TinkerBell and the Legend of the Neverbeast is the fairy embodiment of “judging a book by its cover.” When animal-loving fairy Fawn stumbles across Gruff the Neverbeast, she’s fascinated by his mysterious actions. And also terrifed of his enormous size.
There’s a lot that Fawn, Tink, Nyx and the rest of Pixie Hollow need to learn about Gruff. And over time that’s just what they do. But as a viewer, there are things you won’t even know unless you pull back the curtain and go behind the scenes!
On my recent blogging trip to L.A. (dubbed #McFarlandUSAEvent), I joined two dozen of my fellow bloggers at the Disney Toon Studios to meet with some of the animated team behind the Neverbeast.
Story Artist Ryan Green and Animation Supervisor Mike Greenholt were kind enough to share some time with us, as well as a number of neat tidbits behind the Neverbeast himself. Read on to learn…
10 Things You Never Knew About the Neverbeast!
1. Neverbeasts in the Mist
Main character Fawn is an animal fairy who just loves every single type of creature. “We got a lot of inspiration from Diane Fossey,” said Ryan Green, “who went out to the wilderness to research gorillas. Fawn knows every single animal in Pixie Hollow except for this one new guy.”
2. Yes Horns, No tail
When Gruff was originally drawn, he looked a little bit different. According to Ryan Green, the Neverbeast originally had horns from the very beginning and no tail at all.
3. Hip Bone’s Connected to the Knee Bone
Story Artist Ryan Green actually has a degree in Biology. “So I was able to give a little bit of insight into what might be underneath the fur,” he said.
4. A Tale of the Tail
Gruff’s mighty tail sure comes in handy, especially when he uses it to hang upside down from trees. “You know, he’s standing on these four legs with all this weight and the tail almost became like another appendage for him,” said Green. “We got a lot of inspiration from the prehensile porcupine tail. They can curl up and wrap onto things.”
5. Gruff had Shark Teeth?!?
At first, the animators were looking to make Gruff seem fairly menacing. At least in a way so that when Fawn first met him, he’d be a bit scary. “We started with a bunch of Shark teeth,” revealed Green. “As the story progressed, we realized that he needs to bite off some Snod Grass Sap, chew it up and make a kind of paste to build these Towers . So we decided to leave them other worldly and give them lots of rows of teeth but put in some Molars in there so he can actually grind up the food.”
6. The Neverbeast Was One of the Toughest Pieces to Animate
“Yes he was,” admitted Green. “But he was one of the most fun, too because he doesn’t speak, his whole performance is animation. The animator can’t rely on a voice to carry the performance which is a challenge but is also a lot of fun.”
7. The Scary Chase Scene That Wasn’t
When Fawn first meets the Neverbeast in a cave, the audience is thrown outside and doesn’t witness the mad chase. Originally, the animators followed Fawn all the way out. “There was a sequence where Fawn goes into his cave and originally, he chases her the whole way out. He’s on her heels snapping at her,” said Animation Supervisor Mike Greenholt. “That was fun to animate but when it was done, it was just way too scary. We also wanted to keep it more mysterious at this part of the movie.”
8. Speak First, Draw Second
Ever wonder if the characters are drawn or voiced first? “Absolutely the voice is recorded before we animate” said Greenholt. “They always take video reference of them and we’ll just watch it because when people talk, they have mannerisms. Either things they do with their mouth or their face, and so it’s great to just see what they do. Also, just the shapes that their mouth makes, it’s a good reference to have.”
9. It’s All Happening At the Zoo
Gruff may look like a completely new animal to most folks, but he also probably looks real familiar. At least parts of him. That’s because the animators actually spent time walking the LA Zoo for inspiration. “The big challenge for animation was to make Gruff seem believable,” said Greenholt. “Even though he’s a fantasy creature, he had to feel like he was a living and breathing animal. We looked at rhinos and buffalo just to look at big heavy animals, and how they move. We’d look at a rhinoceros and how they charge.”
10. Doggone It
While the Neverbeast is a huge, fearsome creature, there’s also a real innocent, playfulness to him. And for a good reason. “A huge inspiration was my wife’s dog,” revealed Greenholt. “I have a video clip where the dog wants to go outside and play, I’m at my desk and I know what she wants but I’m just sort of waiting just to see what she does and so I’ll play this. You can see the thought process. You could see the lips move and her ears twitch. You don’t see a lot of white in her eyes but you see the brows move, and you see the changes in body language.”
TinkerBell and the Legend of the Neverbeast
On Blu-ray and Disney HD March 3, 2015