The new DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox movie The Croods, opening in theaters this Friday, was written by directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco. Kirk started writing the movie in 2004, and Chris came on in 2007. So The Croods was 8 years in the making. Chris joked during a presentation, "That's the shocking truth of how long it takes to make these. If you have a child at the beginning, they will be going to the premier."
Writing the screenplay is generally one of the very first steps in making an animated movie, but the storyboarding process is where the story gets fully fleshed out and refined. When we sat down with the directors and story artist Steve Macleod, they told us a little about the process. Once the script is written, the story artists read it and begin to come up with some rough animation. Kirk DeMicco explained:
"We'll have about, ideally, at least five story artists, and they're really the keepers of the story. That group is gonna be harder on the story than any group, because they live and breathe it, and sleep with it, and eat breakfast with it in their heads all day long, and all week long, and all year long. They're the ones who'll come in the morning and go, I have an idea, and they'll tell the other people in the group. A lot of times, they're going to make changes and they'll just come and pitch it to us."
"And sometimes, we pitch it to other story artists before we pitch it to these guys [the directors] because we know we've got to keep it sharp. I try to tell people, too, it's kind of like how a stand up comedian works on the execution, the delivery of his joke, before he presents it, so it's timed just right."
Story artists add a lot to the story from little details in the background to jokes and comedic elements, and sometimes even major changes to the plot or characters. The process of refining the story and getting every detail just right takes years, and the movie ends up being only about an hour and a half long. Considering all of the painstaking effort that goes into an animated film, it's incredible that we just go to the theater, sit there and watch for one to two hours, and then come out and declare whether the movie was great or terrible or somewhere in between. That's why I love learning more about animated movies and all the little details that go into making them as well as the meaning behind different elements of the story, characters and animation.
The story of the Croods' big adventure starts out, as you can see in the trailer, by showing us how the Croods get their food. For the Croods, getting dinner is like a full contact sport. They are cave people who live in a rugged and dangerous environment, and that's why Grug wants his family to stay in the cave. His motto is "Never not be afraid." Fear is what keeps them alive. So when they end up being forced to leave the cave, the adventure is epic and life-changing for all of them.
Where their adventure will lead them is unknown. And the unknown is also something to be feared, of course, so the Croods are in real trouble. But now that the family is experiencing life outside the protective walls of the cave, they must explore not only the new and thrilling (though yes, very dangerous) outside world, but also their own characters and the truths they hold most dear. Their family bond will be tested, and their ability, or inability, to adapt will be the key to their survival. At it's core, The Croods is a story about family, about living, and about being able to adapt to whatever life throws our way.
(Photo © DreamWorks Animation)
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