Exclusive Disney Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast Director & Producer Interview

A new Tinkerbell movie is coming out on Blu-Ray/DVD next month and my daughter couldn’t be more excited! Who isn’t a fan of Tink, right? Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast will be out on March 10th, and I not only got to see an early screening of the movie, but I also interviewed the people behind the film. Today I wanted to share some of my interview with director, Steve Loter, and producer, Michael Wigert, to give you a behind the scenes look at the movie.

Tinkerbell Neverbeast
“TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST” Pictured: Michael Wigert (Producer and Steve Loter (Director). Photo by Kayvon Esmaili. ©2014 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Q: So what’s your favorite part of the animation process?

MAKUL : My favorite part of the animation process is the collaboration and seeing an idea come to life through the work of a fantastic team of artists. It’s been an absolute joy seeing Steve’s idea, which started 4½ years ago, and through story boarding and design into animations, to see that coming to life through the artistry with some amazing people was absolutely a joy.

STEVE : For me it was a story. You get to this really sweet spot when you’ve got a script and then you’ve got storyboard artists visualizing the script. And there’s that– something magical that happens there because the storyboard artist is a new voice.

STEVE : And they look at the written word and they say, “Oh I can add a joke here. I can put the camera here that’s gonna emphasize this moment or emotion.” And for me, that’s when things really turn and things really elevate. So that’s a magic time for me.


Q: Can you please tell us a little bit about an idea about this movie?

STEVE : The movie was inspired by my daughter. I grew up in a household with no pets of any kind, none. No dogs, no cats, nothing. And because of having no pets around I have a fear of very large dogs. Like Irish Wolf Hound dogs, Horse Line dogs. And you know many years have passed and I have a family of my own.

And my daughter loves one thing above all else, very large dogs, and our neighborhood just has a ton of dogs. So she’ll see a neighbor walking a dog down the street and she’ll run up to the dog and she’ll throw her arms the dog in a big loving hug.  And it was like, “UUUHHHH” so you get that, that kind of reaction.

And it showed me something, you know, once the fear subsided, something very important: that my daughter has a huge, open heart. So I had to sit her down and we had to talk about this encounter we just had with the dog. And she would say, “Well all animals are my friends. Why wouldn’t they be? In fact, the bigger they are, the bigger the love they have to give.” And I thought that’s the story. That’s the story. Fawn, the animal town fairy. Loves animals unconditionally. She takes care of animals and she encounters a creature that can be perceived of as a monster and her open heart’s gonna be put to the test.

And I thought, “Okay this is a message, this is a good message for Fawn, the character to have and for my daughter to learn to.” It’s beautiful to think with an open heart. To see the world through that prison, through that perspective, a wonderful thing, but you also have to think with your head. You need the balance, you need the balance to have a happy life and I thought that’s exactly the story that I wanted to tell.


Q: What did your daughter think of the movie?

STEVE : My daughter loved the movie. My daughter was not just the inspiration for the initial idea though. She basically became Fawn. I looked to her for acting, for moments. There was one time when she was supposed to clean her room because friends were coming over and she just hid everything under the bed and I caught her.

And so there was a whole lot of “Yeeaahhh I should have done that and I did know, but I didn’t.” And I was just– as she was saying this, I was just watching the way she would twist her hand, the way she would move her shoulders up. And I thought that’s Fawn and I literally took that scene and I worked it right in the film.

When I realized that’s the connection… she is Fawn, I just kept looking to her for dialogue, for moments, for movement. She just became infused into the film, and on top of that, she is also Calista the Bunny in the film. There is one Bunny that refuses to hop.

STEVE : [LAUGHS] She walks.  She struts.

STEVE : And that’s my daughter, written just for her. And also actually speaking to that, I’m gonna’ expand on that a little bit. The film, though it’s about fairies and monsters, honestly is really about my family. I knew I needed to pull this story from a personal place.

And not just with my daughter, Nyx the Scout Fairy, the over protective Scout Fairy is me. She was a very easy character to write for because that’s the helicopter parent that I am.  I am the parent that you go to the park and you’re on the monkey bars and I’m concerned not only about falling off the money bars. What germs are on the monkey bars and all of these, “No get down from there. No don’t, don’t, don’t stand on there.” And I’m that parent. So once I realized that’s my perspective on the world that maybe I’m thinking with my head too much and maybe I need to relax and think a little more with my heart and my daughter’s the opposite of that. I realized there’s my antagonist and protagonist.

But I want to point out that Nyx is not a villain. Nyx has a point of view. She’s right about it. She’s trying to protect Nixie Hollow. She believes in this strongly. Um and I really– it was really important for me that it was a point of view that was real and believable and realistic. Because if she came off as a villain then I would have come off as a bad parent. So that was really important to me, but it really was…it is my family life with some names changed to protect the innocent.


Q: How did the story evolve as you went along? Did things get changed to how you guys were feeling?

MAKUL : We were actually incredibly fortunate in that the initial pitch that Steve did to John 4½ years ago is the film that we ended up making. And so you know little events bounced a little bit, but for the most part the introduction of Fawn, Fawn discovering Gruff, the, the Nyx, Tinkerbell, all of that interaction, that all remains true to the goodbye at the very end. And that was the entire story. That was the pitch and John fell in love with it. He was like, “I know exactly where you’re going. That’s the film we’re going to make.”

And that’s– that is in fact the film we ended up making.

And it was– we were very fortunate in that, in that respect it was relatively smooth. Now Gruff, Gruff proved to be a little bit of a challenge because making this giant 6 ft. character act and play against this little 5 inch fairy that was a little bit more difficult, but we– I think we met–

STEVE : But the story remained very consistent. John got the emotion almost immediately and as soon as I talked with him about my daughter and inspiration and how I would tell him, “This is a real event and this is the prospective I took with Nyx and Fawn because this happened, that happened. That’s how I felt about that” he got it. He goes, “Yeah that’s your film. You got it. You know what you’re doing.”


Q: When you guys were creating the story did you have an idea who you wanted to cast in the various roles? Or was it more of an audition process?

MAKUL : Well, we knew Ginnifer Goodwin. We loved Ginnifer Goodwin and her voice. We knew she was going to be Fawn. That was easy for us. We had a conversation about who would be playing against her and we wanted somebody who could contrast the joyful bubbly nature that was Fawn. And so for Nyxz, we then discovered Rosario.

And when we brought Rosario up she just has this cool voice. And you can hear her passion and her belief in what she feels is right and that contrast we thought was really beautiful and really nice. And working with both of them was just an absolute joy.

And we’ve been blessed on this project having a terrific cast. With Ginnifer, with Rosario, Mae Whitman and with the rest of the occurring cast, they have all been absolutely fantastic to work with.


Q: The design of the Neverbeast, how much did that evolve from when you first started to the character that he ended up being?

STEVE : The Neverbeast came very quickly. Initially I hired a few designers to work with me to do some drawings from a verbal idea. But pretty quickly I realized that I had this character in my head. So I knew what I wanted. So I did a drawing very early in the process and we did a painting of it and then we showed it to John Lasseter and John said, “That’s it, done, there’s your character.”

And that was a wonderful thing to have approval and understand and visualize the character very early on. The challenge was following up on that because you have a beautiful 2-D painted imagine and now you have to realize that in a CG world, in a dimensional world.

And John kept going back to us, “Keep the appeal, keep the appeal. Look at those eyes. Go back to that drawing, go back to that drawing.” So it was an interesting process. He did come early and I’m very thankful for that, but it was still a challenge.


Q: Are the designs on him particular for anything or they just ran them?

STEVE : They’re intended to be tribal and earthy. I did a lot of reference. I looked at a lot of ancient literature. A lot of wood cut drawings you’d find in these really old tones. And I also looked at some of the more modern comic book graphic novel sensibilities.  And I wanted to find something that looked so old world. Something familiar, but very old. So it was from imagination but definitely rooted in a lot of truth and material research.