When did you find out that you were going to be working on this project? (Monster vs. Aliens) In the summer of 2008.
How much time are you given to put the book together? About 6 months.
Did you have access to all of the concept art for the film? How did you decide what pieces to include in the book? The staff at Dreamworks assembled the first rough cut of concept art, which I think was about 3,000 pieces. Our job was to cut that down to about 400.
Were you given a list of people to speak to, (e.g. directors, animators, storyboard artists, etc.)? Did you have to - or get to - choose who to speak to? Yes, the producer and production designer on the movie put together a list of about a dozen key people for me to interview. After I interviewed those folks, and knew what I wanted to cover, I asked to speak to about 10 others in specialty fields.
What was it like to talk to so many people involved, and how do you put it all together into the book? I begin with extensive interviews with the people who have the most creative control over the movie so that I can establish the main attributes, challenges, and areas of interest that might be included in the book. My job is to focus on the particulars that make this movie different from others that have come before. Once I know what really distinguished the movie, I can put together a rough outline of the main topics the book will cover.
These interviews are the most fun part of the book writing process for me. I love talking with creative people who are passionate about their work; to learn how they became interested in their particular field and how they solved the challenges presented to them. Personally, I am fascinated by people who are passionate and committed to their work, no matter what they may do.
When you first started working on The Art of Monsters vs. Aliens, had you seen any footage from the film, (e.g. animated story reels)? There was about 10 minutes of completed (meaning 3-D) film of 2 major scenes in the movie and I was able to view these on a big screen (with polarized glasses) very early in my research.
Have you seen the finished film yet? Yes. I attended a screening last week in Burbank on a Saturday morning. The theater was packed, about half adults and half kids. The movie played brilliantly. The kids were quiet and attentive, except when they were gasping with surprise because of the 3-D effects or howling with laughter. It could not have had a better reception as far as I could see.
From the beginning when you started going through all of the artwork, did one character really stand out for you? Would this now be your favorite character, and if so, why? There are 5 main monsters and one amazing alien (with thousands of alien clones.) All of them were interesting and engaging but since Susan AKA Ginormica is the central character in the movie (and the only “human” monster), she was definitely my favorite.
How is it to see something that you first met through concept art, up on the big screen? [If you’ve seen the finished film], does meet your expectations? The finished film more than met my expectations. It transcends being a “kids” movie with tons of references to more mature concepts like satirizing monster movies from the 50s, references to movies such as Dr. Strangelove and political asides about a somewhat nutty and incompetent president who can’t tell the difference between the button for a cup of latte and the button for an atomic device.
How do you feel The Art of Monsters vs. Aliens compares to other film related books you have worked on? Every new animated film seems to override anything that came before it. The technology changes so rapidly that each new advancement seems to push the entertainment and enjoyment factor just that much further. Monsters vs. Aliens contains special effects elements that have never been seen before.
I noticed that you’ve written a lot of books on Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of OZ. Do you have a favorite children’s book / film? As a child of the 60s I have to ask: Can anything compare to The Wizard of OZ? I saw it in the movie theater when I was 6 years old and I’ve never been so thrilled by anything before or since. That moment when the film transfers from black and white to color was a high point of my childhood. Though the technology advances, it is always those “first time” experiences of our childhood that stay with us forever.
Are there any upcoming projects that you can tell us about? Not yet. Ask me again this summer!
One Movie, Five Views thanks Linda Sunshine for taking the time to answer our questions, and Harry Burton at Newmarket Press for setting everything up.
To read more about The Art of Monsters vs. Aliens visit the page on Newmarket Press's website here.