The cast and crew of The Book of Life sat down to discuss the upcoming movie at San Diego Comic-Con International this past weekend. On hand were actors: Christina Applegate, Channing Tatum and Ron Perlman alongside producer Guillermo Del Toro and director Jorge Gutierrez to talk about what makes this new animated feature something you can'tmiss. The production team wanted to make something different than the big films of this year and celebrate a rich culture. Director Jorge Gutierrez described the film as, "Really unique and different. Growing up I wanted to see a Mexican story and now I was able to put in all these things I never saw but wanted to, into this film. We really wanted this to look true to its Mexican roots."
Guillermo Del Toro, whose imagery has always remained infused with the richness of his heritage, elaborated, "In order to be universal, we tried to be very specific to our culture and who we are and what we love. None of us are trying to cash in on a generic animated film about talking animals with quippy one-liners."
The film is even very culturally diverse. Channing Tatum plays one of the lead roles and Gutierrez described why he thought the 22 Jump Street star was a good fit. "The character had to be this high school quarterback, over the top guy that everyone loves. We pitched it to him as he had to be Captain Latin America." Tatum was enthusiastic about his first real chance at an animated feature, "I did a little part in The Lego Movie, but that was basically me and Jonah (Hill) going in for an hour and making fun of each other, and that was easy. But Jorge has got such an energy and a life to him. It’s like working with a net where you can’t do anything wrong. You can try absolutely anything, and I did. It’s a really fluid process that I was wildly interested in. These guys are artists of the highest regard."
Applegate added why she was also excited to be a part of the picture, "I like doing voice-overs because I don’t have to wear makeup and I don’t have to shower and sometimes I didn’t brush my teeth. For me, I like the process of going in and doing it blind, and having to imagine this person in your mind, with the way they move and the way they carry themselves and the way their mouth moves. You haven’t seen any of it, so you don’t know yet. And then, you finally get to go in a few months later, when you’re doing some more dialogue, and it comes to life. That’s a magical moment that’s really, really cool. When I actually got to do my dialogue to picture, it was such an incredible feeling. I’ve never seen anything like this movie. I’m really proud of it."
Long time Del Toro collaborator, Ron Perlman was asked in one word why he thought people should go and see the movie, his answer pretty much brought the room to life. "It’s dazzling, and I would like to explain what I mean when I say that. I know you wanted a one word answer, but fuck it, we’re here. Let’s face it, there’s no better film to talk about in this whole goddamn convention. No. When I did my first movie with Guillermo in 1991, it’s when I was introduced to the concept of the Day of the Dead. There’s a myriad of things that you can take away when someone first describes to you why there is a Day of the Dead and why there is a culture that’s invented this pagan ritual and how charming it is. But for me, we live in a culture, here, where death is an enemy. It’s fear. It’s something you run from. And this was a beautiful relationship between the living and the dead, and you make friends with it and you understand that it’s just part of the continuum. You demystify it and celebrate it in a way where you bring beauty to it. To be able to be part of a film that’s going to introduce that to little kids in America, who will probably be introduced to it otherwise, that’s dazzling. Dazzling."
The story even moved Applegate to be a part of the production before there was even a script. "He (Gutierrez) wanted to do a presentation because there was no script, but he had all of this artwork. So, the artwork popped up on a screen and a talked me through it, and I was just mesmerized. I had chills from the storyline and the passion that he had for the story he was trying to tell. No one ever dies. Love never dies. It’s always living, even if it’s in our memory. It was a beautiful love story. He was so passionate and the artwork was just insane. I’d never seen anything like it. So, I said yes, right away."
The Book of Life opens this fall. Written by Sabina-Lissette Ibarra. Photography from the FOX panel by Matthew Giezentaner. ...and now...Biz Markie!