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Posted August 24, 2015 by admin in Resource
 
 

Catatan Produksi Film Pixels (2015)


About the Production

It’s On Like Donkey Kong

Pixels is the summer tentpole action comedy in which aliens attack the Earth, using 1980s videogames as the model for their attacks, produced by Happy Madison and 1492 Pictures. Taking the helm of Pixels, Chris Columbus helped define 1980s movies as the writer of Gremlins and The Goonies, then went on to direct beloved, classic comedies like Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire, and help launch epic, special-effects blockbuster franchises like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Night at the Museum, Columbus says that Pixels appealed to him in myriad ways. “Reading the Pixels script felt so original, so unique, that I just had to do it,” he says. “I loved the blend of comedy mixed with action, which gave me an opportunity to do something I hadn’t been able to do since Harry Potter. It enabled me to push the comedy as far as we could, but also create this very intense action adventure film. For me, it’s Gremlins meets Goonies meets Harry Potter – it gave me the opportunity to create something really fresh using the tools I had gathered over the years. It would be an original summer movie that took you back to the 80s in an evocative, nostalgic way.”

The project stars Adam Sandler, who also serves as a producer of the film. Columbus says that being able to serve both roles benefits the project. “Adam has a great sense of comedy and is a very savvy producer,” says Columbus. “That’s a great combination, because – for example – he completely understands when something’s working and we can move on, or when something’s not working and needs a little more time to get it right.”

The list of the film’s pixelated co-stars reads like an all-star team of the 1980s: PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Galaga, Frogger, Q*bert, and Space Invaders, among many others. “These classic characters were part of the DNA of the project, so it was critical that we work together to bring them on board,” explains Allen Covert, one of the film’s producers. “Fortunately, they were all extremely receptive. We approached them with a deep love for their characters and a respect for the elements that make them unique and iconic, and we worked with the companies to incorporate those elements into the film.” Partners included Atari Interactive, Inc. (Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Missile Command); Konami Digital Entertainment (Frogger); Bandai Namco Entertainment (PAC-MAN, Galaga, Dig Dug); Nintendo (Donkey Kong, Duck Hunt); Sony Computer Entertainment (Q*Bert); TAITO CORPORATION (Arkanoid, Space Invaders); and Warner Bros. Interactive (Paperboy, Joust, Defender, Robotron), G-MODE (BurgerTime), and TETRIS (Tetris).

Columbus adds, “There would be no way to make the movie without these legendary characters – they are as important to the film as the roles that the actors are playing. It was a real thrill to see everything come together exactly as we envisioned it.”

Executive Producer Michael Barnathan, who also serves as president of Columbus’ company, 1492 Pictures, adds that the filmmaking team also found 1980s inspiration in other ways. “I think everyone involved with this movie has a great love for the great summer action-comedies of the 1980s,” he says. “We definitely wanted a movie for today’s audiences, but our goal was also to capture something of the feel that made those movies so special – that mix of action and comedy that the movies of that era did so well.”

Columbus says that one other reason he felt attracted to the project was the chance to make a film that would truly appeal to audiences of all ages. “Of course, the parents out there are going to remember playing these games at a video arcade, and their kids will be just as amazed by the characters – there are a hundred jokes in the movie that work for parents, and a hundred that work for their kids,” he says. “But it’s more than that. I think there’s a lot of nostalgia for these games and about the 80s in particular. I certainly hear it all the time – I talk to college kids and their favorite movie is The Goonies. There’s a lot of love for that era right now.”

 

About the Cast

To capture the comedy, the Happy Madison and 1492 filmmakers brought in an all-star cast of comedic film talent. Adam Sandler, who also produces the film, as well as Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad make up the team of unlikely heroes who are called upon to save the world.

“The five of them together are just so wonderful,” says Columbus. “There’s a natural camaraderie and real charisma between the five of them. They truly create a team.”

Adam Sandler leads the way as Sam Brenner – once a video game world champion, and now a home theater installer. “Things haven’t quite gone his way over the past 30 years,” says Barnathan. “He’s gotten stuck in life. To be honest, it’s starting to seem like there’s only one thing he’s ever been really good at – playing videogames. Fortunately for us all, that one thing is about to come in really handy.”

 

Kevin James – who has starred opposite Sandler in several films – is called on to play Sandler’s best friend and the President of the United States of America.

“With Kevin, we were not only playing against type, we were playing against the comedy,” says Columbus. “Kevin had to have a really strong presence – he had to feel presidential. And he played that role beautifully – when he completed the first scene as President Cooper, I completely believed him. He’s a wonderful actor, and capable of going much deeper than he has in the past.”

In the film, James’ character, Will Cooper, has reached a political low. Everybody thinks all politicians are buffoonish oafs, but the American people really convinced of it with Cooper. “The general public is not a huge fan of my character,” James explains. “He’s not doing a lot of what he said he’d do, and he basically doesn’t care. When he sees that the world is being attacked and it looks like videogames, he brings in his friends – who happen to be the greatest videogame players ever.”

You might think it would be difficult for James to act opposite a CG character, but the comedian got a lot of practice. “I replaced my family at home with tennis balls to get used to it,” he says. “They moved out of the house for a month and I replaced them with tennis balls everywhere – one was a Slazenger, one was a Wilson, and one was a Penn. As a parent, you’re always yelling at your kids about something – to eat or wipe or clean up – so I’d just yell at the tennis balls. I got pretty good at it and accustomed to it really quick.”

 

As President Cooper calls on Sam Brenner to put together an expert team of Arcaders to help fight the aliens, Brenner tracks down the now-grown men who were the champions as kids.

Josh Gad joins the cast as Ludlow Lamonsoff, the youngest member of the Arcaders. “He’s a little younger than the other guys – he was kind of the Wonder Kid,” says Gad.

Once the child prodigy amongst the gamers, he’s now a conspiracy theorist who never quite got over his childhood crush on Lady Lisa, the cartoonish lead character in Dojo Quest, his favorite game from back in the day.

“Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling wrote a character that was really eccentric – and I’m no stranger to eccentric characters,” says the star of Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon” and the voice of Olaf the snowman in Frozen. “This was a chance to sink my teeth into a guy who’s strangely off. But there’s also something wonderfully vulnerable about him. He’s chasing the love of his life, which is a videogame character – it makes him sound insane, but he believes in a world where he can co-exist with Lady Lisa and run away with her.”

Gad was excited to join the project not only because of the chance to work with Columbus and Sandler, but also because of the chance to play out the iconic games from his childhood on an epic scale. “I was born in ’81, right at the height of arcade fever,” he says. “I had two older brothers, so I remember going to the local arcade in South Florida – it was called Grand Prix – and we would just play nonstop on a Saturday or Sunday. To get the chance to chase these creatures that I remember playing against as a kid was like being a child all over again.”

In real life, Gad’s own favorite game wasn’t Dojo Quest. “I was always addicted to Galaga,” Gad continues. “It was one of those games that I was never quite great at, but for some reason, I loved it.”

 

Peter Dinklage rounds out the Arcaders as Eddie Plant, a/k/a The Fire Blaster. Though he has risen to fame with his dramatic role in “Game of Thrones,” Dinklage is equally adept at comedy, as he’s shown over the years from roles in Living in Oblivion to Death at a Funeral.

“Eddie was the other guys’ childhood nemesis,” says Dinklage. “He has quite a large ego, in terms of his championships, and he loves to remind everyone else how good he is. That’s the way he’s portrayed as a child – and when we jump to the present day, his attitude hasn’t changed all that much.”

Eddie Plant has a distinctive look in the movie, with his mullet and the arms ripped off of his uniform. “He’s definitely mentally and visually stuck in a certain time,” he says. “I’ve seen guys like that – they don’t realize that certain looks have gone out of style, but God bless ’em, they’re happy. Eddie has a giant mullet, he’s got tattoos – not the beautiful tattoos that are hip these days – and he has a habit of taking the sleeves off of everything he wears. I guess he’s insecure about the back of his neck, but not about his guns.”

Like his co-stars, Dinklage would habit the arcades of his childhood back in the day. “I feel sorry for the kids nowadays, playing on the consoles, because going to the arcade was so social,” he says. “You go to the arcade, hang out with your friends, check out the girls – or the one girl who might have been there that day. They played music. It was like being at the rollerskating rink, and it was so much more fun.”

 

The Arcaders would be nowhere without the help of Lt. Colonel Violet Van Patten, played by Michelle Monaghan. “She’s a very tough character – very brainy, very sassy,” says Monaghan.

“I’d definitely say she has a love-hate relationship with Brenner,” says Monaghan. “He’s the complete opposite of Violet – she finds him pretty repulsive. It’s only in attempting to save the world that he wins her over and convinces her that he’s more than meets the eye.”

Monaghan may have been the only female in a lead role, but she relished it. “Are you kidding me? I loved being the only female,” she says. “The guys are very inclusive, very sweet. Yeah, there was a lot of ribbing, but I’m really good at dishing it as well.”

 

Ashley Benson takes on the role of Lady Lisa, the film’s 1980s videogame icon, star of the fictional game Dojo Quest, and the object of Ludlow’s unrequited love. “I get to play a videogame hero – I have two swords and I get to be a badass,” Benson explains. “I’d never worked with swords before, so that was cool. Plus, punching and kicking and beating up Josh is always fun.”

“We wanted Ludlow (played by Josh Gad) to be in love with a female video game character from his childhood. We thought it was really sweet, but also showed that he’s a little pathetic,” says Covert “There weren’t a lot of game characters that fit that description so we came up with Dojo Quest and Lady Lisa. The best part was that we actually got to make it into a real game that you can play on your phone.”

 

About the Director

After developing the project at Happy Madison, they began to seek a director who could shepherd it to the screen. “We thought Chris would be the perfect director for this movie,” says Covert. “He’s directed giant effects movies and some of our favorite comedies and Pixels was a combination of those two elements. He is so great at blending stunning visuals with outrageously funny actors and making it believable. “

Executive producer Michael Barnathan agrees, adding another element: “Ultimately, movies are about story. One of Chris’s greatest talents as a director is making sure that these other elements – the comedy, the effects – are all working to move the story forward in a satisfying and emotional way. We all thought Pixels represented an opportunity to be a perfect match between the material and everything Chris does well as a director.”

 

Design and Effects

Not only does the unique plot and hilarious comedy of Pixels distinguish it from the crowd, but the film also looks different from other summer films. “Most visual effects movies – including movies I’ve been involved with – set out to create extraordinarily realistic visual effects. Even if you’re creating a dragon or a monster, you try to give it the texture and skin of a real creature,” Columbus explains. “On Pixels, we were aiming for something you’ve never seen before. When these videogame characters come to life, they take on this pixelated form with an aura lit from within, and constantly moving. It’s literally a three-dimensional version of the 8-bit games you used to see on your arcade screen.”

Production Designer Peter Wenham, who was responsible for the overall look of the film, was the initial player in orchestrating the ways that the look of the iconic videogame characters would transition from their classic 8-bit forms to fully realized 3D threats. “It was important to the different gaming companies – and to us as well – to stay as truthful as we possibly could, even as we made the characters 3D,” he says. “The fun comes in showing something we haven’t seen before – all of the everyday objects getting pixelated. We had to determine how that would work, what it would look like – when a Space Invaders bomb hits the asphalt, it blows a hole, but it also pixelates so that the asphalt turns into pixels. We had to determine how that would look.”

There was always a danger, Wenham says, of the 3D versions of the 8-bit characters looking too blocky or uninteresting. That’s when they hit on the idea of the characters containing a light aura – an idea that could be replicated as they pixelate the everyday objects on Earth. Not only would the characters themselves be flowing with interactive light, but so would the pixelated versions of the attack targets. The result was a visually compelling solution that also expressed the way that the aliens use videogames to attack the planet.

Once the characters had been designed, Columbus tapped Matthew Butler, the visual effects supervisor, to bring the classic 1980s videogames into our world. “Matt Butler is the mad genius who kept constantly pushing the envelope to make certain that these creatures not only feel like they exist in our world, but that the audience is seeing something they’ve never seen before. He pushed his team and all of us harder than ever,” says Columbus.

Butler explains that just as the filmmakers made extraordinary efforts to be honest with the look of the characters, it was equally necessary to make callbacks to the way those characters moved and interacted. “It was very important that we emulated these games as closely as possible,” says Butler. “If you look at PAC-MAN, he chomps at a certain rate and moves at a certain speed. Donkey Kong, too, has very specific motions, like his semi-step – we animated that in a continuous flow, but maintained the ‘sprite-based’ essence.”

Of course, the filmmakers did take some liberties with the real history. For example, the fictitious history of the Galaga game in the film – in which a “‘glitch” in the game is a key plot point – is a purely fictional element which was created for dramatic purpose.

If you want to get technical about it, Butler says, the title of the film isn’t quite right. “A 3D pixel is really called a ‘voxel,'” a cube in three-dimensional space, he says. “We took this notion of simplistic cubes and made it interesting and up-to-date by adding light energy to it, for example with PAC-MAN,” explains Butler. “As a round shape, his 2D image is flat, so we gave him the volume of a 3D sphere made up of voxels. Each voxel has its own light energy, based on geometric alien filaments, that can be controlled individually, so we used artistic license to fly energy around within PAC-MAN’s sphere.”

In the first major game set piece in the film, the Arcaders take on Centipede. “The Centipede sequence in Hyde Park is psychedelic, frightening and hilarious at the same time,” says Columbus.

Butler says that the Centipede sequence shows the ways they tackled the greatest challenge in the visual effects: to get the tone right. There was a major effort to infuse some of the comedy of the film into the threat of the videogame characters. “These arcade characters are villains, so they had to be scary, but this is also a comedy so it had to be light,” says Butler. “For example, with Centipede, our first instinct was to make it a fear-inspiring creature, but under Chris’ direction, we made him more comical – like the scene where he is dancing behind an old lady as she watches TV. Then, through his actions, we understand how threatening he really is. Centipede interacts with the sheer mass of his body, causing chaos everywhere he goes. You don’t actually pixelate until he eats you.”

In the PAC-MAN set piece, the heroes are in multicolored Mini Cooper cars – “ghosts” – chasing a 30-foot-tall PAC-MAN as he chomps his way through the grid maze of Manhattan. “In the real game, PAC-MAN is the good guy and the ghosts are the enemy, but in the movie, you’ve got PAC-MAN flying around Manhattan and the only way for the Arcaders to beat him is with ghosts,” says Columbus. “We wrote in Mini Coopers as our ghosts, and they suited us so well in terms of size, speed and color. Mini Cooper was very generous with us because of all the modifications we had to make to equip them with weapons and a sense of light energy, but they really fit the part well.”

“Through the visual effects, we included cool things from the original arcade game, like PAC-MAN eating a power pellet, but then chose to deviate from the game and add exciting things like PAC-MAN chomping a firetruck, which pixelates,” says Butler. “At one point, a Mini Cooper is driving on its front two wheels, which is partly visual effects and partly a real Mini, with a cut-out rear, designed to break in real life.”

To defeat the threat, the Arcaders enlist the help of the creator of PAC-MAN, Professor Iwatani. Though the role of Professor Iwatani is played in the scene by actor Denis Akiyama, the real Professor Iwatani makes a cameo appearance as a video game repairman at 1982 arcade. “The interesting thing is,” says Columbus, “before the real Professor Iwatani invented PAC-MAN, he really used to repair video games.”

At the film’s climactic battle against the aliens, the arcaders take on Donkey Kong. “We built gigantic girders – basically replicating the entire look of the Donkey Kong video game,” says Columbus. “We had our heroes on life-sized platforms, literally having to play Donkey Kong.”

“It was a colossal set that we built on the Mega Stage at Pinewood Toronto Studios, which is the largest purpose-built sound stage in North America,” Wenham explains. In the end, Wenham’s set was a 70-foot-tall construction of girders and beams – in effect, recreating the Donkey Kong game in real life.

“I knew Donkey Kong well as a kid – it was one of my favorites to play – so that set was really awesome for me,” says Butler. “The combination of practical special effects and the CG visual effects ended up making a really, really fun battle sequence. That sequence has roughly 130 VFX shots. We were heavily dependent on sound effects, too, to capture the authentic tone of the games being played.”

“It was very challenging to film that scene,” says Michelle Monaghan. “They built a huge green screen set, where Donkey Kong was just a big X in the corner of the stage. We had to wear harnesses attached to pulleys and run and jump off platforms and get pushed and pulled in every direction. Chris would then shout direction to us – ‘jump!’ – and there was no barrel, but we were jumping anyway. You feel a bit silly, but it works in the end.”

Bringing Q*bert to life represented another kind of challenge. “Like the other characters, he’s made up of sharp-edged cubes, but he had to be cute,” says Butler. “Sony Picture Imageworks came up with a great translucent solution that gives him almost a furry look, like you could cuddle him while still keeping him pixelated. He doesn’t have hands or a mouth, so it was a challenge to use just his eyes and body posture to bring Q*bert’s character to life.”

In addition to designing the look of the characters, Peter Wenham was responsible for sets and locations – all aspects of the look of the film. “The movie is very much about a heightened reality – that comes out of the arcade games – so we tried to imbue this film with some real reality,” he says.

One highlight for Wenham was creating the light cannons that the Arcaders use to fight the alien videogame threats. “It’s always great to see a connection between the props and the actors. When Sandler picked it up, he started making firing noises. Those cannons made the kid come out in everyone,” says Wenham. “It was important to have something that was both fun and amusing but not conventional. If you look closely at the light cannons, they’ve got details on them – little joysticks or a finger ball – like you’d see on the old arcade games. On the longer cannon they have red buttons and LED screens. We wanted a clear link between the classic arcade games and the modern high-tech weapons.”

Wenham was also responsible for creating the film’s other sets, including the 1980s Electric Dreams Factory arcade – the site of the World Championships where Sam Brenner, Ludlow Lamonsoff, and Eddie Plant excel – and the DARPA set where Violet Van Patten creates the Arcaders’ special weapons.

As part of creating the arcade for the championship sequence, the production design team procured hundreds of original arcade game cabinets from all over the country. Each cabinet was completely refurbished, as many of them had three or four layers of screen printing that had to be removed. Property Master Timothy Wiles explains: “It was a coordinated effort to find these cabinets, then find the right graphics, redo the screen print, and equip them with new LCDs and game play. Every game and graphic had to meet the approval of each respective partner company, so it was a massive effort that turned out to be fun and fantastic.”

Costume designer Christine Wada took great care in dressing the scene’s 785 actors for the period. “In general, the ’80s were extremely colorful,” she says. “Some of the fashion back then was over-the-top, but to keep with Chris’ vision, we kept the wardrobe from becoming too cartoony.”

For the Arcaders’ uniforms, Wada began a long process of finding just the right look. “We wanted something that would make them feel tough, but also give them each their own character. It had to be believable and memorable. So, we started researching all different jump suits, flight suits, one-piece and two-piece outfits.”

“We wanted them to feel original and unique,” says Columbus. “Christine designed hundreds and hundreds of possibilities: everything from spandex, which would have been ridiculous on the bodies of my three lead actors, to typical superhero suits with built-in muscles. We settled on a look based on motor racing suits, and that seemed to work for everyone. Particularly Peter Dinklage’s character – he still wears a mullet, seems trapped in the eighties, and has been in jail for several years. We cut the sleeves off of his Arcader costume, so his tattoos were visible, and suddenly, he became Eddie.”

Even once the suit had been settled, Wada’s work on the uniform was not done. “The Arcaders logo took me a couple of weeks,” she recalls. “I wanted it to be something iconic, but not distracting for the audience.”

The racing suits had one other advantage for a film that shot in the humid summertime. “This is one of the most high-tech fabrics out there. It’s developed to be in a Formula One car with no air conditioning, and they’re made so that the car racers don’t get overheated,” she says. “Those suits are actually as cool as it gets.”

Wada’s other great challenge was to create the look for Lady Lisa, the 1980s object of desire for the film’s fictional game, Dojo Quest. “In the end, there were 222 designs of her costume and hair,” Wada recalls. The reason it was such a great challenge was that Lady Lisa had to do so much: “She’s a character from the 80s, so the design has to feel backdated, but also work in a modern context. She had to be iconic, but the character would also have to handle stunts. And the design had to be able to handle visual effects, so there were certain boundaries that we had to work within.”

Wada’s design melds numerous influences: the layered designs of 1980s swimsuits, crossed with Asian inspirations. “It’s a costume Ashley can actually move and fight in, but it’s also one that makes her look like a character that a teenage boy would fall in love with,” she says.

“I love the costume so much,” says Benson. “It would be cool to see girls being Lady Lisa for Halloween.”

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