“The Velveteen Rabbit” – an Interview With Tim Nelson

Our last newsletter highlighted a fantastic version of “The Velveteen Rabbit.” Here to tell us more about it is Tim Nelson, Creative Development Director from  Feature Films for Families / New Movie Corp.CP: There are several film versions of “The Velveteen Rabbit” out there. What made you decide to cover it again, and what were some of the challenges you faced once you made this decision?TN:  We wanted to make “The Velveteen Rabbit” an epic film for adults and children. Something for the silver screen that really felt bigger than life. Combining animation and live action was a challenge – how to write a story where we keep the classic 1900’s feel and are able to go in and out of those two worlds seamlessly without any gimmicky effects yet not be jarred back and forth. It worked.CP: The real-life mixed with animation was a real visual treat. Please tell me a bit behind the thought process behind the visuals (how did you come up with the ideas for the visuals and the animations)?A: The scenic design in the early stages was brilliant. Very talented artists painted backdrops that were a bit fantasy mixed with the new reality for Toby in a world he created as an escape. The other challenge was how to design the characters. We talked about going with a classic Winnie The Pooh style where at first the animation world was soft and pastel versus brilliant saturated colors but became more colorful as Toby’s imagination grew. While all were not all in full agreement, we resolved to brilliant saturated colors right from the get go. The general thinking was that we should go more contemporary with a 3D backgrounds and keep the characters in the attic traditional 2 dimensional. This business is all about give and take. Collaboration. All of us had to check our egos at the door.CP: Please tell me a bit about the animation process itself, such as what programs you used and what some of the the challenges were.TN:  With all the waterfalls, rivers, underwater scenes, fires, flying and so on, we used so many softwares. Here’s a few:  Maia, Adobe AfterEffects, Illustrator, Shake, Motion, The challenge was how to marry them all together. Some scenes had up to 30 or more layers so the time to render all those layers took a very long time.  In the beginning we were planning on the animation taking 18 months. In the end it took over five years to finish.CP: Please give me an anecdote or description of something unexpected that happened during the filming process that made you grow as a producer.TN:  That is a great question and a funny one, too. The little boy character Toby was only about 10 years old when we shot all the live action. By the time we finished the animation and the editing we needed to do some more voice work with him he was married and had children of his own. I’m kidding. But his voice had completely changed and he was about to finish high school. The moral of the story is mathematical. When you are told it will take “x” amount of time to do a project and “y” is the cost, here is the equation to figure out what it REALLY is going to take: (x= time) times 3 +(y= cost) times 4 + s (sweat) + p (patience) + a (agony) = end product. I still love this business.CP:  What was your personal favorite part of the film and why?TN:  As a boy, I always dreamed about flying so I loved that part. As an adult I really loved it when Grandmother’s cold and hard attitude started to warm up and soften a little with Toby. Sometimes, as a child, I felt adults didn’t understand me and I didn’t want to understand them. But like making the movie, life is about give and take and collaboration and patience. It is not easy being a child sometimes. As I have had cancer my three children have had to change and grow up a little faster. Because of this, they have much more compassion for others.CP: What are you hoping the audiences will get out of this film?TN:  I hope they will get that “love really does make us all real.” Loving one another and treating others how we want to be treated is a key to happiness.CP:  Why do you think this film is good for KIDS FIRST!?TN:  I have always been such a big fan of KIDS FIRST! and “The Velveteen Rabbit” fits right in so perfectly with what KIDS FIRST! is doing. I love talking to KIDS FIRST! audiences as well. They are children who are very smart about watching movies, and I trust their opinions very much.CP: Is there anything you would like to add?TN:  I love the line said by rabbit to Toby in the tree:  “Just put your heart into it and the rest of you will follow” Isn’t that how we overcome fear?

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