Saturday, April 02, 2011

HOPping fun in L.A., part three

This is it folks, the final installment of my reminiscing about my fabulous trip to the HOP junket. I intended it to be up on Friday, but with family coming for the weekend, my blogging time was taken over by cleaning for much of that day, and I could have gotten to typing in the afternoon, but instead of talking about the movie online, I opted instead to go with the entire family TO the movie! It was our very first trip as a whole family to the movie theater, and Red and Pudge's second-ever theater visit. Fun!

The final part that I wanted to write about involves the interview with Tim Hill, the director, and Chris Meledandri, the producer, as well as the movie itself. How about a little Q & A with the movie makers?

Where did the idea to create a live action, animated Easter movie come from?
Chris Meledandri: The original notion was to reveal a side of our Easter mythology that nobody’s ever seen before. Once we started thinking about that, it opened up all sorts of possibilities. This idea of doing it through the perspective of the Easter Bunny’s somewhat rebellious, subversive son felt like a great way to go. The other idea that emerged very early on is this notion of, what is it like to make the transition from adolescence, delayed adolescence into adulthood?
How did you decide about the creation of a secular Easter mythology?
Tim Hill: You're right to point out that it has a mythology all to its own that we invented, but we did take a page out of the Christmas movie. When you think about Christmas movies, Santa has his North Pole. He has his mode of transportation and then there have been hundreds of movies about that space that he works in and what he does on Christmas and how important it is to the world. We did look at that, but I’m sure it informed us in some way of, as you look at it, what happens? Well, how did they make all this candy? What do they do all year long? They make candy and they fill Easter baskets full of candy and they put them in this egg-shaped sleigh, which is pulled by 100 little chicks.
Chris Meledandri: The twist is that it actually was borrowed from the Easter Bunny as opposed to the Easter Bunny borrowing that from Santa.
Mr. Tim Hill: We decided that if you talked to the Easter Bunny, he would say that he was there before Santa. That tradition was before the Christmas tradition, only because the Easter Bunny is actually a Pagan tradition.
Was it your intention to make a movie to play across age groups?
Mr. Chris Meledandri: It was definitely the original concept. One of the reasons why Tim and I work so well together is that we both share a fundamental point of view about making movies, which is that neither of us make movies with the idea of, “Well, what’s a kid going to like?”We make movies from the perspective of what we like and it just so happens that what we like has the opportunity to play across broad audiences.
The story themes that we’re talking about are things that are certainly going to be more relevant to parents or people who have recently gone through an understanding of what it’s like to transition to adulthood.
The choice of Russell Brand, who is an actor that has these wonderfully subversive qualities, but what Tim and Russell discovered, he’s irresistibly charming. It’s our hope that the elements that are in this movie are elements that will speak to audiences of all ages and transcend the notion that all of us remember the magic of Easter from our childhood.
But, we’re also all kind of grown up children, too.
Cool, huh? I also loved this big packet that they gave us that was FULL of interesting info about the cast, the background of the movie, and best of all, the process of making a live action/CGI film. Here are a couple tidbits I enjoyed reading:
  • Russell Brand's part was recorded first, and animators studied video footage of his performance so they could use his facial expressions, body movements and "eccentricities" when creating E.B. 
  • The animators did much of their work surrounded by bunnies and chicks so that they could realistically capture the tiniest of details about their movements. Dozens of cameras recorded the animals so that they could have a 360-degree recording!
  • Much attention was paid to the quality of the fur on E.B. and the other bunnies, so that it would accurately reflect what was happening to him when he was picked up or was sitting on a human character. The second time I watched the movie, I watched closely and was amazed at how REAL it did indeed look!
  • For those moments when the actors have to physically interact with E.B., a beanbag filled in for him. Kaley Cuoco talked about filming the scene where she picks up E.B. thinking he is a stuffed animal, noting that the beanbag was heftier than she had expected, and that the scene took two days to complete, which greatly differs from her experience filming a television show episode in a day!
I would be greatly remiss to not share with you that in addition to hanging out with the actors and movie makers on the Universal lot, we also had the great pleasure of seeing the characters from the movie themselves!

Phil, Bit, Patch, Fluffy, Carlos and E.B.
Photos courtesy of Chris and Kristen Photography

And while I'm not a fan of being in front of a camera, I couldn't resist the opportunity to have a one-on-one pic with the star of the movie, E.B. Honestly, it wasn't hard to suspend disbelief and ignore the fact that some person was sweating crazily inside this suit. I was 100% into the idea that I was hugging E.B.!

So, the last thing to address is the movie itself! I'm going to put it out there that I think I'm a tougher critic than most for kids' movies, for while I'm as liberal as they come in 99% of the areas of life, this is one time that I tend to be much more conservative than most. I have issues when adult humor, innuendo and strongly intense scenes make up the majority of kids' movies, and this makes it difficult to enjoy many movies made and marketed for children.

HOP, I am happy to report, actually stood out for me as a movie that is almost completely free of the humor or references that usually make me cringe during kids' flicks, especially those made by a certain rodent-related outlet. Ahem. There is one scene in which E.B. is looking for a place to stay in Hollywood and happens upon the gates of the Playboy Mansion. Hugh Hefner plays himself over the security intercom and a reference is made to the "sexy bunnies" who live there. While I know that this "joke" went completely over my 3 and 4 year olds' heads, I'm not terribly excited that the logo and the name was placed into their consciousnesses, nor am I happy that my 10 year old is wondering what that was all about. The part stood out to me because it just didn't fit the rest of the film's family-friendly tone and humor.

As far as intensity, I think my four year old's post-movie assessment says it best: "You know, Mommy, most of the movies we watch have some scary parts that are really, really scary, but HOP's scary parts at the end were only a little bit scary." I have to agree- the intensity level of the part of the movie when the "good" and "bad" guys duke it out is really quite mild. Even the "bad guy" himself is funny and adorable, and ultimately redeemable. Kudos from this mom of kids who usually freak out at the ultra-intensity that is so prevalent in kids' movies!
Pudge and Red before the movie started- complete with Pink Berets and stuffed animals (and the inability to look away from the previews). Gotta notice that Pudge placed his E.B. and Phil in the two drink holders for the seat next to him!

Hubby and JAM ready for the movie to start!

I'm not the only fan, and it's easy to say that our family gives ten thumbs up to HOP! My three year old son giggled and shouted out exclamations like, "Oooh, chocolate!" and "Look, Mommy- there's the Pink Berets!", while my four year old daughter sat enraptured for the entire 90 minutes, and my ten year old son chuckled and especially loved the songs featured in the movie. Even hubby enjoyed himself! It's really saying something that everyone like it, considerinng our collective age range of 32 years!

Fun with the theater decorations!

Well, as they say, that's all folks. It was a lovely trip to L.A., and I'm happy to give some attention to a movie that made my entire family laugh!

Disclosure: Universal Studios paid my expenses to attend the press junket for Hop, but any opinions about the experience or the movie (or my annoying giggling) are completely my own. And after the experience, I even willingly ponied up my own cash to take the family to the movie, too!

Still thrilled for the entire experience,

Since I'm blabbing about this trip all over the Internets, here is the full collection, that will be updated as posts go live: