RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
What Would Santa Sound Like?
According to Billy Joyce's books, North, better known as Santa Claus, is the de
facto leader of the Guardians - but it is the Man in the Moon, "the wise watcher
of the world," Ramsey says, who chose him many centuries ago.
"When the Man in the Moon decided a group of special people was needed to
protect Earth's children from Pitch, the first guy he found was Nicholas St.
North," says Joyce, who envisioned North as a sword-wielding Cossack in his
early days, "the wildest young warrior and thief in all of Russia," until his
mission in life changed to become a protector of children.
For the film, everyone agreed that North, with his booming voice, blustering,
uncompromising attitude and "naughty" and "nice" tattoos emblazed on his
forearms, was a boisterous, larger-than-life character that needed to be played
by a larger-than life actor. Who better than Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin?
"Alec personifies North," says Ramsey. "He's playful and mischievous, and he's a
bit of a hotshot. When audiences see North's eyes on screen with Alec's voice
coming out of him, there will be no mistaking whose soul is inside that
Adds Joyce, "No one could capture North's personality as brilliantly as Alec
Baldwin sees his character this way: "In my mind, North is a combination of
personalities. He's kind of a magician - almost like the Wizard of Oz. He's very
benevolent, like your favorite teacher, and he has the best interests of his
constituency - children - at heart. On the more human side, he's obsessed with
getting credit for everything. He wants to make sure everybody knows that Santa
is the one who's laying down this deal here. Christmas is number one. He's
constantly fighting with the Easter Bunny about which is more important, Easter
or Christmas. In that regard, he's like Donald Trump."
"I can relate to North, because like a producer, he has to will everything into
existence, even when he doesn't actually know if he can pull it off," producer
Steinberg says. "He truly believes he can make anything happen just because he
says so. We always describe him as a Hell's Angel with a heart of gold. He has
this amazing spirit of joy, wonder, and hope. At the same time, he's tough and
analytical. There are no gray areas for him."
As our story unfolds, it is North (along with his massive Yetis, who make all
his toys, and the ubiquitous elves, who just get underfoot) who encounters the
shadow of an enemy he thought was long gone: The bogeyman Pitch, who invades the
workshop of North's magnificent North Pole Fortress and sends menacing black
sand swirling around North's sputtering Globe of Belief. The globe is an
enormous orb usually lit up with millions of tiny lights representing the belief
of children around the world. The fact that it's growing dim is evidence that
Pitch is up to no good.
Director Ramsey explains, "Pitch's issue is that children love and believe in
the Guardians. They have a lot of emotional investment in them, and their
parents encourage them to believe in these characters. But with the bogeyman,
it's exactly the opposite. Parents always say, 'Oh, there's nothing in the
dark.' 'You're just having a bad dream.' 'There's no such thing as the
bogeyman.' The whole story gets going because Pitch is sick and tired of that
dynamic. He represents fear and his ultimate goal is to be believed in by
canceling out belief in the Guardians."
"The Guardians represent hope, joy, wonder and dreams," producer Steinberg
notes. "If Pitch is able to take them out, they will literally cease to exist.
The attributes they represent would be gone from the world and fear would
The way Pitch attempts to do that is by corrupting one of the Guardians' tools.
"He has a huge amount resentment for being shoved under the beds for hundreds of
years," says actor Jude Law, who gives voice to Pitch. "He figures out a way to
take the Sandman's dream sand - the positive, pure golden sand that gives
everyone happy dreams - and twist it into nightmares (which take the form of
amorphous black stallions subject to Pitch's command), creating fear within
And by design, the manner in which he operates is quite compelling, Ramsey says.
"We thought a lot about the way fear works in the real world, and the logic
behind it. If you think, 'I want to go outside, but there are some clouds in the
sky and that means it might rain. If it rains, I might get a cold. If I get a
coldâ€¦' Pretty soon you're not going outside and you're missing all the best
stuff in life because you let your fear snowball into something unhealthy. Fear
shuts down your world. So we knew that we wanted a character that was alluring
and could falsely convince you that being afraid was the only thing that made
Steinberg agrees. "These iconic characters needed a worthy opponent. Peter, Bill
Joyce, David Lindsay-Abaire and I spent a lot of time talking about our favorite
villains in past movies. We all loved the feeling we had watching 'The Wizard of
Oz' when we hid behind our bedroom doors, peeking our heads out to watch the
Wicked Witch of the West. She was scary, but exciting and charismatic at the
same time. We wanted to bring that dynamic to Pitch as well. So, he's not a
terrifying, moustache twirling villain. He has a lot of personality. He's
wicked, funny and smart."
Lindsay-Abaire adds, "There's a human side to Pitch, as well. Like our hero,
Jack Frost, Pitch is a lonely soul who simply wants to be believed in.
Unfortunately, he thinks the way to make that happen is through fear and
"When Jude Law's name came up for the role, everybody's bells just went off,"
Ramsey says. "We listened to his voice in combination with some animated tests
and we knew we had the right casting. Pitch moves through shadows. He moves on
the edges of what you can see. Jude's voice has this beautiful quality to it -
we call it 'the velvet touch of Pitch' - and you just want to listen to it
forever even when it's telling you these terrible things.
"Pitch's story is pretty compelling," Ramsey continues. "He's a guy who's been
on the bottom for a long time and who has now found a way to strike back and
take power for himself. Jude has been able to flesh out the nuances of this
character's many layers. It's a magnificent thing to listen to - the hair
literally stands up on the back of your neck."
"The voice casting was, no pun intended, pitch perfect," executive producer
Guillermo del Toro says. "Jude brings fragility, refinement, intelligence and
cunning - a lot of stuff that is beyond the lines - to his character. There's a
sense of isolation and loneliness in Pitch that is all Jude's doing."
After the bogeyman's "visit" to the fortress, North summons his fellow Guardians
- the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman - to the North Pole for a
summit. It's been a long time. The Guardians don't always work together, as each
has "incredibly complicated jobs," Ramsey notes. "North is delivering toys to
everybody in the world in one night. It's a huge operation! The Easter Bunny,
too, has a lot preparation to do to give eggs to kids all over the world. And
Tooth and Sandy are busy every night. So they only come together when they
genuinely need to." Well, they need to now.
In Joyce's books, E. Aster Bunnymund, better known as the Easter Bunny, is a
Pooka, the last of an ancient race of giant, warrior rabbit-priests that protect
life. Bunnymund has the ability to create magical portals that allow him to
travel throughout the world in the blink of an eye to deliver beautifully
decorated Easter eggs.
"This Easter Bunny is the coolest character you've ever met," says Hugh Jackman,
who voices Bunnymund in the film. "He's pretty badass. Think Indiana Jones with
a touch of Steve Irwin. He protects nature, he's a brilliant martial artist and
he's very strong. He can jump high, of course, and he has these two boomerangs
on his hips, instead of six-shooters, which he uses to great effect. It was
great that they allowed me to play him as this irascible Australian - tough, a
little bit grumpy, and no-nonsense. He doesn't muck around. He's got a job to do
and he's going to get it done, no matter what."
"He's almost like a cowboy in some ways," Ramsey says. "He's got a little bit of
that feel about him. He's a perfect counterpoint to North who comes into a room
and knocks everything over because he's so big."
"He's a fierce warrior when he needs to be," Steinberg agrees, "but he also has
this amazing other side to him. He's a ranger and a nurturer - of Spring, of
hope, of new beginnings, of the little eggs that he grows."
"One of things Hugh latched onto was the rivalry that we've got between Bunny
and North," Ramsey adds. "Hugh loved that. He did so many riffs where he's
annoyed because North is always trying to steal the spotlight and elbow Easter
out of the way. But Bunny is going to protect his holiday to the very last
breath. Hugh brought that to life."
Isla Fisher plays the half-human, half hummingbird Tooth Fairy who is able to
collect lost teeth all over the world, 365 days a year. "She's tiny, but with
these gorgeous teal blue and green wings and big, big eyes," Fisher says. "As
far as personalities go, she's definitely type-A and a little bit like Tracy
Flick from 'Election.' She has to get everything right and on time. She's quite
militant in the way she collects teeth but she has a soft side too, and gets
extremely excited when she sees pearly white incisors."
"We envisioned her as a hummingbird because she's always on the job," Ramsey
says. "She's always flitting here and there, always with a thousand things to
do, her mind always in a million places at once, always talking, always
She doesn't work alone, though. "Tooth has lots of Baby Teeth, little fairies
that are miniature versions of herself," Fisher says. "They flutter around,
collecting teeth and leaving little gifts and money."
Says Lindsay-Abaire, "Tooth is an air traffic controller, managing all of the
children and their teeth in every country."
"For a long time, the Tooth Fairy was, conceptually, one of the trickiest
characters to get right," Ramsey says. "But there were a few tests that the
animators did early on with Isla's voice where we all went, that's the Tooth
Fairy. Isla is a great comedienne. She also handles these very emotional scenes,
with the perfect balance of toughness and vulnerability, where you really see
what matters to her about her work. She gets all sides of Tooth dead on."
Whereas one would be hard-pressed to get Tooth to stay quiet for more than a
minute, the Sandman - Sandy for short - doesn't say a word. The architect and
bringer of good dreams, "the one who sets your imagination free and let's you
dream of possibilities and fantasies at night," Ramsey says, doesn't need to.
"It's great to have one character who's in the center of the hurricane," adds
Ramsey. "Sandy ends up being a pivotal character in a lot of scenes. He may not
say anything, but he packs a huge punch in terms of his role in the story and
what he means to the Guardians. His ability, the power of dreams, is one of the
strongest any of them has."
"He communicates with dream images above his head," explains Steinberg. "He's
like Buddha. He's very mellow and calm, but he, too, has another side, and when
he needs to he will defend himself and defend children. He's actually a fierce
warrior, who, like Yoda in the 'Star Wars' films, can pull it out when he needs
to. He can use sand to create and control any object he needs in a pinch, and he
usually wins every fight he's in."
Guardians convened, the Man in the Moon shines down on them and gives them some
surprising news. In order to defeat Pitch, they're going to need some help from
an unlikely source: Jack Frost.
"They know Jack as a troublemaker, as this immature kind of guy," says Ramsey,
and by all appearances, he is. Jack is a 300-year-old prankster in a 17-year-old
body, with the power to create frost, wind and snow. Happiest when he's causing
havoc, controlling winter with a swing, tap or touch of his staff, to him, a
successful day is measured by how many snowballs he's thrown, how many windows
have been fogged and how many schools have closed after it's been declared a
snow day. He has no responsibilities, no one to answer to, and ultimately, at
least in his mind, no purpose.
"That bothers him," says Ramsey. "Other than knowing that his name is Jack
Frost, he doesn't know anything about himself, much less what he's meant to do
in this world. To make matters worse, no one can see him and, unlike the
Guardians, no one believes in him, so he's kind of a loner and an outsider."
To play the role of Jack, Ramsey and the "Guardians" team knew they had to find
an actor that could demonstrate the conviction of a leading man - in many ways,
"Guardians" is Jack's story - but who could also be playful and vulnerable to
express Jack's range of emotions in the film. They found what they were looking
for in actor Chris Pine.
"We loved Chris in 'Star Trek,'" says Ramsey. He's exciting and smart. That
comes through as soon as you see him on-screen. He's got a twinkle in his eye
that can be heard in his voice. He's a leading man with energy, charisma and a
sense of fun - all the qualities that Jack Frost has."
For his part, Pine gravitated to the role because of Jack's plight.
"One of the journeys of this film is how Jack finds a home, friendship,
community and a sense of purpose," he says. "Jack will instigate snowball
fights, desperately wanting kids to have fun but also wanting them to know that
he's the guy behind it, that he's reason that they're having a good time. Jack's
quest - to have connections with others and to find the answer to what are we
put on this Earth to do - is something that's so very human."
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