ARTHUR CHRISTMAS Director Sarah Smith Prepares For Holiday Happiness

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ARTHUR CHIRSTMAS, from COLUMBIA PICTURES, SONY PICTURES ANIMATION and AARDMAN PRODUCTIONS lights up the screen with this charming, fast action, holiday adventure filled with all the happiness of the yuletide season.

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, from first time animation Director Sarah Smith, tells the tale of the biggest night of the year for the Claus family. ARTHUR voiced by James McAvoy, has never lost the true meaning of Christmas, his older brother, Steve, voiced by Hugh Laurie, a working behind the scenes CEO, a man of action, heir apparent, the man the world couldn’t live without, with all the credit given to the front man Santa, voiced by Jim Broadbent.

The Claus family is rounded out by Grand Santa voiced by Bill Nighy, a crotchety, cantankerous, grandfather reliving the good ole days before technological advancements encroached on the way it was and the way it worked for decades and the way it effectively retired him. Mrs. Claus, Santa’s dedicated, faithful and devoted wife voiced by Imelda Staunton and the wrapping queen elf of the night, Bryony, voiced by Ashley Jensen.

 

Having the opportunity to interview ARTHUR CHRISTMAS Director Sarah Smith recently, she was very genuine and as astonished at the complexity of the animation as anyone.  For someone sitting on what will become an instant holiday classic she was very down to earth and easy to talk with.  Dressed in black, we sat on the couch in her office at the Aardman Animation Building at Culver City Studios. Her answers were punctuated throughout by gentle laughter as she recalled the five year process or making ARTHUR CHRISTMAS.

 

Janet Walker: You’ve been involved with ARTHUR CHRISTMAS for some time before taking the helm as director. Describe the process that brought you from inspiration to the big screen?

 

Sarah Smith: Well, I joined AARDMAN to really work on a whole new slate of films for them. At the time they were coming out of the DreamWorks relationship and working out where they wanted to go next. And one of the people I called in that period was Peter Baynham, who’s a very long collaborator and friend of mine and he just happened to have this idea at that time.

 

Really the inspiration was the idea how it really could be done in today’s modern world for Santa to deliver two billion presents to 650 million children in ten hours. And from that kind of imaginative beginning you start, immediately your mind starts racing after the whole world of what it would take of the huge operation involved and he [Peter Baynham] also thought of the idea of Santa having this younger son, who was a little incompetent, who would put right the mistake that get’s made.

 

So, I was working on a range of different films at that time but, I loved the idea of ARTHUR and it was Pete and I working together. We got more and more involved with it and we kind of ended up co-writing it and at that point I felt like I couldn’t let go of it I wanted to see it through.

 

Janet Walker: What was your most memorable moment from working on this film?                             Sarah Smith: Ah! After five years that’s a real tough one. (Laughing) I think one the most magical moments was when I saw the very first render; the very first shot come through the pipe. Because so much discussion goes into your character designs, textures and looks, you’ve seen everything drawn and designed; you’ve seen the textures you’ve seen turntables of the characters you known all those individual things but what it is going to feel like watch a shot of the movie remains an unknown until the first animated shot is rendered.

 

 It was actually the shot, that were looking at up there of ARTHUR (pointing to the large poster board of ARTHUR mesmerized by the old sleigh) moving past the old sleigh and touching it. And I was so astonished by the look of it, the richness, just the complexity and the beauty of it. I just couldn’t believe it! I made them play it to me a million times. (Laughing) Because you’re always asking your artist to try and paint you an image of what the movie is going to look like but you never quite get there you have so many elements of it. And no one can really totally sum that up for you until you’ve put it all together and go.

 

Janet Walker: How long, from concept to completion, did it take to make the film?                                Sarah Smith:  About five years about two years in story and script and three years in production.

Janet Walker: And when you said you joined AARDMAN to develop a slate. Was this (ARTHUR CHRISTMAS) part of that or was this   

Sarah Smith: Yes, yes, this was one of the ideas that came into me. I bought the pirate book that was being made and this idea was brought into the company from Pete. And there were a few others.

 

Janet Walker So, um, what challenged you most on this project?

Sarah Smith: There were a huge number of technical challenges in the movie. But I think the hardest thing is that you have a team of hundreds of people working for you for a very long period’s time and they work in minute detail and separately. And you know, I challenged them every step of the way trying to make everything the most perfect I could possibly imagine while also learning the process myself. And I think keeping everybody with a sense of joy and motivation and the eye on the end product is the hardest thing including for yourself.

 

You’re running a marathon over a very long period of time and you’re running fast for a very long period of time and you want to hang onto the joy and the sparkle in the movie and to kind of carry your team with you so that they believe in the end results while their slogging into the night on the rough detail texture of the old lamp in the sleigh barn.

 

Janet Walker:  If it were different than you initially thought it would be, how was the experience of making the film different than you thought it would be?

Sarah Smith: The experience?

Janet Walker: Yes, the experience of making the film

Sarah Smith: I think an animated movie, doing one for the first time, is hard.  You would never do it if you knew what it involved and yes, it was also fabulous and exciting to do it. I think what I didn’t appreciate was how many unbelievably brilliant artists I would meet and with who would give their talents to the movie along the way.  You don’t see that, you kind of jump into this venture it started with just me and Pete but it’s so exciting and rewarding and fun to keep having people come in and join your team at different stages and to see what they can do and having their work be part of the end result. It’s a magical thing.

 

Having the opportunity to speak with Ms. Smith extensively part II of our interview will follow after the U.S. opening!

 

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, from Columbia Pictures, SONY PICTURES Animation and Aardman Productions is thoroughly entertaining!

 

 ARTHUR CHRISTMAS will delight children of all ages for years to come! Arthur Christmas is a stuffed with holiday happiness, merriment and fun! Gift wrapped fun! An instant holiday classic!

 

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS opens everywhere November 23, 2011!

 

 

For more information on ARTHUR CHRISTMAS visit: http://www.arthurchristmas.com/

 

For the official Facebook ARTHUR CHRISTMAS Page “IN SANTA WE BELIEVE” visit: http://www.facebook.com/ArthurChristmasMovie

 

 

 

 

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