DreamWorks’ feature film The Croods is set in a prehistoric period. The Croods live in a cave, but modern-day problems still occur for the family, which includes over-protective father Grug (Academy Award-winner Nicolas Cage), rebellious daughter Eep ( Emma Stone of The Help), her romantic interest Guy ( Ryan Reynolds of Green Lantern) and a supporting cast that includes a series of wild animals (a tiger, monkeys and even a sloth).
Directors Chris Sanders ( Lilo & Stitch) and Kirk DeMicco ( Space Chimps), in town to talk about the movie, which opens Friday, said that one of the biggest challenges in making the animated film was not the lack of cars or technology in the story but rather the small number of characters.
“This film has the entire family on screen pretty much the entire time,” Sanders said. “We weren’t prepared for the logistic challenge of that scenario.”
Unlike other animated films, The Croods has no traditional villain. Instead, the characters must adapt to new environments after spending most of their lives in a cave. And that’s scary at first.
“The antagonist in this film is change itself,” Sanders said. “The change in this film is really the arc of the film. It’s occurring inside of all these characters, who are going through all of these different challenges.”
One of the more humorous characters in the film is Belt (voiced by Sanders), a sloth that, as the name suggests, keeps Guy’s pants up. DeMicco said that Guy’s best friend was originally a pony in the early developmental stages, but Belt morphed from a basic drawing into a character that “started taking over every scene he was in.”
“The idea [being] that maybe, quite possibly, that the animal is the smartest creature out of all of them,” DeMicco said.
Another interesting aspect of the film is the action sequence music, which was inspired by the University of Southern California’s marching band (USC is DeMicco’s alma mater). The Croods are physically gifted for cave people, so the film needed music to accompany their skill set.
“We needed music that had the right kind of scale and drive; it really breaks the film wide open,” Sanders said.
Before one hunting scene, the characters actually line up like the offensive side of a football team and “burst” into positions while hunting down their next meal.
“It gave it that sports feel,” DeMicco added.
Whether shooting the discovery of fire or the family hunting prey, the directors wanted a battlefield-type camera set up to give the movie a “on the ground” perspective for the viewer. Outside of a few panoramic shots, the camera angles are personable and hand-held.
“When a character moves, they actually leave, and the camera takes a moment to catch up with them, like the cameraman didn’t expect that to happen,” Sanders said.
Despite all these elements, the directors said The Croods, which was shot in 3D, always goes back to its core: the importance of family roots.
“The real story is a very, very human story that anyone anywhere can relate to,” Sanders said. “It has a lot of truths in it.”