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Gabor Csupo Enters Terabithia
With such a vividly imaginative screenplay at hand, the search began for a director who could bring his own magical storytelling touches to the film. What was needed, the producers realized, was a rare sensibility that would be technologically savvy and cinematically sophisticated, yet also completely true to the childlike wonder and deep emotions that lie at the heart of Jess and Leslie's friendship and adventures in Terabithia.

It was Walden Media President Cary Granat who first suggested Gabor Csupo, the worldfamous animation artist renowned for his innovative spirit in creating and producing such animated hits as "The Simpsons,” "Rugrats” and "The Wild Thornberrys.” Although Csupo had never made a live-action feature before, this didn't worry Granat in the least. "I knew that inside Gabor is a kid just dying to go on an adventure, and that was the perfect approach for this story,” says Granat.

Continues Lauren Levine: "When we talked to Gabor about the story, he had such an inspired take on it—a kind of Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam approach to how Terabithia could be manifested in a very fun and alive way. We collectively got very excited about it—it was clear that he was going to try to break through the usual clichés and find a fresh way to tell this story.”

Adds Hal Lieberman: "Gabor is such a beautiful and imaginative person. He brought a genuine passion for Terabithia and a conviction to tell the story the right way, as honestly as possible. I also think, as an artist, he related very strongly to Jess, and that helped him to create all the creatures Jess and Leslie imagine in Terabithia in a very memorable and moving way.” When the filmmakers brought the idea of Csupo to David Paterson, he, in turn, asked his kids, who gave the ultimate thumbs-up. "They said he has to do it!” recalls Paterson. "The great thing about Gabor is that he has such a tremendous grasp on today's youth, and that was vital to the film.”

The multi-Emmy®Award-winning Csupo, a Renaissance man whose interests span from movies to music and beyond, quickly fell in love with the story of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA—and especially its theme of where extreme creativity can take you. "What I really loved about the story is watching these kids' imaginations start to come alive,” he says. "I saw a chance to create a visually astounding movie that would also really touch an audience's heart.”

The director was excited not only about the visual challenges BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA would present but even more so about bringing the characters of Jess and Leslie to an even broader audience than the book. Csupo himself felt a deep connection with the characters and believes it is something people of all ages will share. The director explains: "I think everybody can remember a time when it felt like nobody was paying attention to you and nobody believed in you, and then along comes somebody who does, and it can totally rebuild you and rejuvenate you, and you just start to go for it. There is a magic in that.”

In Jess's world, the person who comes along is Leslie, and she gives him the most incredible gift he could ever envision: the land of Terabithia. Csupo hoped to do justice to just how meaningful and powerful Terabithia becomes in Jess's life, even when times get tough.

He summarizes: "In Terabithia, Leslie and Jess can unleash all their dramas and face up to all their real-life problems. What is so exciting about Terabithia is that it is not just a fantasyland where they can play, but also a place where they can fearlessly project all their feelings and the depths of their friendship.”

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