BEHIND THE SCENES Making "Bedtime Stories" Come True
Filmmakers needed top visual effects, special effects and world-class stunts to bring the fantasy sequences to life. To help make "Bedtime Stories" come true, filmmakers assembled a team of behind-the-scenes professionals, including production designer Linda DeScenna, visual effects supervisor John Andrew Berton Jr. and animal trainer Steve Berens.
DeScenna, who had worked with Adam Shankman on "The Pacifier" and "Bringing Down the House," says their first step was breaking down the script. "We really had to figure out what we could physically build and what would be built in the computer," she says. "That has to be pretty exact."
DeScenna says the film was a challenge with the diverse settings--from a contemporary look with the reality scenes to the fantasy sequences. The production designer was charged with creating everything from a hotel lobby to a moat, which was a particular challenge. "We pulled it off," says DeScenna. "But I'm glad we're done with it."
The production designer admits that much of the moat scenes, as well as the rest of the movie, involved special effects. The teams worked together to create seamless scenes that blended the physical design with computer effects.
Visual effects supervisor John Andrew Berton Jr. was charged with making the effects elements a reality. "We're responsible for magical creatures, magical settings and making everything that happens in the movie that is spectacular and outside of our normal experience look like it's absolutely real and part of our normal experience.
"In order to get good visual effects you have to plan ahead," continues Berton. "We were involved in pre-production with the concept paintings and creature design."
Berton says that "Bedtime Stories" called for a special process called cyber scanning. "We created digital stunt doubles, which are digital actors that perform in the same way that stunt doubles do. That's what we do when we need to put stunt doubles in more danger than even stunt doubles want to be in. We scan the actors' faces and costumes so that we can make it all work."
The same technology was used to create the mermaid tail for one of Keri Russell's story characters. "The upper body is performed by Keri Russell and the mermaid tail is an animation," says Berton.
Berton adds that his team worked closely with the director of photography, set design, lighting--down to hair and makeup--to achieve the look filmmakers wanted. "When we get into post-production we can keep all of those things in mind so that everything matches," he says.
The film also featured a host of big movie stunts. Director Adam Shankman had worked on stunt-heavy films in the past, but felt "Bedtime Stories" was special. "We worked with some really good stunt teams putting together the chariot race and a great motorcycle chase. I love the pace. It underscores everything else in the movie so perfectly because it always gives everything a big sense of adventure and urgency. It's great."
The film's stunts range from a motorcycle jump to the airborne space battle between Sandler's and Guy Pearce's characters to maneuvering through a stampede of horses.
Animal trainer Steve Berens was tapped to help coordinate several scenes involving a variety of animals--from the stampeding horses to a team of elephants. "I've been around a lot of animals in my life but when you get close to these elephants and you're working with them it's really a thrill. They really are something special," says Berens.
The trainer says one of the more complex scenes was the horse stampede in the Old West story. "Skeeter encounters a stampede while he's on this horse and actually weaves his way through this stampede. I thought, 'Oh boy, how are we going to do this?'"
Berens coordinated his efforts with the visual effects team. Says Berton, "In order to keep the actors safe and to get the action that we wanted, we ran the horses first, then we ran the actors and then sewed it all together digitally so that it looks like it happened at the same time."
Ringing for Carrots
But perhaps the toughest assignment for the animal trainer was training the animals who starred as the kids' pet guinea pig Bugsy. The script called for the guinea pig to run on a makeshift treadmill and tuck himself into bed--not an easy task, says Berens. "Guinea pigs aren't known for speed and agility. But we were able to get them running on that treadmill. You get a little bit of movement and pay that off and eventually they understand." The trainer says it took three weeks to train the behavior.
Next up was the bedtime behavior. The more complex task took Berens twice as long to train and involved Bugsy ringing a bell at bedtime and then tucking himself into bed. To teach the first part of the behavior, the trainer held a treat at the bell--carrots were a favorite--to draw the animals to the desired spot. Each time they successfully grabbed the rope to ring the bell they were rewarded and ultimately caught on. "From there, we taught the guinea pig to run up into his bed, stick his nose in and crawl under the sheet," says Berens, who's fairly certain that no other guinea pig has ever been taught to tuck himself into bed.
The trainer is proud to say that only Bugsy's eyes are computer generated. "It's great to show people that these animals can do these things themselves," Berens concludes.
OUTFITTING "BEDTIME STORIES" Costume Designer Rita Ryack Finds the Right Look
Costume designer Rita Ryack was called on to tackle the film's wild and crazy wardrobe. Says director Shankman, "She is brilliantly talented and creative. We went through millions of books with illustrations from all these different periods and the whole thing really worked on screen."
Ryack says that the film presented a number of wardrobe challenges. "There are several time periods and settings--from contemporary and Skeeter's '70s childhood, to medieval, Old West, Outer Space and Ancient Greece."
But the costume designer didn't feel pressured to make the fantasy sequences authentic. "I didn't want to treat any of the period stuff in a literal way," she says. "We're watching Skeeter's fantasies, so that involved some projection. Skeeter's a sweet guy whose taste in clothing isn't particularly sophisticated, so the period scenes aren't at all archival. I looked at old epic movies for inspiration and most of the costumes have some modern components."
Ryack says she most enjoyed designing costumes for Richard Griffiths and Guy Pearce. "My own sensibility is pretty theatrical, and villains give you the opportunity to go full-on silly," she says. "I really like the medieval costumes for Barry and Kendall. The fabrics are beautiful and their fittings were great fun. I had to do a lot of last-minute improvisation."
Of course, with Adam Sandler's character starring in the fantasy scenes, Ryack had fun with his looks. "Skeeter had to be semi-heroic in his fantasies, although I think he looks pretty hilarious as a medieval peasant."
Russell Brand went through hours of costuming and special effects makeup for his Outer Space character Lieutenant Mik. Says Brand, "Putting on that robot costume was very grueling. I was completely covered in gold--gold paint, gold plate, gold latex and a gold spandex suit. It was incredible to wear; incredibly prohibitive--going to the lavvy was a challenge. A challenge that every superhero must face."
Ryack says she was inspired by the cast, the characters and the elaborate bedtime stories themselves. "I wanted to use bright, cheerful colors and graphic silhouettes to be evocative, to heighten the narrative, to be funny, but not distracting."
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