*The Film Strip caught up with the “Happy Feet 2” director, George Miller recently at the film company’s Warner Brothers offices. Although Miller received a degree in medicine, it did not curtail his interest in cinema. At a filmmaking workshop, he met Byron Kennedy and the two collaborated on a comedy short called, “Violence in the Cinema—Part 1.” The short went on to win two Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards. Fast forward more than 30 years later and he is a fledging moviemaker. Of the five movies Tina Turner starred in, one was “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.” Miller made his feature film directorial debut with “Mad Max,” which he also co-wrote.
There are some great messages in both Happy Feet and Happy Feet 2. Was there a conscious effort on your part to do that?
It’s intentional but it’s not something you’re forcing. You let the characters undergo their experiences; you set up the problems with the characters and let them resolve them. The father trying to recover his relationship with his son, the two Krill, one feeling that even though everyone looks the same, he wants to be different because there are billions and billions of Krill. He feels different so he wants to go out and explore and move up the food chain. All of that stuff you set up because as the characters learn stuff, the audience will pick up on it and the message emerges.
How does a renowned director end up bringing together a bunch of Antarctica animated characters, and what were the challenges?
I got attracted to animation when I started doing the babe movies, which was the beginning of CG animation. After making the pigs talk, I went on to Happy Feet. Towards the last year of Happy Feet—they take a long time to make–I began to realize the technology could do a lot and we pushed it to the bleeding edge. With Happy Feet 2, we pushed on with the technology with 3D and stereo. I saw how amazing that vast landscape looked and how the penguins looked and so I thought it would be good to do all the things we couldn’t do in the first film and the story emerged.
Another character in the film that stands out is the music. How did you bring that together?
Well, the music came from a lot of different sources. First of all, we have composer John Powell who is very broad in his knowledge of music. He’s classically trained. He played in England, and he played in the Motown tribute band. The opening song was about the penguin nation so Rhythm Nation was the likely choice. The rapping father Seymour in the first film is grown now and he’s encouraging his son to rap. We needed a song where the mother Gloria sings to the son Erick to calm and soothe his troubled soul. We didn’t have a song to fit, so we got Pink, Alicia Moore, to write one. So the music came from a lot of sources.
Common and most of the characters are back, along with Savion Glover who reunites with you for the dancing & choreography of Mumble. Among the new characters there are Benjamin “Lil P-Nut” Flores, Jr., Brad Pit and Matt Damon. How did you get Brad and Matt to work ‘Happy Feet’ into their busy schedule?
In addition to the original cast we needed someone interesting like Sven and we wanted actors that could really work with other actors really well and could improvise. We wanted two actors that were friends and had worked together so we could put them together to play off each other and improvise. Matt Damon and Brad Pitt were available in the same place at the same time for a few days, so we grabbed that opportunity. They knew the first film and in the case of Brad and Matt, the kids told them they had to do it [Laughs].
Did you have any idea Happy Feet would be as successful as it is?
No, you make the film the best you can and then you put it out there but you have no idea really. You hope that all the things that you worked so hard to happen in the movie happen and that you’ve created a transporting experience for the audience. I never imagined that it would do as well as it did. Yeah.