Peter Rabbit: Turning Sydney’s summery Centennial Park into Beatrix Potter’s frosty England is all part of the day job for Animal Logic’s VP of Development & Production, Felicity Staunton
As the VP of Development & Production for Animal Logic, Felicity Staunton splits her time as a creative producer across films in active production, while developing a slate of over 20 ALE projects set up at major Hollywood studios including Fox, Warner Bros, Lionsgate and Sony.
Felicity’s credits include The LEGO® Movie, Walking With Dinosaurs 3D and The LEGO® Batman Movie. Most recently, Felicity served as Associate Producer on the Columbia Pictures family animated/hybrid film – Peter Rabbit and a Producer on the Peter Rabbit short film.
Describe a typical work week working as Associate Producer on Peter Rabbit.
Someone once told me that being a producer would mean I never had a job description and that couldn’t have proved to be more true! I could be found doing anything from early morning drive-by of our set in Centennial Park, dealing with worldwide marketing needs like trailers and posters or giving notes on the latest turn of the story reels. While facilitating communication out of our office was important, one of the most critical parts of the juggling act was ensuring our producer and I were creatively plugged in to all aspects of the production from story right through to art, design, VFX and animation. It’s all about priorities, and for us the creative comes first.
What are the biggest challenges of actually pulling off an animated/live-action hybrid film?
Along with the incredible technical challenges that hundreds of much smarter people than the producers solved, the success of Peter Rabbit was always going to come down to audiences emotionally connecting with our rabbits. I think the key to pulling that off on any film, whether animated, hybrid or live action is having a great story as a foundation. We spent two years with our development team honing the pitch and first drafts with writer Rob Lieber and Will Gluck, 12 months story-boarding the film alongside almost 40 production drafts and continued to work the story right up until delivery. The film went through many iterations but the bones of what worked right from the very beginning still remain.
What would surprise people to learn about the making of Peter Rabbit?
Except for a handful of shooting days in London and a second unit shoot in the Lake District, the majority of the film was created on location in and around Sydney. The heat the cast and crew braved during what was one of the hottest Sydney summers on record is almost an urban legend now but you wouldn’t know it when you watch the film.
What can you tell us about Peter Rabbit and working with the stellar cast and crew on the production?
Peter Rabbit had awesome casting on both sides of the camera and impressively, the vast majority of the team were Aussies. Casting of both the Animal Logic and Live Action Heads of Department came very early in pre-production and there was a real desire to create a strong collaboration between the Animation & VFX and the Live Action teams. The creative hand-holding is evident from the production design right down to the jackets worn by the rabbits and helps us believe that these very different worlds really coexist.
Peter Rabbit opened to really strong numbers in the USA. Why do you feel it’s been so successful in a market with various animations and VFX films on offer?
I grew up with Beatrix Potter’s stories and I think we have tapped into a certain level of nostalgia for audiences coupled with a unique aesthetic. The bar continues to be raised when it comes to quality in animation and VFX and audiences are becoming increasingly sophisticated. While I like to think we nailed the look of the film and the photo real nature of our bunnies, Peter Rabbit seems to be appealing comedically to parents and older demographics and in turn doesn’t talk down to kids.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the animation business?
Be polite and be persistent! I know it is a cliché, but I started with an animation degree and a willingness to answer the phones and collect the mail and I am forever grateful to the team at Animal Logic who gave me my first shot at the film business. Being in film development, there are always going to be 50 other people lined up with just as much passion, experience and creativity as you have. Find your creative voice, build your relationships and as a very wise producer once told me, ‘be good to people and good things will come.’
Peter Rabbit: http://www.peterrabbit-movie.com/