Dreamworks’ animation feature “Rise of the Guardians,” a 3D, computer-animated fantasy action film, directed by Peter Ramsey is pure holiday magic. Childhood companions, Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and Sandman are so much more than the magical creatures that leave us toys, money, Easter eggs and pleasant dreams. They are the guardians of childhood. And when Fear (Jude Law) rears its ugly head, the mysterious Man in the Moon elects Jack Frost (Chris Pine), our reluctant hero, to join the team.
Based on William Joyce’s “The Guardians of Childhood” book series, the action-packed movie whisks the audience off to a world where the hopes and dreams of children are fiercely guarded and, best yet, we get to know those magical heroes who bring joy to children’s lives. And it puts Fear, better known as Pitch, in his place.
“Rise of the Guardians,” director Ramsey says, “It was all about coming back to the characters, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Trying to find a reason why they have existed for so long and that kids love them the way they do. And we figured, you know what, they must give kids hope, and they must give them some kind of strength, because it’s been hundreds of years that they have kind of represented the best of childhood. So, you know the real reason for them must be giving kids courage to fight against the negative and dark things in the world. We just wanted to dramatize that.”
This is a magic time for Ramsey, too. “Rise of the Guardians” marks the first time a big-budget, character-generated animated film was directed by an African American. Ramsey came to the project with stellar credentials as 2009’s “Monsters vs. Aliens” live-action director, and a former storyboard artist on a number of films. He’s been with Dreamworks for more than eight years.
Ramsey is living his dream. Maybe the magic and wonder he and his team put into the film is a reflection of their lives. We all know the important role parents play in childhood magic. Ramsey is quick to speak about the role his parents, Herbert and Pauline Ramsey, played in his.
Ramsey, 49, hails from the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles. “I was really lucky,” he says. “I had a mother and a father in the house for my whole life that cared about me, and I knew that they cared about me. I knew that they loved me and I never had any doubt of that. And they really supported me in being the person I wanted to be. My dad would have loved to have a quarterback, or the next Manny Rodriquez, or whoever. He would have loved that. But he saw me sitting in there drawing my little pictures and what not . . . and he went you know what? ‘OK, that’s fine. just be yourself and do what you want to do.’”
I asked Ramsey to describe what he was feeling at this point in his career, “It’s kind of unreal, I have to say. You work on something so closely and with so much energy for three whole years and suddenly it’s over . . . when we first finished I actually got a little depressed because there was, like, there’s nothing else to do. It just has to go out into the world. But now the people are starting to react to it.
And I see that people like it, adults and kids. It’s really exciting. It’s good to know that your work and your friends’ work seem to be paying off.”
Ramsey points out that hundreds of people worked on the film, all with childhood memories of their own. One can only think that’s why “Rise of the Guardians” is such a heartwarming, entertaining film that will have children as well as adults cheering for the Guardians. “Rise of the Guardians” is sure to become a holiday classic.
“Rise of the Guardians” is in theaters now. What a great way to kick off the holiday season.
Gail can be reached at email@example.com