Writing partners Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul got their start penning scripts for live-action comedies like the sweetly odd, Jake Gyllenhaal-starring “Bubble Boy.” But after their work on “Horton Hears a Who!” lead to a nearly $300 million worldwide box office gross, the duo found themselves in demand in the animation world — at a time when 3-D productions were becoming the norm.
Thus Daurio and Paul currently have two 3-D animated films on their resumes: They wrote the script for Steve Carell’s supervillain comedy, “Despicable Me,” and they’re set to direct “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” an adaptation of the iconic author’s environmentally themed children’s book. As “Despicable” nears its July 9 release date and work on “Lorax” (due out in March 2012) begins to ramp up, Daurio and Paul gave MTV News a call to talk about …
MTV: Let’s start with “Despicable Me.” Was it always planned as a 3-D feature? Did you write the script with 3-D in mind?
Cinco Paul: We started writing it over three years ago. When we were first started, there was not much talk of 3-D. But then a year passed and 3-D became a much bigger thing and they started to add more and more theaters, and clearly at some point in the process we were told, “OK, this is going to be 3-D.”
Ken Daurio: And that decision was made before things went into animation or even layout, so everything was geared toward 3-D once we went into production. But as far as the creation of the story, no I don’t think 3-D was ever a consideration.
MTV: So you don’t really have to go back and write differently knowing it would be in 3-D …
Paul: The big choices, like character choices and story choices, aren’t really impacted by 3-D. But there’s a scene on a roller coaster and so you try to make the most of 3-D. We do get those sorts of directions with details in the scenes: Look for opportunities to exploit as much 3-D as possible.
MTV: So that’s when you create the roller coaster? Or you expand on things that are already there?
Daurio: Yeah or you think about how we’ve got two supervillains battling it out. So that helps guide us in a way. It helps us think about missiles or things that would fly through the air and different things that can take advantage of 3-D. Also, we’ve been in screen sessions when we’re looking at storyboards and lay out and they’ve got someone there who’s watching to say, “Oh wait — 3-D moment, take advantage!” He’s like the 3-D expert.
MTV: So after “Avatar” became so successful, did you all look at each other and say, “We made the right call to go with 3-D?”
Daurio: I don’t think either of us were huge 3-D fans or were really that excited about 3-D. And for me, the thing that hit me as I was sitting at dinner one night and at the time my 4-year-old daughter asked me, “Is ‘Despicable Me’ going to be in 3-D?” and I said, “Yeah” and she did the fist pump and said, “Yes!” And I thought, “What, really?” To me it didn’t even seem like anything that even mattered that much. That’s when it hit me that kids are loving this and looking forward to this.
MTV: Is there one scene in particular that really shows off the 3-D capabilities?
Paul: I think the roller-coaster scene is awesome. The whole design of that amusement park is crazy and fun and cool. Then we’ve also got some great spaceship chase scenes where the villains are firing missiles — that’s also going to look awesome in 3-D. You’ve got this battle with these air fighter ships, and they’re flying through the air and leaving smoke trails that are going to go out over the audience and they’re shooting missiles and there going to fly out at us at in slow motion and there are explosions in mid-air.
MTV: Let’s get to “Lorax.” Where are you at in the process?
Paul: We’re in script phase and designing characters, just coming up with this world and doing all the art.
MTV: This one’s not coming out until 2012. At this early stage, how much talk had there been about where the technology is going to be at in another two years?
Paul: One of the biggest conversations popping up is just 3-D screen availability. Everybody is doing all this 3-D, but there has to be a major shift in the theaters to be able to accommodate all these movies, and it’s just not there. We’ve got ['Despicable Me'] coming out this summer and all of a sudden it’s like, “Well, let’s see, this 3-D movie is still going to be out, and this other one’s still going to be out …” So how do you prioritize? I would hate to be a 3-D movie that came out two weeks after “Avatar,” because no one is going to bump “Avatar” off their 3-D screen to put anything up at that point.
MTV: This is the first adaptation of Dr. Seuss in 3-D right?
Paul: Yes, it will be. It really is an opportunity. Every time you stop and think about a scene and consider the 3-D of it, it really does open your eyes and make you think, “Oh, we’re in Dr. Seuss’s world. Let’s not forget we can go into that 3-D dimension and explore it.”
MTV: In terms of creating that world, how closely are you going to stick to the source material? Are we going to see some of the familiar creatures from the book?
Paul: Oh yeah. In the early stages you kind of explore everything, all kinds of options. We can use the book as a starting point and just go crazy. Almost in every case you come right back to his drawings and his designs, because they are Seuss. They’re perfect. We’ve done everything we can to remain true and bring the book to life.
MTV: Is it going to have that the recognizably Seussian aesthetic?
Paul: Absolutely, even more so than in “Horton.” We’re dealing with Seussian humans. We’re dealing with the creatures in the wilderness. There’s all these different worlds that we recognize from “Lorax” and the other Seuss books that we get to play around with.
MTV: Is there one of the creatures or scenes that get you really excited?
Daurio: I think about that scene where the Once-ler is pulling his wagon into the valley for the first time. He see the Truffula trees, and there’s the Bar-ba-Loots, and the Swomee Swans, and the Humming Fishes. I just can’t wait to roll into that 3-D world and really explore it and really get to live in it.
Paul: Because “The Lorax” is a book of contrasts. Everything starts off beautiful and it’s the wonders and glory of nature and then you end up with complete devastation. And so that’s going to be great to have 3-D as an added dimension be able to show that visually.
Daurio: To see the dark side of Seuss, the machinery, the factoring pumping out smoke — visually there’s going to be a lot of really stunning images in this movie.
MTV: When do you expect to start the animation process?
Paul: That’s pretty soon. We’re still finalizing designs on characters and sets and things. We’re just about ready to lay it out. It’s a tight schedule. It’s two years away basically.
MTV: Have you gone out to actors or voices that you think would be a great fit for certain characters?
Daurio: I don’t think we can talk about it. We will get in trouble. I think you’ll recognize some of the voices.
MTV:Do you think 3-D is a fad or is it here to stay?
Paul: I grew up without 3-D and to me it’s still a new thing and I’m still getting used to it. But I know 3-D TVs are coming out. That’s going to be insane. We’re going to have those in our house. So this might be the time when it actually sticks, and my guess is there are going to be movies that, when everything settles, there are going to be certain movies that are going to be great in 3-D and that’s the way people are going to want to watch them at home. If you can watch “Avatar” at home in 3-D … wow!
Daurio: I think in some ways, if you look at history, there were people that said, “Well, some movies will be talkies, and then some won’t. Some movies will be in color and some won’t. Some movies will be in widescreen.” I think we may be in for one of these big changes, where 10 years from now everything’s 3-D.
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