A while back, I was invited to visit Walt Disney Studios in Burbank for an early look at the upcoming family 3D film “G-Force”. This is Producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s (“Pirates of the Caribbean”, “The Rock”, “Confessions of a Shopaholic”) first foray into 3-D – and it looks eye-poppingly good!
The flick, featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan and Penelope Cruz, is an adventure-centric jaunt about the latest evolution of a covert government program to train animals to work in espionage. Armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment, these highly trained guinea pigs discover that the fate of the world is in their paws. As the production notes reminded us pre-footage, the Hoyt Yeatman-directed “G-Force” takes audiences on “a high-octane thrill ride, proving once and for all that size really doesn’t matter” – and I think they’ve delivered on their promise.
The always amiable Bruckheimer introduced several unfinished clips from the film that gave us an in depth look at the CGI process of the characters. He then preceded to screen for select media about 6 minutes of finished 3D footage in a small screening room – and it looked amazing, I can’t even imagine what this is going to look like on the big screen!
Noticed a string of familiar voices in the footage we were shown, including “Iron Man” helmer Jon Favreau as guinea pig Hurley (a pet store guinea pig not a government trained one), Nicolas Cage as Speckles as a freaky special agent mole (think his nasally voice in ”Valley Girl” but turned up to 11!), the always-dependable Steve Buscemi as the bitter hamster with ferret ancestry Bucky, and Tracey Morgan, Sam Rockwell and Penelope Cruz as the special forces guinea pig team Blaster, Darwin and Juarez respectively.
Here’s how it all went down ….
Our group met at the Frank G. Wells theater and were quickly led up to a meeting room with several widescreen plasma TV’s set up with G-FORCE footage cued and ready.
Bruckheimer introduced the first segment –
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: I’m going to show you some little segments of our “G-Force” film, which is very much in progress.Â The music, of course, is something that is taken from other movies, because our score isn’t finished.Â The first thing we’re going show you is our little guinea pigs, who consider themselves like the Special Forces and are working for Homeland Security or the FBI.Â And they’ve infiltrated a mansion that’s supposedly being run by a guy who’s selling chips to the Far East, with military implications.Â And the whole thing goes bad.Â And now they’ve been relegated to a pet store, and they’re actually going to be like guinea pigs.Â So we’re gonna show you right now, the sequence with them going into the pet store. Against their will.Â That’s the first segment…
We saw the team thrown into a glass pet store container with Niecy Nash as the store owner known to us only as Mamacita were they meet bitter little hamster Bucky and Hurley the lovable but troublemaking guinea pig with a mohawk.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: We first block the scene and then add [the characters in], so it’s a whole process you’re being exposed to showing how this animation works, and it takes a very long time, as you can see with these segments.Â We’ve been working on this thing for a couple years, and it’s a long process to get it right.Â Also, this is in 3D, so when the snake comes out and he flies through the air, it’s going to go flying into the audience.Â Now I’m going to show you a sequence where two of them get adopted, as you saw there, and then I’m going to show you the escape of the other two, which is coming up right now.Â So we’ll get that story.
We find out that Bucky and Hurley have been waiting a long time to be adopted, meanwhile, the team is trying to find an escape route. A family comes in with the young girl interested in Juarez to paint her nails pink and put lipstick on her (we find out she takes her home). The older brother is more interested in causing harm to the animals using a lacrosse stick to throw Hurley towards a snake (he actually ends up in the tarantula cage which is bad enough). The older boy soon decides to take Blaster home. Both team members are told to escape at the first safe chance. Speckles thinks if he plays dead, he’ll end up buried outside where he can escape. Unfortunately, the trash truck comes and he is thrown into the compactor, Darwin assumes he’s dead. Darwin and Hurley soon escape from the pet store and are off to save their friends.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: The villain has created this whole plot where all these appliances communicate with one another and they become alive.Â So you’re watching all these appliances come together and they’re trying to stop G-Force, which has broken in, and you’ll see a sequence where Hurley gets trapped in a microwave.
Hurley can’t resist a piece of chocolate cake sitting in the microwave. He subsequently gets stuck in the microwave that comes to life, Darwin and crew try to save him.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: It’s Nick Cage, Penelope Cruz, Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan and Steve Buscemi, whose voices you just heard, for all the various characters.Â And the animation’s amazing, and the 3D is even better.Â We only had approximately ten minutes of 3D done, so we took six of the ten minutes and finished them, and you’ll see some of that.
Q&A with Producer Jerry Bruckheimer
We were able to ask a few questions before we moved on to see to the finished 3D footage downstairs in a bigger theater. I especially wanted to find out about The Lone Ranger, I am sure you can figure out what question was mine. We also found out who got Jerry into 3D in the first place, yes the King of the World (and 3D) himself, Mr. James Cameron.
Q: Why is it important for you to make this in 3D, and what’s the difference between 3D today, and the way it was years ago?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â Well, I think the technology’s so much better.Â You don’t get the fatigue you used to get with your eyes the way the projection is, the whole technology.Â We’re doing things that no other movie has done before as far as 3D goes.Â And so it’s so exciting that you can actually bring things out to an audience, especially since this is a kids’ movie, so it’s great.Â They love it, they grab at it, they have a blast when they see it.
Q: But from the start, what sold you on the idea?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â James Cameron invited me over to his place and showed me what he was doing with 3D and showed me a bunch of tests that he’d done, and it was really exciting-it adds another experience for the audience.Â And that’s what we try to do.Â We try to draw in as many people as possible and show them new experiences.
Q:Â What did Mr. Cameron show you?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â He showed me some tests that he did, not for his movie, just tests of various scenes that he’d done that he actually shot in 3D.Â Which I thought were superb.Â We actually didn’t shoot in 3D.Â Since all our animated stuff is done digitally, it’s easy to convert it to 3D, but the live actors were shot with conventional technology.
Q:Â I’m curious if this 3D experience has influenced you to possibly take any of your other films in the future and go into the 3D medium.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â Yeah, I would love to.Â You know, it’s going to depend on how quickly they convert the normal theaters into ones with 3D projectors.Â It’s gotten slowed down a little bit with the economy right now.Â So it’s not quite going as quickly as we had hoped it would be at this point.
Q:Â Well could you see something like a Pirates 4 or any of your future films being in 3D?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: It’s possible.Â It’s all possible.
Q:Â Do you think the 3D could also get into the TV side of the business in a few years, or is it going to be too tough?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â I think that’s a little harder, you know, but listen, anything’s possible.Â I was at the Consumer Electronics Show about three years ago and they were showing video games in 3D.Â You know, it’s fantastic, when you play these car racing games and it’s all 3D.Â But I don’t know if it’s hit the consumer markets yet.Â I haven’t seen it.Â It might be in Japan, but it’s certainly not here yet.
Q:Â How important is that side of the business-when you compare the story, the director, the filmmakers you are working with-the technology side of the business?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Well, the most important thing is the story, the characters, the themes.Â You know, no matter how you dress it up, if those things don’t work, it doesn’t matter…whatever kind of bells and whistles you put on, 3D or otherwise.Â It’s all about the story and characters.
Q:Â As a producer, when a new medium like 3D comes out, it must be really exciting, but at the same time it’s expensive and difficult to get.Â What is more important to you?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â Well, anytime I can bring something new and fresh to an audience, it’s exciting to us.Â Anytime you can give a better moviegoing experience, if you do it right with the story and the characters, and then you add something on that’s new.
Q:Â Why Penelope Cruz, because she’s never done a voiceover, and I don’t know if she’s a perfect match for domestic audiences.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â Well, she’s a wonderful actress, and a voice, it’s acting also.
Q:Â Why did you choose a Spanish character, and she also speaks Spanish in some parts of the movie?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â Yeah.Â It was just the way the character was created.Â You know, the character’s always been aÂ Hispanic character.
Q:Â I’m sure I’m probably forgetting something, but I don’t really remember you doing anything for such a young audience.Â Do you find it a completely different experience for you trying to gauge for that demographic?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â Yeah, I’m still figuring that out.Â [LAUGHTER]Â Still working on that.Â Yeah, it’s a much different experience.Â You know, a lot of the stuff that I like, and some of the stuff we’ve shot, gets a little too violent for that audience.Â And not for the kids, because the kids really want it.Â You know, they want more!Â It’s the parents that say, â€˜I don’t want my kid to see it,’ and yet, two weeks later, and he’s watching it on DVD at his friend’s house.Â So they’ll see it.Â But, the parents, when their kids are this age – five, six, seven years old – they make the choices.Â Even though there’s a nag factor, the kids see it on the various TV commercials and nag their parents until they finally get to go see it.Â So, it’s a whole different game for me to try to figure this out.
Q:Â What genre do you prefer personally?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â Me?Â I still like our big action stuff. When Hoyt Yeatman created this, it was based on his six-year-old son who came home with a guinea pig one day, from school, and said wouldn’t it be cool if these guys were Special Forces?Â [CHUCKLING]Â And could do all these things?Â And Hoyt said, â€˜Yeah.’Â So he started developing this-he had an artist draw up the various characters, which you see here.Â It’s pretty close to what he imagined.Â And I just love the characters.Â Love the concept of it.Â They’re so cute, they’re just adorable.Â And when you see it finished…Â You saw that little bit with the cherry scene, where he’s eating the cherries, how expressive it is.Â Just imagine the whole thing being like that, the way they move their hands and the fur moves and their eyes.Â It’s just fantastic to watch.Â You really only get about thirty, forty percent of what I’m showing you here, because a lot of the animation isn’t finished.Â So when you see it is finished, it’s a whole different experience.Â And I’m getting the same kind of thrill as these animation shots come in.Â We usually get about fifty in a day.Â We have nineteen hundred shots in the whole show, so I think we’re at thirteen hundred right now, so a little over half of the shots that are in.Â So every day it’s fun to go into the editor and see what the animators have come up with.
Q:Â Why did you pick this cast for the voices?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â You know, Nick, we’ve done a lot of movies with him.Â I sent him the script and he picked the character he wanted to play.Â He wanted to be the Mole.Â [CHUCKLING]Â You know, I think he’s quirky guy.Â Love that character.Â And John Favreau just has got a wonderful voice.Â He plays Hurley.Â He’s got this really warm, kinda funny voice.Â This is a whole different cast, and the way you cast this they send you just voice tapes and you just listen to it on your computer.Â You don’t see their faces, you just hear their voices.Â And what we did is we took it from other movies and so you have a whole selection of actors and you make the choices really based on their voice.
Q:Â How long do you think it will take the 3D technology to become a major trend with the regular movies and when do you think that can happen?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â I think that the economy has a lot to do with it, so if the economy turns in the next year or so, let’s hope it turns a lot sooner than that, it’ll happen fairly quickly.Â But again, it comes down to the economy.Â But, you know, fortunately for us movies have been up, attendance has been up for about the last three or four months, so that’s good.Â So maybe that’ll fuel the conversion to 3D projectors faster.
Q:Â Did you ask Penelope to also be the voice in different languages or is she going be in just the English version?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â That I don’t know.Â We haven’t gotten to that point yet.Â What we’re doing with other countries.
Q: Â You were talking about the economy, are you finding that actors are lining up to do animated features?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â Well, I think with the success of some of these animated pictures, they’re kind of easy for actors to do.Â They work four or five days on these things and that’s it-other than maybe going out and promoting them.Â So, they don’t get paid nearly what they get paid for showing their images onscreen, but it’s a nice gig for them and it’s creative, so they have fun.Â And the truth is, a lot of these actors have kids.Â And most of the movies they make the kids can’t see them.Â So it’s great when they have a four, five, six-year-old and they make a movie for them.Â And they become a hero at home.
Q:Â Speaking of the four, five, six-year-olds, another project you’re working on, “Lone Ranger,” traditionally has been geared towards young kids back in the ’50’s.Â Is that how your version will be? Or are you going for more of a Pirate’s audience?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER:Â No, it’s more of a “Pirates” audience.Â It’s everybody.Â But it’s not geared for the young ones.Â It’s like eight and up.
G-FORCE opens in cinemas around Australia these September School Holidays
– STEPHANIE SANCHEZ