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The Evolution
"I got the idea for Open Season from stories I'd read about these wild animals who would become somewhat domesticated by living in the outskirts of mountain resort towns like Ketchum, Idaho or Mammoth in California,” says syndicated cartoonist Steve Moore (acclaimed for his wry comic strip "In the Bleachers”). "One day the animals would invariably do something to seriously annoy the townspeople and they would be tranquilized and moved to the wilderness. I always wondered what happened once they were dropped off in the wild, having lived on leftovers most of their lives — how did they survive in the woods?”

The idea evolved into a treatment written by Moore and his producing partner John Carls. Armed with that treatment and a stack of Moore's wonderfully funny cartoons, the pair pitched the idea to Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandra Rabins, executive vice presidents of the newly-formed Sony Pictures Animation.

At the request of the Sony executives, Moore and Carls fleshed out the story and expanded their treatment … and Open Season became the first feature film slated for production at Sony Pictures Animation. The treatment was sent to Jill Culton, considered one of the most original storytellers in the world of feature animation. Culton (whose credits include Monsters, Inc., A Bug's Life and Toy Story) was attracted to Open Season in large measure because of her own love of the outdoors, and the sandpaper relationship between the lead characters of Boog, the grizzly bear and Elliot, the mule deer. Additionally, she was a fan of Moore's work. "I have always been attracted to Steve's humor,” Culton says. "He shows us an alternate reality, a world where the animals are smarter than we are—and behind our backs, they're mooning us!”

Director Culton signed on to the project and began developing it into a strong narrative. She was soon joined by the multi-talented Anthony Stacchi as codirector (Stacchi's impressive list of credits includes Curious George, Antz and James and the Giant Peach) and veteran Roger Allers as director (he previously co-directed the Academy Award® winning blockbuster The Lion King). Culton and Stacchi worked on the story, adding a villain, Shaw the uber-hunter. "Even as the story evolved,” says Culton, "it still remained what it was originally — a buddy comedy with a twist — about animals who become empowered by fighting back against the hunters.”

Adds Stacchi: "Steve gave us a great tone and a ‘real' situation for the characters — wild animals caught between our world and the wilderness — and Jill and I worked to find a simple emotional story to exploit it.”

Over the course of constructing the story, Allers notes, "the characters certainly evolved. Boog started off being somewhat more cool and unflappable, but wound up being more vulnerable, which created a greater arc for his character. Elliot began a little less savvy, and he grew to be more manipulative, which really makes him a lot more fun. It was an interesting journey, watching these characters develop.”

One challenge in writing the final script was in keeping the story moving while maintaining the humor. "The humor had to actually grow out of the characters, their natures and their situations,” says Allers.

"We had only one rule when it came to tone or humor,” explains Stacchi. "It had to make us laugh and push the characters and the story forward. We wanted to make a movie we would love to see, rather than a movie solely for children or another demographic.”

As the story was being refined, the team was developing the project's visuals, working with the artists and animators to formulate a unique look. "We spent about a year defining the look of the characters, the level of detail, and what defined the environment,” says visual effects supervisor Doug Ikeler. "The first year was a

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