Don Hahn is a man who has been around for awhile and has worn many hats. He’s been a Producer, Director, Writer, Production Manager, and in animation…and that’s just the stuff IMDB has to say. I met him at an iconic place….Walt Disney’s Working Way Estate. You could tell by the smile on his face that he was enjoying it as much as we were and perhaps more. He has after all worked for the Mouse awhile. There are some people you meet in life and just connect with. Myself and a couple of other bloggers had a chance to chat with him after his presentation and he’s a great guy who cares about his work and his family. It was one of those conversations that seem like you are almost in a bubble of frozen time. Then someone says it’s time to leave and you are like, “WAIT!” I must finish this conversation. He’s just a guy who has an epic soul and if you ever have the chance to sit and chat with him please do. Here’s a bit from the presentation:
Q: What was the most challenging thing about producing Maleficent?
Don Hahn: It’s always trying to pull all the pieces together and a lot of it is just calendar work, as, as simple as that sounds. But once we had all the elements together in the script and, and wanted to make the project, we had four months to prepare. That was four months to build a whole world. A lot of the credit for that goes with our director Robert Stromberg who had production designed, Avatar and the Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. So he’s a amazing world builder.
But it was incredibly difficult. We only had three months with Angelina and it was a very tight fit in that three month time. So that was part of it, getting it together. Then also just the script because it’s always a iterative process where you’re re-inventing the story and going back and revisiting it again. It’s a little bit of an insecure feeling. It’s like you’re driving in a car while you’re building it, kind of feeling. So the build up to shooting is always the hardest part.
Q: So the whole movie only took three months basically?
Don Hahn: We had three months of her. We shot for eighty-five days. So a slight bit longer cause when she left we still had Elle Fanning, we still had some other pick-up shots along the way. Then we had about a year and a half of special effects and putting it all together. Cause if you were to visit the set there’d be a couple of trees and a river and a lot of green screen behind it. So the world almost entirely was created with back paintings and computer graphics.
The only things we built were the throne room, where the dragon gets unleashed at the end was a complete set built all the way around. The exterior battle scenes were filmed right between Pine Wood and the M- M-4, M-5 freeway. So if you were to turn the camera while the battle scenes were happening? You’d see like a freeway going behind [LAUGHS]. But a lot of the castles and things were added in computer graphics later.
Q: you have an actress in mind from the very beginning?
Don Hahn: It was always her. It was always Angelina. I’m not sure that we would have gotten made without her? She loved the character. She grew up with it, loved the idea of the- of playing a Disney character for her and for her family. I’m sure there are other actress that could have done it? But she was so right for it. Because when you said, “We’re gonna do Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s point of view, kind of like Wicked with Angelina Jolie,” people said, “Yep, let’s go.”
It was so gettable. That’s a lot of the fight when you’re trying to get a movie off the ground. She brought a lot to it, I have to say. She was on before the director. She was the first director we had for a short time, Tim Burton and she was on even then. Then, the amazing Linda Woolverton who wrote our screenplay. I had worked with her on Beauty and the Beast ages ago. Linda, she’s really extraordinary when it comes to writing these stories and creating these strong, particularly female characters. That have these strong relationships. We wanted to break some rules in this movie to say that love doesn’t always have to come from the guy in your life. That love conquers all is a bigger phrase. That it can be love between, you know two women, two men, , a godmother character and a childlike character, like Aurora and Maleficent. She fearlessly attacked all those things and I think did a great job with it.
There were some days when I thought like what are we doing? We’re messing with this Disney fairy tale. But you also knew we couldn’t tell the other story. We couldn’t say, you know you’re a young woman, you’re gonna be asleep until a man comes into your life and tells you it’s okay to wake up? Then you can start living your life. That’s an awful story to tell in 2014. So, it didn’t take too much smarts to abandon that and do something that’s more relevant.
Q: Did you make Maleficent’s wings or were they special effects?
Don Hahn: They’re all fake. They are. There’s nothing there that’s actual. If you were to watch the dailies of her being filmed, she had a little green square on her back which held a battery? And two little, uh, antennae that came out with bright orange spots on the end. And that was enough for the visual effects guys to know the symmetry of her back. And that’s all. And so everything you see in terms of her, when she’s flying, most the time it’s a hundred percent animated.
We take a scan. You literally put her in a drum and do a drum scan of her and so you have that. Rick Baker did a face cast with plaster of her. So we can get the horns, cause the horns had to feel like they grew out of her skull. They were magnetic so if she caught her head by accident on something, they would break off just for safety reasons. So it was a really unusual film in terms of preparing it because there was a lot of question marks. But yeah, there’s so much of it is, is animated or fabricated. And the wings are all animated.
DISNEY’S “MALEFICENT” Is On Disney Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, Digital HD, Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD & On-Demand Nov. 4, 2014!
***Disclosure: I attended #DisneyInHomeEvent My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney All opinions are 100% mine. ***