What I’m about to say may shock you. It may rock you to the core. No, I’m not about to say anything nice about the Boston Red Sox, calm down. What I am going to say is that I recently watched my very first Disney Fairy movie. And… well, I liked it.
I’ll save a full review for later, but on my recent Disney Cross-Country Blogging Adventure (a.k.a. #MuppetsMostWantedEvent), myself and two dozen bloggers hit the DisneyToon Studios for a screening of Disney’s newest animated movie The Pirate Fairy.
We started the morning by racing around the lobby, trying not to break all the timber-shivering pirate booty we could get our hands on.
There were loads of movie stills, sketches and maps to scout out.
Anyone recognize this Skull Island from the Peter Pan cartoon?
Well, look what I crawled out of. Someone clearly needs to floss better.
Apparently I didn’t find a very good hiding spot, since the rest of the blogging gang quickly swarmed the skull!
After guzzling enough coffee to finally wake me up, we all went into a small screening room with some real comfy seats. I totally need one of those in my house, let me tell ya! (The screening room, I mean. Coffee I’ve got.) We sat back, watched The Pirate Fairy and then had the pleasure of chatting with the film’s director Peggy Holmes and producer Jenni Magee-Cook.
It was really great talking with the two of them right after finishing the film. They were super eager to hear our reactions, discuss what it was like working on the movie, and even offer up a few fun Easter Eggs for us.
Sharp, funny and incredibly down to Earth, Peggy and Jenni (yeah, we’re totally on a first name basis now) were just a pleasure to chat with. They clearly love what they do, which can’t help but translate to the finished product itself.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights from our interview:
Tell us about Christina Hendricks’ character, the new dust-keeper fairy, Zarina.
JENNI: We really, really wanted you to like her. We wanted to find a character that was likable but yet you could understand made a big mistake, and goes away. She also had to be powerful. I mean, she’s a seven-inch fairy fighting pirates. So she’s got to be vulnerable and sweet out front. But then she’s got to be tough when she’s a pirate, so it took a really big range of acting and Christina Hendricks is amazing. We all knew her from Mad Men and knew she could have that sharp tough wit, but such a sensitive soft side to her also.
She’s a huge Disney fan, so we showed her around the building and we were in the story room showing her art. She just was totally into the story and then it dawned on her… she was going to be a fairy! And that was huge, because she and her husband go to Disneyland all the time. They don’t have kids, but they love it. To become a fairy and part of the Disney legend, she was just thrilled.
How was Tom Hiddleston, who played a young Captain Hook named James?
PEGGY: Tom Hiddleston was just amazing. Tom understood he needed to get a bigger-than-life character, a bigger-than-life performance that was believable for today’s audience. And Tom got that right off the bat. Our thought was that basically Hook is not as bitter and evil as he is in Peter Pan yet because he hasn’t had all the failures. But you can see he’s going to start to have a lot of failures and a lot of things that go wrong for him. He’s got big ideas that just don’t work out. So Tom really had a handle on how to make this character super charming and loyal and, you know, very unassuming. And then make that flip, which was great.
We actually have a little behind the scenes peek of Tom recording the song and talking about the character.
PEGGY: See that white shirt he’s wearing? The shirt was very starched, and he looked lovely as he came in to record. But it was so starched, and he’s so physical that when he gets up to record, he’s moving his body and the the shirt was going [SWOOSH! SWOOSH!] so we had to get him a Disney ‘toon T-shirt. So that’s a little fun fact. [LAUGHS]
How did you come up with the idea to tie this into Peter Pan and did you need to get a ton of approvals for that?
PEGGY: We knew we wanted Zarina to make a mistake and run away from home. And I wanted her to come back, because that is what Disney is all about; it’s what Tinker Bell is about. She has a huge heart. Tinker Bell knows all about making mistakes and owning up to them. That’s the kinda gal she is. And she’s super loyal. We know that from Peter Pan. So we wanted Zarina running away from home. They live in Neverland, so where was she going to go?
We were in a story meeting with Jenni, myself, the other directors and writers, and [Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios] John Lasseter. And we’re throwing out ideas. Where could she go? What could happen? Almost two hours had gone by and all of a sudden John pounds his fist on the table… which always means something is coming.
JENNI: Like the light bulb just popped in his head.
PEGGY: We all looked at him, and he goes, “Pirates! She could run away and get hooked up with pirates. The pirates of Neverland.” And from there a whole story just unfolded. So once he said that, we’re like, “Oh my gosh! We could introduce a young Captain Hook! Oh my gosh, we could bring in the crocodile!” So that was approval that day.
Zarina’s costume was great. What was it like working with fashion designer Christian Siriano from ‘Project Runway”?
PEGGY: Yeah he’s really fun. We’re really lucky. We sent Christian the idea of the story and sort of what we were thinking about. He really liked Zarina and so basically once he was interested, we got on the phone with him and talked a little bit more about the character. And he started sketching while we were on the phone. These films take place at the turn of the century, so we sent him our research in terms of how different things can be part of her costume. Like, her sword is a hatpin and her belt is a watchband.
He did all these amazing sketches, came in to the studio and worked with our character designer. We had certain ideas about her. We knew we wanted her to have long boots. We wanted her to have some sort of classic pirate thing, but definitely feel hip and contemporary. And what we found as we started to sketch her outfit was, pirate can go Halloween costume very quickly. [LAUGHS] And we didn’t want that. We needed it to be fashion. So that’s where we really relied on Christian to help us be classic but contemporary.
JENNI: We also had to bridge Pixie Hollow to Neverland and we wanted Zarina to come from Pixie Hollow so she had to look like she fit in both places.
Are you finding that even boys are enjoying the film?
JENNI: It’s doing really well with boys. In general, boys don’t tend to always be the market we have for this. But every time we’ve screened it, we’ve brought boys in for our general audience screenings. My son is almost 13 and he said, “I’m not just kissing up to you, mom. I actually like your movie.” [LAUGHS] It’s almost as if he said he loves me in public.
What about some fun hidden Easter Eggs? Disney films are always full of those. Can you share some?
JENNI: We put a lot of little things in there that not all of them were obvious. One of the ones you wouldn’t know that’s really fun to tell people is the clock. That sound of the clock tick tocking we pulled from the original Peter Pan cartoon in the archives and we reused the actual sounds. We mixed that in.
PEGGY: That’s my son’s initials on the clock! The art director said we’ve got to design this clock and in Peter Pan, it’s very simplistic. It’s 2-D; it’s a very simplistic clock. So we have the responsibility of taking these elements and bringing them into CGI, and you have to put more detail in them. So we brought the clock in and it needed to have a maker on it. He used my son’s initials, and I was like, “Wow!”
JENNI: She also has a daughter! Under the cigar box where Zarina is filtering the blue dust, her daughter’s name is on there.
Did you consciously set out to make a film for both boys and girls?
PEGGY: You just want to make the best story you can. That’s the goal. We’re never [trying to write for boys], that’s never part of the conversation.
JENNI: As a matter of fact I, I’d even say we made sure to go the other way, because it was such a high adventure film and there were pirates and battles and all of these things that were going on that are really exciting and keep the movie going. Peggy always kept such a strong eye out to make sure we kept that emotional story throughout and really stayed true to that.
Disney’s The Pirate Fairy is available on Blu-ray/DVD April 1
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