Rango: Behind The Scenes with Johnny Depp Rango: Behind The Scenes with Johnny Depp
Feature Film

Rango: Behind The Scenes with Johnny Depp

This behind-the-scenes video, which first appeared last week on Entertainment Tonight’s website, showcases the way Gore Verbinski is directing his voice actors and filming them as reference for the animators – a cross between traditional recording and motion capture articulations.

  • MJ

    This sounds great. From what I’ve seen, a lot of recording is done separately with actors. I was wondering when someone would push for recording sessions with actors interacting with other actors. This is going to add more idiosyncracies and improvisation with characters instead of a straight-up cold reading from the actor. Didn’t Fantastic Fox do this with their actors? This looks like its done on a much more great and grander scale.

    But does this mean that animators will have less to work with because the acting is already set out for them?

    • Fantastic Mister Fox also had the voice actors interacting in the environments that the scenes themselves were set in, which helped to give it a much more organic feel. The actors didn’t feel like they were recording in a vocal booth, because they weren’t.

      I’m pretty sure Futurama’s voice staff all record in the same room together, as well, recording it as scenes rather than individual lines.

  • I’ve seen dozens of Making Ofs and Behind The Scenes, but this one is the first I actually had to laugh. This film looks more and more promising.

  • Looks like it could be fun.

  • Rango looks like it’ll be a lot of fun. It’s on my “must see” list.

  • Tee

    The most promising animated feature release this coming year. I hope this is good. I’m a big POTC fan, so I’m more than optimistic.

  • LooniInMiami

    Hasn’t Don Bluth done this before? I remember seeing some Titan AE footage where he had actors filmed while they acted out pre-recorded dialogue. The more things change.

    • MichaelHughes

      That was for straight up rotoscoping.

  • Looks like the rich kids have come to the ghetto to play in our sandbox.

    • Erm, Gore Verbinski has been directing animated characters for almost two decades. You remember the Budweiser Frogs? He directed that.

      He also directed MouseHunt as well the Pirates of the Caribbean films, which feature central CG characters. Davey Jones in particular is one of the most visually striking and emotive photoreal CG characters yet made.

      Also when you think that the Pirates films would have been directed as digital animatics before he even got on set, to do a fully CG animated film seems like a natural progression.

      So hes been in the sandbox long enough to direct a fully animated CG film.

      And please don’t refer to animation as a ghetto.

      • Was My Face Red

        When they ignore us we complain… when they want to work with us we complain…

  • Paul N

    Seems like a good idea, and I imagine the voice performances are different because it’s more like what the actors are used to.

  • Paul N
  • This movie is looking better and better. I like the idea of having the voice actors perform their own parts like this. It makes for better refrencing when the animation stage comes along.

  • Toonio

    Here comes ILM to pull the rug below Pixar, Dreamworks and Blue Sky.

    No wonder why Pixar pulled out from the Gecko project. They don’t want themselves compared to nothing else (to play safe maybe?).

    • PeteR

      Hardly. Ilm is just a service company on this film. No studio would give them money to make a film without a track record of creating stories from scratch.

  • Alissa

    The more I see of this movie the more I like it.

  • tony mccarson

    It was just like what the “walt disney” animation studios did back in the 20th century.

  • Sherrie

    The more I see of this, the more I start to like it!

  • Karen

    Animated features have in recent years recorded the actors for key scenes together (all of them). But they also get the lines individually. The story changes/updates necessitate this, as do clean recordings.

    As for video recording actors doing their lines, this is also fairly standard practice. Nothing new here.

    The film looks weird–like a videogame. The “design” work is all over the map, and not much of it is very appealing. And the trailers really make the story seem quite dated.

    • joe micallef

      I think “weird” will have it’s audience with this film. It’s definitely quirky – and people will be drawn to that.

      As for the design, like it or not, CG films and video games will soon be indistinguishable. But I think they are doing some great things with the lighting – using it to partially obscure characters (in the bar/catina scene especially) – breaking up the symmetry (in the characters faces) to create a sense of mystery.

      • PeteR

        Except movies will have a story and strong characters. Hopefully.

      • joe micallef

        The transmedia approach is to hopefully: have “coordinated use of storytelling across platforms (i.e movies, games, toys,books, etc…) that can make the characters more compelling.” (January 15, 2003). “Transmedia Storytelling”. Technology Review. http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/13052/.)

        Pixar is becoming a master at this approach with Toy Story 3 & Cars 2.

    • Paul N

      “As for video recording actors doing their lines, this is also fairly standard practice. Nothing new here.”

      This is the first time I’ve seen the actors working on a “set” and being followed by a boom mic. Yes, shooting video of actors recording voice isn’t new, but that usually takes the form of them standing in a sound booth behind a music stand.

  • “emotion capture” love it, if only some people producing Beatles movie remakes could learn from this.

  • Spencer


  • WOW. gotta say I found that awesome and fun! SO Glad its not motion capture. Good to see actors being actors which allows the animators to be animators! looking forward to this one.

    I believe fantastic mr fox recorded voices in a similar manner.

    • joe micallef

      totally! but I also feel that the animators should be the actors.

  • david

    Okay Mel, what we’re going to do is film you, that’s right, you’re gonna walk over here, say your line, Chuck here is going to stand in for elmer, he’s gonna shoot you with this shotgun here,then you deliver daffy’s line. What’s that Mel? Oh it’s EMOTION CAPTURE, no, no, we can’t just record you in front of a mic Mel, we’re going to have you ACT IT OUT in this empty set. It’ll be a good reference for the animators. yah, trust me on this.

  • Lyle

    most definitely going to see this one!!

  • I love what David had to say.

    Yep, Mel Blanc and the old Warner Bros. Masters sure got it all wrong. These new guys are going to show us how to really do funny stuff, aren’t they?

    • Tom

      You and David realize that many of the best scenes from Looney Tunes were physically acted out in this exact same way with the animators pantomiming the roles for reference, right? Also the idea that every cartoon is supposed to be in some kind of competition with classic Warner Bros is asinine.

      Really glad to see a CG movie moving away from the generic super cute Dreamworks/Pixar house styles and this looks like a lot of fun.

      • diego

        PLEASE let them try out stuff, nobody is saying that this approach is the best one and that the classic animators should have made the same thing. They are experimenting with a different system, a different technique. What’s wrong with that? It seems healthy to me.

      • Was My Face Red

        Floyd doesn’t want anything in his sandbox except memories.

      • david

        i watched the video, they show johnny depp making a specific expression, then the same model practically do the SAME EXPRESSION, no exaggeration, nothing. It has nothing to do with comparing to warner brothers, that was an example, my point is (and it’s been made many times before), why does animation, an amazing artform that CAN DO ANYTHING IT WANTS, have to succumb to imitating real life… to a t. Why not just film it live action (the practically did, minus the sets, does anyone else find that absurd??) what’s the point? even those character designs are hyper realistic in terms of detail that it’s kind of disturbing to look at.

        oh that, and it’s a huge waste of money.

  • Mr. James

    I’m actually looking forward to buying this on Blu-Ray already if they have a split screen mode when playing the movie. I would LOVE to watch the entire film with all of the real actors playing around in that big empty set. I love it! I especially like the part near the end when the physical actor got thrown across the screen behind Depp. The fact that they actually did that for pure reference makes me smile and think that they might have something here with this movie.

  • That’s my point. They were acted out by the animators.

    • hitface

      so that means them using reference like they did long ago is somehow shitty because they’re doing it with actors instead of animators? are you a hipster or something? oh em gee what sell outs, using actors to do the voices and do the reference for them

      • Animators are Actors.

  • Stephen Levinson

    I really like the way they did that. Seems like a better idea than just an actor sitting in a booth.

  • joe micallef

    You just called an animation legend a hipster. Please google Floyd Norman – and you’ll learn something about the history of animation. But you miss the point entirely: animators are actors!

    • diego

      I agree. But that doesn’t mean they can’t use reference material. They are able to discover shapes and movements in the face of the actors that they couldn’t otherwise discover. Drawing stuff from reality helps you to learn how to draw. Cartoonists do caricatures based on real life. This is not Motion Capture or Rotoscoping. The animators could learn some stuff from this process.

      Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean that this is the correct way to do it, it’s just a different technique. I like classical animation and I don’t usually enjoy CGI crap. I’d hate to see this technique transformed into a formula. The thing is the fun dissipates when you can’t experiment.

      • hitface

        i really don’t care if he’s a legend. I get that animators are also actors. They work fine when they want general reference. However, they want to see how the people doing the voices do their thing. I think you are all missing the point… They aren’t doing this just to see what it looks like when someone walks in baggy chaps, or wears a hat way too big for their head. They want to see the people who are trying to put a bit of extra life into the characters do their thing. They want to see how Johnny Depp walks in the too-big chaps. But really, t he people complaining sound like hipsters to me, that complain about everyone liking what they like, or how actors or musicians are sell outs unless they were around in the 90s and earlier, or very unknown.
        For example, in alice in wonderland, they had the voice actor for the march hare, who was a well known comedian at the time, act out his lines for reference. They also had Alice’s voice actress do her bit, very similar to what they are doing here. but you love them don’t you? Because this is new, you hate it. Because you recognize some of their names, you hate it (not talking about YOU exactly, but people in general). Because it’s being made by a *hollywood* studio and not an animation studio, people are hating on it. They probably are also hating it because they aren’t trying to completely rip off the good(see also: out dated stuff by dead guys) cartoons.
        buh, I’m sorry but I really don’t understand the hatred. I’m being hateful too, so I apologize. can someone explain to me their side of it beyond ARGLE BLARGLE ITS DONE BY MOVIE STARS”

  • Milo Thatch

    I don’t buy the hype on this one. It seems like the advertising is very concerned about selling the PROCESS instead of the STORY. Studios are now keenly aware of “motion capture” being a bad word thanks to Mr. Zemeckis, so it’s anything they can do to avoid using it (“e-motion capture”? really??).

    Personally, the film lacks a lot of appeal visually. That could just be my opinion. Photo-real detail does not equal appeal.

    And I’m not sure why Hollywood directors who operate largely outside of animation are so hell-bent on minimizing what the ANIMATOR truly does on a show. I love Cameron’s Avatar, but man the animators really took an ego-bashing when the actors/filmmakers promoted it!

    I might see Rango once, but so far from everything I’ve seen, it doesn’t make me think it will be a BELOVED film in years to come. Until then however, I will give it a chance and wait and see…

  • I largely agree with Milo.

    I’ll buy this BS when animators and other animation film makers are invited into the big shot “live-action play pen.”

    How soon do you think that will happen?

    • Gobo

      Actors act for a living. Animators draw for a living. Letting actors interact physically as reference for animators was done on Snow White. This is nothing new — Gore Verbinski is just doing it Disney style.

    • Tooves

      Brad bird is currently directing the next Mission Impossible film.

    • HAL9000

      Uh, Brad Bird is directing Mission Impossible, Andrew Stanton is directing John Carter of Mars. These aren’t the first two animation directors to be “invited into the big shot live action play pen”. Your bitterness really shows through in the way you talk about this. I guess all those years in the business weren’t the wonderful experience one would have hoped?

      The ideas that animation is a “ghetto”, and that the the folks making this film went into this with some kind of attitude about showing animation folks “how it should be done” are both ridiculous. As if every film (animated or not) has to be approached in the same way, using the same methods. Ugh, what a narrow viewpoint. I promise you that no one embarking on this film had any agenda, or gave any thought whatsoever to showing up the animation industry with some brave new process. I further assure you, that the animators who worked on this film shots TONS of reference of themselves acting out their shots in addition to using the reference footage from the voice recording sessions.

      PS – In my opinion, while the end result of actors and animators is the same, I think that their processes are SO different, that it’s not exactly correct to simply say “animators are actors”.

      • P. Cornhair

        You tell ’em HAL9000!

  • Ricardo

    Seems like a good technique and lots of fun for the actors, but… I don’t know, I just don’t like the looks of it.

    Could be fun, though.

  • Karen

    “Actors act for a living. Animators draw for a living.”

    Animators act and animate for a living. Some draw.

    • Gobo

      Any animator working who doesn’t do any drawing in his or her job shouldn’t be working.

  • was my face red.

    Frank Tashlin did quite well.. and Terry Gilliam, both drawing on their cartoon sensibilities.

  • Dr. Ivo Robotnik

    Boy, I can’t get over how much stupid there is in these comments. Oh well, I won’t let Animation Website ruin my fun- I’m going to go see this movie and I’m going to enjoy it.

    Oh, and you know what else I liked? HAPPY FEET! Yeah, that’s right, the singing penguin movie! I also liked A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Yeah, the one with JIM CARREY! Oh, I must have no taste, no standards! Nothing can hold a candle to the masterpiece of early-19th century animation gold that is Paddy the Pelican, after all.

    I end up liking a lot of animated features I go to see. Not all, but a lot, because a lot of work goes into them. Now tell me that my tastes suck, or call me a Philistine. This place is for elitists and every other headline is, “Bawwww, this movie/cartoon that hasn’t even come out yet sucks!” Hey, dicks, how about letting US decide that for ourselves? Novel concept, right?

    I’m going to love the SHIT out of this movie, AND the TinTin movie, out of pure spite, and there’s not a goddamn thing you scribbling, nostalgic crybabies can do about it.

  • That Chick

    I love you Dr.Robotnik, that is why you are my second favorite villian. I’m sorry but Bowser is first.

    The elitism in “animation culture” has got to go!