Dorothy McKim Interview, Producer Meet The Robinsons

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

Movies Online recently sat down with Dorothy McKim, the producer of Disney’s new Digital 3D film, MEET THE ROBINSONS, directed by Steve Anderson in his feature debut. The film and its outrageously imaginative world will come to dazzling life in groundbreaking Disney Digital 3D on an unprecedented number of screens – more than 600 nationwide –marking Disney’s most creative and ambitious venture into 3D moviemaking yet. This exciting new format brings to life the already beautifully rendered world of state-of-the-art CG animation and presents not only an unparalleled movie-going experience but a glimpse into the future of digital entertainment.

The story begins with Lewis, a boy-genius with a love of gizmos and gadgets and an undying hope of finding the family he never knew. But Lewis’ journey is about to take him to a place even he couldn’t have imagined, a place where the impossible no longer exists: the future. When Lewis encounters a mysterious stranger named Wilbur Robinson, he’s in for the time-travel of his life and will be whisked off to meet a family unlike any other – the sublimely fun and futuristic Robinsons – who will help him to discover a series of amazing and heartfelt secrets about his own limitless potential. But his incredible trip will also bring him into conflict with a villain who gives evil a bad name: the bungling Bowler Hat Guy, who steals Lewis’ only way home. Filled with unforgettable characters, clever contraptions, classic villains and all kinds of eye-popping exuberance, MEET THE ROBINSONS continues in the beloved Disney legacy of looking ahead to a dazzling world of tomorrow – as it unfolds a story about believing in family, yourself and the wide open future.

Disney pioneered the high-tech rebirth of 3D with the Disney Digital 3D release of the animated hit "Chicken Little". A special Halloween engagement of "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas” in Disney Digital 3D was also a huge success. But those releases, while doing banner box-office business in select cities, provided just a peek into the potential of Disney Digital 3D. So now, Disney takes a major leap, both in terms of more sophisticated 3D storytelling and the opportunity for a far wider audience to enjoy the state-of-the-art 3D experience with MEET THE ROBINSONS - a movie tailor-made for this kind of forward-looking fun.

Producer McKim especially liked the fact that this is also one animated film with a mix of fun, action and adventure, as well as a number of surprise twists. "Unlike traditional Disney movies of the past, there are a few major ‘gotchas’ in MEET THE ROBINSONS, such as secret identities and surprises from the future,” she muses.

MEET THE ROBINSONS met up with further inspiration from the new Chief Creative Officer for Disney and Pixar Studios, animation pioneer John Lasseter. "John has set the bar in animated storytelling,” says Dorothy McKim, "and his input helped make a great movie even greater. He helped to bring even more heart and comedy to the movie.”

Dorothy McKim is a fabulous person and we really appreciated her time. Here’s what she had to tell us about making MEET THE ROBINSONS in Disney Digital 3D:

Q: How did you get involved with this?

DOROTHY MCKIM: I got involved in the movie in December of ’03 and working along side with Steve, I was given the script. He had already been on the film for about a year. I read it and fell in love with it right from the beginning and wanted to work with Steve. We’ve been in the same room together but have never worked directly with each other.

Q: Was it always going to be this type of film where you’re going to push the envelope with 3-D?

DOROTHY MCKIM: Yeah. When we first started, we were more concentrated actually on the mono version, really working on that and knowing that ‘Chicken Little’ was 3-D and we were going to be working on it, so it was always in the back of our mind having 3-D, and Phil McNally jumped on and really started spearheading the whole project and educating myself and Steve with the 3-D process in stereoscopic and what it means, and what are the shots that you want make wow, and just educating us through the whole process, which was fantastic, because it really helped that Steve was able to concentrate on making the mono version, but knowing the 3-D version, because he had the eyes and ears with Phil, and having that partnership.

Q: Do you feel like you understand how 3-D works?

DOROTHY MCKIM: It’s interesting, because Phil McNally will speak in layman’s terms. He’ll describe to us that your right eye is doing this, your left eye is doing this, and when we’re working along side him, he made it very clear that you don’t want to flood the entire film with all these shots coming out at you, and he would give us examples of what really works, what doesn’t work, and what you’re going to want to hold on making your wild shots, because you don’t want the audience to walk out and feel tired from feeling all of that. To answer your question, it’s not my area of expertise but I feel educated enough to know what you should push and what you shouldn’t push, and we were just fortunate to have him along side with us, and hoping not to get too overwhelmed with it.

Q: Did you collaborate with Phil McNally on a daily basis?

DOROTHY MCKIM: Yeah, we did. When our shots would come out of shot finaling, out of color, we would deliver those to Phil and his team, and we would go over them. But even before that, he set up a whole entire process for us, showing us kind of like a roller coaster, not a schedule, but just what the movie is, he had laid it out. He says, ‘This is where you’re going to run it here, high points, this is where you want to come emotionally, this is where you want to push it,’ so he did this whole entire process for Steve and I, and we were able to weigh in and just say ‘yeah,’ or Steve’s like, ‘This is a really emotional part, and I really want that to be right there with people.’ So we just worked constantly that way. We had daily updates with him.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the story?

DOROTHY MCKIM: It’s a time travel movie, and it’s of a boy, Lewis, who is 12 years old and he’s grown up in an orphanage his entire life. He’s on the verge of turning 13, and he’s going to build a memory scanner and by building a memory scanner he thinks he will be able to retrieve all the lost and forgotten memories of his mom, so he wants to be able to find her. So he’s an inventor, he invents this memory scanner, he goes to a science fair, he presents this, in comes Bowler Hat Guy, he’s the villain, he wants to claim it as his own.

Q: Is this a story for every age?

DOROTHY MCKIM: I think it’s for every age. There’s something in there for the little 5-year-old, something for 15-year-olds, the teenagers, and I think the adults.

Q: How did you plan the placement of 3-D technology in the film?

DOROTHY MCKIM: I think because we planned it all along we were able to strategically place those shots. We want you to feel that you’re actually in the moment, so when you’re in the time machine, when the time machine’s flying, you feel like you’re in it. I think you feel that same way too with the mono version, it’s just a different element. And I think there are moments where you can reach out and touch the grass, or you feel like you’re in the bubble moving. We didn’t make every shot that, in your face pushing, but enough to make you feel a different experience, and that’s what we wanted to do. We’re taking you to a place that you’ve never been before, and it’s just another way to experience the film.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?

DOROTHY MCKIM: On this movie we are working with humans and to make them not photo realistic, it was really important to us to not make them look too human. And we wanted to keep their cartoon animated look with them and with the textures on their skin, the hair and the cloth was a challenge for us and I think we’ve accomplished that, I think it looks phenomenal, and the textures on the building, and also with the stereoscopic version it was great because we actually finished the movie at the end of January and by mid-February we had finished with the stereoscopics, so it wasn’t that much greater of an effort to finish, it was only a couple of weeks behind.

Q: Is there going to be a mono version as well as a 3-D version?

DOROTHY MCKIM: We have a mono version that will go out in theatres and then the stereo version will be in about 700 theatres. That’s a lot, because there was 80 to 120 on ‘Chicken Little,’ so about 700, and we’ll be over in Europe as well.

Q: Is there anything different about doing a film like this in 3-D with the actors that voice it?

DOROTHY MCKIM: No, we approach the film as – Steve when he approached it in making the regular one is just make it for really great storytelling; don’t get caught up with all the stuff that’s around you. We really wanted to make sure it was a really strong story, and also with characters that people are going to get to know and that will live on for a really long time beyond the release of this film, and that was the most important thing to us. And what CG has helped us to do is to be able to tell that story a little bit better and also with having it in the stereo version, it’s just another element for us. And the exciting thing about this movie is it lent itself to stereo. It was a movie because you’re flying and anytime I think that you’re flying and you have something in 3-D just pulls you right along with it.

Q: Is it tremendously different from the 3-D in ‘Chicken Little’?

DOROTHY MCKIM: I think we had more time on this film, there’s a little bit more planning that went along with it, but Chicken Little came a little bit earlier. I think they did a phenomenal job with what they were working with, and I think because of the nature of our film, because you’re going to the future and the elements that are in our film just lend itself to this medium.

Q: Is there talk about a sequel? Was it written like a sequel?

DOROTHY MCKIM: That’s up to the director if he wants to do one. He hasn’t really talked about it.

Q: Do you think this is the future of animated films?

DOROTHY MCKIM: I think, of course some lend themselves more than others, I hope it is because for the general audience I think it’s another thing that they can go to. I’m really excited about it, because I think the technology has advanced so much, you don’t get tired, you don’t get those headaches. In fact, we’ll watch this film and I don’t feel ever I’m watching a 3-D movie, but it’s neat to have something kind of right there. I hope it’s part of the future.

Q: It’s like another storytelling tool that you have at your disposal because the technology has advanced enough that you can do that and if it suits the story as it does in this film, it really gives you something to engage the audience with.

DOROTHY MCKIM: I think it’s exciting too because we have our corporate who is very much behind it and supportive, so that is really exciting to watch this entire company support stereo.

Q: Have you had feed back from kids who have seen it?

DOROTHY MCKIM: We haven’t shown our film yet to an outside audience, but I know my kids like 3-D movies and they want to go see it. Kids love putting on glasses, there’s something about glasses that they want to put on and they’re actually able to see something in another element, so I think they’re really going to enjoy it.

Q: Do you think there will come a day when we can do a live action film in 3-D and it will work?

DOROTHY MCKIM: I think so, I think they can. I know you’ll be talking to Phil McNally, and the way he describes it, and I won’t take his words, but the way he describes it will take you to another ???

Q: Is he more like an artist, or is he more like a technician?

DOROTHY MCKIM: I actually view him as both, I think he’s somebody that is so – it’s like Steve being the director on this movie, Steve is so passionate about his story, Phil McNally is very passionate about stereoscopic, he lives, eats and breathes it, and the best thing about him overall more than anything is that he does speak in layman’s terms, and you walk away going, ‘He just said something very complicated, and I totally got what he said,’ he goes down the really basic, basic, basic in the way he explains it, but his enthusiasm for it is just so exciting, and he is such a collaborator working with us, and ?? here are the hundred shots that I really think you need to spend your time on, and don’t worry about maybe these other ones. He was able to deliver on schedule for us and go in and plus even more shots than we thought that he was going to do. I think he pushes the envelope and he is just so knowledgeable in technology and constantly making it better.

Q: When watching it, it becomes obvious that the technology didn’t overwhelm the story.

DOROTHY MCKIM: Yeah, he wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just about that. It’s like when you go in, you have too many effects and it’s like that was great but you forget what the story was or the characters. He didn’t, he just made it part of our process and it’s like having a new color, something else that’s pleasing to the eye.

Q: Thanks for your time today.


"MEET THE ROBINSONS” opens in theaters on March 30th.



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