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MEGAMIND

How Do I Look?
The beginning designs of Megamind showed a more stereotypical alien appearance, but his look changed over the course of production. Art director Timothy J. Lamb remembers, "Megamind's initial designs were a sort of spindly, huge-headed guy. But, extreme character design needs to be balanced with what the story requires. Megamind is funny and has this romantic interest in Roxanne, so it was important to ensure that the character design fit well with all of the aspects of the story—not just the blue alien bent on wreaking havoc.”

As psychologists know, one's surroundings tell much about the person at the center, and Megamind's is no different. Lamb explains, "As a character, Megamind is all about the chaos of creation. The whole visual language that surrounds him is parts and bits of stuff. That's why his whole lair is an abandoned power plant.”

The early concepts of Minion (as well as most of the other characters) underwent their customary growth as project development reached its further stages. Tom McGrath explains, "Lara Breay and I were looking through development art of Minion. Our initial look resembled a gorilla without a head. We decided to dial it back. The idea was to give Minion a robotic body designed to look like a gorilla, with a fish in a fishbowl for a head.”

Taken on its own, the design of Minion is a very detailed and complicated one. His body is almost a separate character, just as much as the talking fish in a bowl is a character. Production designer James says, "We instantaneously gravitated toward scary-goofy: he's a robot, but he adheres to some different animation controls. He has an incredibly complicated rig of platelets, and extendable arms. We built these into his animation model, so it could perform normal cartoon squash-and-stretch animation techniques.”

Metro Man is much more than just good looks and brawn. Underneath all the muscle and super powers, a complicated character can be discerned. "When we first started animating Metro Man, we were playing up the smarmy, used-car salesman attitude,” recalls Jason Schleifer, head of character animation. "However, we soon found that he wasn't very compelling. Instead, we played him with more honesty, focusing on the difficult situation he finds himself in. Once we did that, Metro Man became a sincere, compelling character—but also one with a lot of muscles who happens to wear tights.”

The superhero myth always has its damsel in distress. Some damsels, however, replace distress with equal amounts of strength and sass. Roxanne Ritchi is the love interest for most of the men in the film, and it was important for the designers to capture her beauty while also showing her strength of character. Art director Lamb: "We thought a short haircut fit the character, but this haircut had its own challenges. It took some effort to keep Roxanne looking feminine with cropped hair.”

So, all this discussion of big heads and short hair aside, what is it like for the actors to come face-to-face with their onscreen personae? Will Ferrell remembers the first time he saw Megamind in action. "You've been listening to your voice, you've been doing these recording sessions, and then to finally see it all synched up with the animation, to the movement, the expression,” recalls the actor. "It takes awhile, but within the first couple of minutes, you forget that it's your voice. You're actually watching a living, breathing character, and that's what was exciting for me to see. They say that animators usually bring some of the mannerisms and the look of the actor voicing it to the actual character. I think they did an astounding job—they really captured my forehead, but I think I'm actually a little more on the teal side. But the blue works, too.”

Tina Fey had a similar experience when she heard her voice coming out of the snappy gamine, Roxanne: "When I first saw Roxanne drawn, I really liked her. But then, to see her animated, I just loved her, especially the short hair. I think so many animated women are just all about their long, flowing hair. Even though I actually have long flowing hair, I think it's nice to challenge myself as a performer, really trying to capture the short hair-ed-ness of Roxanne. I'm quite pleased with the results.”

More than just the words coming out of their mouths, characters tell stories all the time without even moving their lips. Good characterization is key to good storytelling. Tom McGrath posits, "You can have as much whiz-bang as you want, but if you're not following characters, no one is invested in the story.”

Despite being a spindly, blue super-villain, Megamind is still the one the audience wants to root for. Character effects supervisor Damon Riesberg credits the animators with gifting him with empathy that audiences find endearing. "When we started out, we knew he was a very stylized looking character,” recalls Riesberg. "Giant blue head, huge eyes, you know, he's just a weird looking guy. But, the amount of compelling emotion that all the animators have been able to pull out of him has completely surprised me. I think that the audience is really going to fall in love with him.”

One of the constants in developing "Megamind” was keeping the tone light and fun. Producer Denise Nolan Cascino explains, "What Tom has brought to the film is a tone that's made the story much more fun. The characters are endearing and charming, and you just root for the bad guy, because he's trying so hard…even if it's for all the wrong reasons.”

Head of story Catherine Yuh Rader believes that the core of the film is much more substantial than flashy action and adventure. "My initial concern was that ‘Megamind' might be essentially tailored for fans of superhero comic books,” says Rader. "What we have here has appeal far beyond—it's a current, heartfelt yet irreverent romantic comedy.”

Producer Cascino charged herself with the duty of keeping the film true to its comedic roots, while still showcasing the same aspects audiences look for in a traditional superhero movie. She explains, "I tasked myself with being that outside voice. There are those who worked on this film who know the comic book superhero genre and hold it very dearly. I like to think I'm that other voice that helped make sure the film had as wide appeal as possible.”

Creating a world that is both extraordinary and believable requires first-class art direction. Production designer David James emphasizes, "Tim Lamb is the art director, and he's a fantastic illustrator. Tim and his team really helped to inform the look, feel and the tangible quality of Megamind's universe by taking ideas from paintings and other source materials and maintaining continuity all the way through the process—from the rigging of the characters, to the modeling, the surfacing, and then finally, through to the lighting.

"Everyone in the process along the way brings an amazing amount of artistry and ability to the process,” continues James. "It's really satisfying to see what started as a germ of an idea and a sketch, evolve into a fully-realized, zooming battle through an imaginary city that looks like it actually exists.”

"Everyone who drives this technology is an artist,” praises McGrath. "You can talk to them as if they are actors. The beauty of animation is that if you do it right, and have a solid story, every single thing in the movie can be designed to accentuate the story—from overall things like lighting, to the most tiny specifics, like the look of the graffiti in Metro City.”

Says McGrath: "The big idea for me in this movie was to stage a battle between Elvis and Alice Cooper: to have their

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