Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Mostly MirrorMask

Had a good two days -- starting to get the hang of this. Seen some movies, and am starting to feel like people should be paying royalties to Rod Serling for reusing old Twilight Zone plots. So far my festival highlight is KUNG FU HUSTLE, which was an utter enjoyment from first to last. Also enjoyed THE JACKET until the final couple of seconds when it all went sacharine, and enjoyed HARD CANDY, although I'd expected a few more twists.

Showed MirrorMask to an audience of highschoolers this morning. They were our first ever audience (of people who had nothing to do with the film professionally) and I held my breath until I found out how it had gone down and what they thought of it.

Hey Neil,I'm sure you'll get tons of emails about this but just in case you hadn't, the MirrorMask website has gotten a full makeover and now has content! And pictures! And a really spiffy wallpaper. Sundance! Don't freeze to death :)~Karyn-Noelle

Oh good. (I'm on an unbelievably slow dial-up and can't check to see if it has a current trailer up, or if it still has the old one, but I'm delighted that they've got the site up at last.)

There. It loaded. I'm afraid they've still got the original trailer up. I'm astonished it ever crept out as anything more than a teaser done by Sony for Comic-con (which is what is was). Dave hated it. I disliked it, and was really upset that Dave's name wasn't on it. I've not met anyone at Hensons who admits to liking it. And it doesn't really give you any sort of taste or feel for the film...

Ah well. There will be a new trailer up in the next few days. And in the meantime there's lots of scrummy stuff on the website.

I am a big fan of your Sandman series. I am also a huge fan of all Jim Henson related works like Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. I am very excited to learn that you are involved with them in creating Mirrormask. I am assuming you wrote the screenplay, but are you involved otherwise? I am saddened to see from the teaser that a lot of the visuals are computer generated. My love for the Jim Henson company comes from thier amazing puppetry and the feeling these works of art convey. It seems that making computer generated "puppets" takes away from that feeling. Actual puppetry is what sets the Jim Henson works apart from all others. Puppetry is a completly different art form and I think it is misleading in the teaser to say that Mirrormask is from the creators of Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, if it is not going to be making extensive use of real puppetry. I'm sure in all accounts you don't really have much say in these matters. But I'm curious about your views on this. Making such puppets and creatures is a dream of mine. I hope this dream must not die.
Jimmy Brooner

I turned this one over to Lisa Henson to answer, mostly because a) Dave and I had nothing to do with the old trailer, and b) the impression I got from Lisa Henson, Jerry Juhl and other Hensons people I've talked to was that Jim Henson was always pushing the envelope in what you could do. And that he would have liked what we were doing.

(At the Sundance panel on animation the other day Lisa showed a short test from something called, I think, Water Warriors, with a dancing frog and worm in it, both cgi characters being "puppeted" which was amazing -- and just as much puppetry as anything made of cloth or foam. But those techniques weren't used on MirrorMask.)

This was Lisa's answer.

Dear Neil,

Some of our fans do sometimes get upset whenever we do anything
new, particularly if it is not Muppets. When my father was alive, he
was perplexed by this, as the only thing he was ever really
interested in was the next thing on the horizon, the thing that was
slightly technically impossible and perhaps commercially unwelcome.
He began by upsetting "real" puppet fans around the world with
puppets that didn't follow in any of the existing puppetry
traditions, in a field where virtually every puppeteer began as an
apprentice or acolyte of a master traditional puppeteer. (We are still
trying to make it up to those people with the work of the Jim Henson

Many of the old Henson techniques which one might pine for
nostalgically, like the radio controlled puppets of EMMETT OTTER or
the intricate animatronics of DARK CRYSTAL were at the time of those
productions completely new and innovative. There is a first time for
everything. In the eighties, Jim Henson was on a quest for several
new techniques which were on the horizon. He spent a lot of time
working on interactive projects that couldn't be realized
technologically until a couple of years after his death. He wanted to
make 3D movies. The most important project he envisioned was the
computer puppetry, which involved using puppeteers to "animate"
computer models of characters. I went with him on his initial
meetings with John Whitney and PDI and others to talk about how this
might be achieved. Actually, he successfully made the interface work
for the Waldo character in the Muppetvision 3D movie, and what we are
doing now in computer animated puppetry is just a more complete
version of that concept. If he lived, we would have made the
advancements faster and might have been making full CG programs like
our FRANCES show as early as ten years ago.

Jim Henson used the same performers to manipulate all of his
characters in every puppetry medium, and we follow that same
philosophy. The puppeteer is where the magic of puppetry rests, not
in the style of the model or technology. When Frank Oz puppeteered
Yoda, he brought a magic to the character that would not have
happened if he were performed by his builders (as other shops would
have done).

Finally, is it misleading to say that MIRRORMASK is from the creators
of Dark Crystal and LABYRINTH? Absolutely (it's marketing staff
stuff). It is from the creators of SANDMAN and MR PUNCH and WOLVES IN
THE WALLS. We will be seeing a new trailer shortly and hopefully the
Jim Henson Company's involvement will be properly seen by the public
as having promoted and showcased the unique art and talent of Dave
McKean as the visionary director that he is.