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OVER THE HEDGE

From Strip to Screen
They eat to live. We live to eat.

They take what they need and use what they take. We take what we want...and then want more. In fact, the oddest creatures on Earth may very well be us.

For more than 10 years, that has been the view of a pair of unlikely best friends—a raccoon and a turtle—as they have peered into the manufactured and manicured world of suburbia in the popular comic strip Over the Hedge. Written by Michael Fry and illustrated by T Lewis, the strip made its debut in June 1995 and has since shared daily doses of the animals' wry and often pointed observations about human foibles and fallacies.

Director/screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick notes, "The comic strip is about a turtle and a raccoon who peer over a hedge to observe human society and then lampoon it with razor-sharp wit. It's brilliant observational humor told from an animal's unique point of view.”

Director Tim Johnson remarks, "The comic strip is an inspired funhouse-mirror reflection of what we are as suburbanites, as humanity. It's from the perspective of the animals that glimpse us through our own backyards and comment on the strangest animals on the face of the Earth, human beings.”

"It's a great setting because anyone who has a backyard has had some experience with wildlife,” Michael Fry states.

T Lewis offers, "That was certainly my situation. I lived out in the suburbs and would often see squirrels and rabbits in the yard and raccoons scratching at the windows, looking for food.” Johnson adds that the experience of sharing our backyards with wildlife is a global one and is not exclusive to America's suburbs. "Whether you're in the suburbs of Chicago or the suburbs of Paris, whether you live out on a farm or in the middle of the city, there are animals who have had to learn to deal with the fact that humans are pretty much everywhere now. Wherever you are in the world, the species may change, but the hijinks are pretty much the same.”

"You might look at these animals and ask yourself, ‘What are they thinking?' And what we're saying is that they're thinking they want to get into your kitchens and into your refrigerators,” Fry laughs.

Johnson says he was a fan of the comic strip long before he became involved in the film, partly because he had lived some of the story. "I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and, at the time I started first grade, from the end of my street there were miles and miles of cornfields as far as the eye could see. By the time I graduated high school, those cornfields had been replaced by a housing development, and one past that, and one past that, and another past that. So I went from living on the edge of suburban sprawl to living in the middle of it within a span of 10 years. We didn't exactly have a hedge, but we did have a bunch of small trees, and in back of that was a field full of possums and raccoons and skunks. So for me, ‘Over the Hedge' was a chance to dabble in the very world I grew up in, while swapping places with the animals to see the world from their point of view.”

"It felt like a great arena in which to set an animated film,” says Kirkpatrick, who co-wrote the screenplay with Len Blum and Lorne Cameron & David Hoselton. "We were able to take characters who are very cute and lovable for the kids and allow them to offer a satirical commentary on society within the context of the story.”

Johnson points out that the movie "Over the Hedge” serves as something of a prequel to the long-running comic strip. "We like to say that our story ends where the comic strip began, meaning the comic strip features the sort of ‘odd couple' friendship that already exists between Verne and RJ. The movie explores how they met in the first place, which allowed us to take a brand new approach to the characters. It was very liberating for us, but we still worked closely with Mike and T to m

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