Recently, WarCry took the chance to interview the people behind the Dragonlance animated movie, which comes to DVD on January 15th. The interview gave us the chance to hear from Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the famed authors and creators of the Dragonlance series. We also heard from the film’s Co-Executive Producer John Frank Rosenblum and Paramount Pictures Product Manager Chris Dreyer.
In addition, we also have an exclusive clip from the film that features Sturm Brightblade. You can find that on page two.
Answers by Margaret Weis (Dragonlance Co-Creator), Tracy Hickman (Dragonlance Co-Creator), John Frank Rosenblum (Co- Executive Producer) and Chris Dreyer (Paramount Product Manager)
Questions by Suzie Ford and Dana Massey
WarCry: Why were both 2D and 3D animations chosen to be included versus all 2D or all 3D? Do you suspect that future Dragonlance movies will be all one or the other or is this the preferred style of animation?
John Frank Rosenblum: We chose a hybrid mixture of both 2D and 3D animation as we felt it was the best way to convey the story of Dragonlance. Fantasy animation is traditionally 2D and it would be easier for people who had not read the books to understand the story in the traditional animation format. At the same time the action sequences from the book didn’t seem as exciting as they should be in our 2D tests, especially given how high the bar for animation ahs risen over the past few years, so we decided to enhance the action by animating it in 3D.
WarCry: When was the decision made to go straight to DVD rather than release in theaters? What were the factors affecting this decision?
Chris Dreyer: Releasing directly to DVD was strictly a business decision to strengthen the chances of animating more books in the Dragonlance series. For smaller films a theatrical run can actually cost money rather than earn it. All of the marketing and guarantees involved in placing a film in theatres can easily exceed the cost of actually making the film. This marketing and distribution cost (known as P&A) is then figured into the total cost of the film and greatly impacts both profitability and the potential of a sequel. Since Dragonlance already has a huge fan base that will hopefully buy this movie we are much more likely to be able to animate the next book in the series.
WarCry: How close to the novel does the movie run? For instance, are incantations used verbatim?
John Frank Rosenblum: Any adaptation to the screen involves changes to the original work. In books the viewer can read what a character is thinking and their motivations but this is much harder to portray on the screen. We are faithful to the story but some editing and movie techniques had to be used to change how that information is delivered to the audience. The writer for Dragonlance, George Strayton, is a long time fan of the series and he worked closely with the creators, Margaret Weiss and Tracey Hickman, to ensure that the movie is a faithful adaptation of the books to the screen. And, yes, we did specifically work with the creators to ensure that the incantation are used verbatim and pronounced correctly.
WarCry: Are there any major events from the book that didn’t “make the cut” to the movie version? If so, which ones and why? If not, was any additional material added to the story?
John Frank Rosenblum: Things in movies always have to be cut for time – just ask Tom Bombadil from the Lord of The Rings. With material as rich and as voluminous as Dragonlance some sequences had to be altered but the underlying story was not changed in any material way. We did give a name to one of the Draconians: Rufus.
WarCry: You two did not directly write the script, but as the authors of the original works can you talk a bit about how it turned out and why you believe it is a good representation of your work?
Tracy Hickman: Adaptation of a novel into a screenplay is a tough act especially when you’re dealing with fans of a well-know work. It isn’t a question of simply portraying scenes from the novel – as I think most people assume – but rather of capturing the emotional core of the original work and being able to portray that in a new medium. Both Margaret and I were granted an unprecedented level of input on the script but in the end it was hardly needed: George Strayton’s magnificent screenplay captured the essence of our vision beautifully realized in a new medium.
WarCry: In general, what are the concerns of a writer when their work gets adapted for the big screen. How were those concerns addressed in the creation of this film?
Margaret Weis: My concern was that the script remain true to our story and the characters. I think George has done a fantastic job of doing that. I had read other DL scripts that bore no resemblence to anything Tracy and I had written, and I was really pleased and touched by much care Geroge took to remain true to our vision.
Tracy Hickman: I think most novel writers do not understand film. I once read that books are all internal in nature: we hear the character’s thoughts and view the world and events through their eyes from an internal perspective. Stage plays are all talk: we experience the story mostly through their words and what they tell us but we don’t get inside their minds. Film, on the other hand, is all show: it is all about showing you as an observer what is happening and experiencing the character’s perspective externally … we don’t actually hear a character’s thoughts unless the screenplay resorts to the crutch of the ‘voice over.’
What writers should be concerned about is if the structural and emotional core of their story is being portrayed. This has nothing to do with how accurate a reproduction of the book is found in the screenplay. George Strayton captured the spirit of our original story and told it in a new way. That’s George’s genius and I’m grateful both to him for it and to the producers who had the wisdom to bring both Margaret and me into the process.
WarCry: How much time is spent on the “back story”? Will someone not familiar with the Dragonlance setting be able to understand the story?
John Frank Rosenblum: The story is definitely accessible to someone unfamiliar with the Dragonlance saga. This was a goal of the entire production team from the writers, producer, directors and creators. It is an enjoyable film which is especially enjoyable to fans of the books.
WarCry: Who is responsible for the soundtrack and have any cuts been released for download?
John Frank Rosenblum: Karl Prusser created an amazing original score for the movie. He not only recorded in the studio with a full orchestra be he also traveled to record period instruments appropriate to the film. He also worked with Tracey Hickman to create an original song in Elven.
WarCry: Keifer Sutherland, Lucy Lawless and Michael Rosenbaum are confirmed to be three of the voices in the film. Can you tell us why they were chosen for each role and how you landed them? Also, will Sutherland’s recent incarceration impact the production schedule?
John Frank Rosenblum: Casting a movie is a group process. The production team members work with a casting director to identify the right actor for the right role, subject to their availability. Keifer Sutherland’s voice was exactly what we wanted for Raistlan. Lucy Laweless is iconic and was the perfect choice for Goldmoon. Michael Rosenbaum, who is famous as both Lex Luther and The Flash, is an amazing actor who was able to keep Tannis calm and collected throughout the entire adventure. We were exceedingly fortunate that all of these actors had time in their schedule to work with us. The animation process involves recording all of the actors parts before animating. The actors completed all of the recording sessions over a year ago.
WarCry: What about other voice actors? Will any be covering multiple characters?
John Frank Rosenblum: As with most animated productions some actors will play more than one character but none of the leads play more than one character. This mostly happens for characters with very few lines.
WarCry: What has been the overall community reaction to pre-release movies already on the ‘Net?
John Frank Rosenblum: Whenever you work with iconic material you have both the advantages and disadvantages of all of the work that has come before you. When people invest time and energy and emotion into a work or series of works it is impossible to realize what any one person had envisioned inside their head for all of those years. Unfortunately it is impossible to please everyone so some people love our pre-release materials and some people despise them. Our goal was to make a great movie which both fans of the books and newcomers would enjoy. We feel we have done that.
WarCry: What else would you like to add?
Margaret Weis: I want to thank Will and Karl and George and the producers for the dedication and caring they put into this film. It wasn’t a job to any of them. Just like the books were for Tracy and for me, this was a labor of love. I really hope that this does well, so that we can do the next books in the series!
And now, our exclusive video clip from the film, which shows Sturm Brightblade: