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CHARLOTTE'S WEB

Filming In "Radiant" Victoria, Australia
Shooting "Charlotte's Web” was a vast and complicated undertaking. "This was an extremely complex movie, because we combine live action, animatronics, children, stunts, and CG animation – sometimes all of them at the same time,” explains Jordan Kerner.

Because of the timing of the shooting schedule, the filmmakers looked Down Under for filming locations; the area's wide-ranging landscape could represent the changing seasons in the course of the film. In addition, the region – when both Australia and New Zealand are considered – boasted a wealth of talented film crew who had worked on such films as the "Lord of the Rings” trilogy, "The Chronicles of Narnia” and, ten years earlier, "Babe.” 

The filmmakers spanned New Zealand and Australia looking for landscape that felt like the state of Maine. They found it in Victoria, Australia. The Arables' and Zuckermans' farms and surrounding buildings were built in Greendale, and stage work was done in Melbourne. The fair scene was shot on a vast cricket field in Heidelberg. A talented creative crew was assembled, including director of photography Seamus McGarvey, costume designer Rita Ryack, editors Susan Littenberg and Sabrina Plisco, and production designer Stuart Wurtzel.

Wurtzel, an Oscar nominee for "Hannah and Her Sisters,” designed a variety of structures, including the Arables' home, the Zuckermans' home and barn, the smokehouse and other farm buildings, and the cornfield. Because the weather changes in an instant in Victoria, the production had to be prepared to switch from stage to location at a moment's notice. Wurtzel built perfectly identical barns on the soundstage in Melbourne and on location in Greendale. 

The filmmakers were seeking an overall look that is best described as timeless with a touch of nostalgia. "It was a compromise between present day and 1952,” says Jordan Kerner. "Farm communities today don't look a lot different than farm communities looked decades ago, other than certain clothes and cars.”

The filmmakers turned to the photographs of contemporary American photographer William Eggleston for inspiration. "He became an important element for us in terms of the way he used color,” says Gary Winick. "He created a wonderful sense of Americana and timelessness.”

The filmmakers also wanted the film's aesthetics to resemble E.B. White's descriptions and Garth Williams's beloved illustrations as much as possible.

"In every department – from costume to art to camera – we underlined everything in the book: every prop, every costume, every color,” says Winick. "We did everything to make sure that we stayed true to the book visually.”

In addition, as an homage to Williams's iconic drawings, Winick and his team recreated the drawings on the screen. "Whenever possible, I tried to duplicate as best I could the illustrations from the book,” he adds. Some of these "live-action drawings” include the image of Wilbur from the trough; the "some pig” web; the crowd at the Zuckerman barn; and many others.

Despite being an avowed city boy – "I'm from New York City; pavement is my thing,” he says – who is fairly sure he was an adult the first time he saw a live pig, Winick developed an affinity for the porcine creatures. "They're very smart,” he says. "I had my favorites.”

Wilbur is in almost every scene, and Winick relied heavily on the expertise of the animal trainers. "I started to realize there's no movie without these guys,” he admits. "They are the true stars of the movie.”

"The good thing is that the animals don't know if they're doing a sad scene or a playing-in-the-mud scene,” he adds. "And they always wear the same costume, so we can jump around a lot in the filmmaking.” 

The head trainers were Larry Madrid and Larry Payne from Birds and Animals Unlimited, who oversaw all the animals on the set – the pigs, cows, geese, s

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