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PUSS IN BOOTS

On The Ground...
In taking the cat, the egg and the cat to these interesting places, a design challenge was presented to "Puss in Boots” filmmakers. Miller and his team looked to populate this epic tale with diminutive heroes, and it is that very dichotomy that designer Aretos found exciting: "I think the beauty of this movie is that you have a very little guy, who lives in this huge, epic adventure. That's what I think is exciting about the design of this film, the craziness of the world that we developed.”

One sequence that clearly demonstrates the size and the pace of the story is the stagecoach heist, wherein Puss in Boots, Kitty and Humpty attempt to steal the magic beans right out from under the noses of criminals Jack and Jill…while all are traveling at breakneck speed on a stagecoach. Chris Miller relates, "I thought it was important that, in our action scenes, there was a sense of excitement and danger, but they're really fun at their core—we wanted to make them really enjoyable, like an adrenaline-pumping ride at a park or around a race track. We wanted a fun, tactile experience.” Another sequence that offers excitement (in a very different way), is the first meeting and subsequent face-off between Puss and a very accomplished rival thief. After Puss finds himself confronted by a masked opponent, he tracks his rival to a ‘cats only' cantina, intending to challenge the sly feline. The house rules dictate that on Tuesday, fights are restricted to dance challenges, so our hero and the still-masked adversary engage in a free-for-all dance-off, much to the delight of the all cat audience.

Key to the success of the sequence was the clever choreography—which humorously blends everything from flamenco, to Latin ballroom, to contemporary—from Laura Gorenstein Miller, founder, choreographer and artistic director of the Los Angeles-based modern dance troupe, Helios Dance Theater. Chris Miller comments, "We were very fortunate to have Laura choreograph several sequences in the movie. It really helped to add a layer of authenticity, and these are complex scenes, with a lot of juggling between storytelling and character moments. It helped our animators enormously. She took the movement from our simple screenplay directions and translated it into beautiful choreography for two dancers—we took the footage of these dances and our animators put it into the paws of our hero and his Kitty.”

After a week's rehearsal, Laura Miller's dancers were fitted with motion-capture suits, and the resulting data was used to help animators with reference and staging—it was not a simple transfer of movement into the characters. Aguilar elaborates, "We used the camera and the footage to figure out how to best design the shots.”

Of particular fun for the choreographer was the mystery behind this adversary in the mask. Laura Miller comments, "One of the things that was interesting for me about choreographing this scene was they didn't want to reveal to the audience that Kitty is a girl. So as a choreographer, I had to make the movements more masculine, with more bravado, a little more aggressive than what I would have normally set for a female character.”

Prior to shooting the dances, Miller took the storyboards to her studio, along with music, and built the dances step-by-step, conveying the action in the boards. "They would indicate Puss coming forward to the camera for eight counts, and they would tell me that they needed a medium shot, fast footwork. I'd set something with my dancers, and then I'd check it back with Chris every day, which was a great way to work. He would tell me of any changes that he wanted, and he could track the progress daily.”

Another sequence has Puss and the now-revealed Kitty dancing around the campfire, with occasional interruption from Humpty Dumpty, who wants to douse any sparks of romance that may be happening between the two. Again, the choreographer: "They were very specific that, for dialogue, their faces needed to be towards the camera, so as a choreographer, I wanted to make it interesting. So, I did that with footwork and use of the hips, pulling a lot from Latin dance. That, in turn, gave the animators a challenge, because cats really don't have hips the way that humans do. But I think we all came up with a great sequence.”

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