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All Creatures Great And Small
In bringing the characters in "Over the Hedge” to the big screen, the filmmakers wanted to retain the spirit of Michael Fry and T Lewis' comic strip in both attitude and appearance. Tim Johnson attests, "We were fortunate to have them as consultants on the picture—to learn from Mike about the tone of these animals' wry observations, and then there are T Lewis' beautiful drawings. It's always a pretty big leap when you go from a 2D drawing to a 3D character, and perhaps an even larger leap when you go from the beautiful line quality of T's illustrations to something as fleshed-out and furry as our CG characters. It was an incredible challenge to capture the personalities T has drawn in his two-dimensional, black-and-white world in our three-dimensional, color world and still stay true to them, but because we worked so closely with Mike and T, I think we caught their irreverent fun and style in our animated characters.”

The comic strip creators say they understood the challenges and were impressed with the results. "They just had my little black-and-white scratchings as a jumping off point,” Lewis says, "so when I finally saw everything come alive, I wasn't prepared for it. The color, the richness and the beauty…it was staggering. For me, it was like Dorothy walking into Oz from her black-and-white Kansas house. It was fantastic.”

Fry agrees, "It's always a scary thing to have your creation brought to life—to wonder, ‘Is that how I imagined it in my head?' And for our readers, is it how they imagined it? But they did such a marvelous job of staying faithful to our characters.” 

Production designer Kathy Altieri, who oversaw all of the film's design elements, from the characters to their environments, remarks, "The comic strip characters have an intrinsic charm, but we had to take them to a more sophisticated level visually in order for audiences to feel the kind of connection to them that we wanted in our film.”

"Over the Hedge” involves animals that might be seen in our own backyards, but it is neither easy nor advisable to get close enough to study them. Instead, Sea World and Busch Gardens Animal Ambassador Julie Scardina, a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show” and other talk shows, came to the DreamWorks Animation campus to give the various departments the opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals they were designing and animating. The teams could see firsthand how the animals moved, and observe and even feel the different qualities of their fur, quills or shell. 

Bonnie Arnold relates, "She brought examples of all the different animals we have in our story and allowed the teams to study them and learn about their habits and habitats. It was an invaluable experience for everyone working on the film.”

Johnson affirms, "To actually get hands-on with our animals was a remarkable perk. It showed us that they have completely distinct body language, movement, faces and personalities. Although we are familiar with these species, there were still many discoveries: the inquisitiveness of the raccoon, the quickness of their fingers and how they want to touch everything; the roly-poly quality of the porcupines, which were adorable—nobody expected them to be like spiky little bears; the wisdom in the turtle's face; and even the squirrels…we've all seen them before, of course, darting around campus or in our yards, but to get close enough to see the electricity in their eyes… It was all incredibly inspiring. It was a chance for all of our people to appreciate the spirit and uniqueness of these animals, and it translated into the way we approached not only the character design but also the characters' personalities and their individual story arcs.”

Altieri remembers, "When they brought the animals to the studio, it surprised us because we had spent a lot of time designing these exquisitely stylized characters, and wh

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