, what do they think now that Dad’s directing the new Superman movie?
Zack Snyder: [Smiles] Yeah, it’s just starting to sink in. It’s a little too early for me to say what to expect, of course, other than to say I’m super excited about the possibility and when I get back we’re going to dig into it and figure things out.

Q. And working with someone like Christopher Nolan must be an exciting prospect for you?
Zack Snyder: Oh, Chris and Emma [Thomas, his wife and co-producer] are amazing partners… so smart. Chris has come up with a really great idea for Superman, so I can’t wait.

Read our review of the film

Read our interview with Ryan Kwanten