The feature film Enchanted (2007) takes audiences on the journey of Giselle (Amy Adams), who’s living happily in a 2-D pastoral fairyland until she falls in love immediately with Prince Edward (James Marsden) and is banished by his disapproving mother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon). Suddenly Giselle is propelled from an idyllic world reminiscent of Disney animation into the 3-D present-day, live-action New York City.
Director KevinLima was the key factor in making the film a success.
Lima was a graduate of California Institute of the Arts was a character animator on Fagin for Oliver and Company (1988), a character designer on The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and The Beast (1991), and did storyboards on Aladdin (1992) in addition to many other credits.
However, Lima was always interested in directing and ended up doing so on A Goofy Movie (1995) and Tarzan (1999) as well as the live action 102 Dalmatians (2000).
However, even though Enchanted was a Disney film, Disney was unable to provide the necessary animation for the film. Disney had dismantled its hand drawn 2-D animation department after the poor showing of animated features like Treasure Planet, Brother Bear and Home on the Range.
James Baxter had worked as an animator at Disney on The Little Mermaid and Rescuers Down Under before becoming the supervising animator on Rafiki in The Lion King, Belle in Beauty and the Beast and Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and then moved to work on animated features at DreamWorks.
At the beginning of 2005, he started his own studio — James Baxter Animation.
In October, he heard about Enchanted and phoned Lima directly asking to be considered. Two other studios were also under consideration. Baxter demonstrated to Lima a similar passion for the project as his own. Lima and his team did the final storyboards and recorded the voices and sent all of that to Baxter whose studio did layout, final design, animation and everything up through final color.
Lima said at the time of the film’s release, “James Baxter is immersed in what it is to be a Disney animator and he knows what those iconic ideas mean. On top of all of that, he’s a phenomenal actor with the pencil, making a character come across on the page. And we basically started working on the design process of the characters together. The storyboards were pretty much done by the time he came aboard.”
Storyboard supervisor/ conceptual consultant Troy Quane said to writer Jeremie Noyer, “The biggest problem, I think, was working on the animated opening. One of my biggest concerns was to really nail down that opening because that really gives you the rules of this world. Even when we’re going to New York, these are the rules that these characters live by and that translates very directly to New York when they get to be real people.”
Lima shared, “Of course, there are references that people still haven’t gotten. The troll’s loin cloth is made up of the earliest dresses worn by Disney princesses like Snow White, Belle, Aurora and Cinderella. It’s like four dresses and his earrings are Ariel’s purple shells from her bra. It is sort of the idea that he has eaten all of the princesses or something worse and now he’s after Giselle so there is a real danger there.”
Andreas Deja did much of the animation on the troll and also the Old Hag character. He was also going to do much of the Sarandon Wicked Witch as well but by the time many of those scenes were ready, he had gone back to Disney so much of that work was done by Baxter. Baxter also did much of the work on Prince Edward as well.
Baxter along with Mark Henn, and Robert Domingo were the primary animators on Giselle with a few other people picking up an occasional shot.
Having just started his studio, Baxter needed to build his team so he “borrowed” animators from other studios where he had done some work and had maintained good relationships.
Some studios did not currently have work for some of their top artists but were still paying them salaries. For a few months, Andreas Deja and Mark Henn were borrowed from Disney with Baxter paying their salaries. He also borrowed Robert Domingo and William Salazar from DreamWorks.
Lima told writer Joe Strike, “I shot live-action reference footage of Amy doing some of the scenes her character would be doing in animation and gave them to the animators so they could understand how Amy was going to translate her character in the real world.
“On the other hand, James Baxter did some animation tests which I shared with Amy. It helped her find Giselle’s float — a way of moving that feels like she’s not taking firm, deep steps.
“Before we had anybody in front of a camera as real people, we had already animated maybe a quarter of our scenes. I shared all of that with the actors before filming, and they found that incredibly, incredibly helpful. Its one thing to look at the past and see how the Disney heroes and heroines were animated — but its a whole other thing to see yourself interpreted as one; that really drove it home for them.”
Baxter told writer Joe Strike, “Kevin told us, ‘I need your animation to be not just as good, but in some respects better [than the classic films they were emulating]. I need it to be as good as people remember it being — better than it really is’.
“The direction we got was to not make them complete caricatures of the performer, but to draw them as Disney characters and the actor they were based on would then be the perfect person to play that character. I took a lot of influences. Nathaniel obviously had to look like Timothy Spall, but there’s also some of (Peter Pan’s) Mr. Smee and Snoops from The Rescuers in him, along with bits and pieces of other characters too.”
Lima emphasized, “Shrek tends to beat up on Disney, but this is just the opposite. The ideas behind the fairy-tale movies might be somewhat antiquated, but put into the real world, they don’t have to be cynical. They can still have that same joy.
“Early on in the process, we tried to let the script speak back to all the traditional Disney movies and we peppered in a lot of those iconic ideas. We looked at ways to work in such things as a glass slipper or a poisoned apple, especially that moment when (Giselle) takes a bite out of it and the apple hits the ground and you see the character’s arm hit the floor and the apple roll away.
“We ended up calling those the ‘princess moments’ in the movie and there are a lot of them sort of hidden throughout the movie. Queen Narissa appears reflected in water in everything from glass bottles to a soup pot like the Magic Mirror in Snow White.
“Nathaniel is talking to the Queen in the soup bowl. Originally, he was talking to the Queen in a toilet bowl but we felt that that was going the wrong way and we moved it to the kitchen.”
Lima told an interviewer, “I do believe in happily ever after. It’s funny to me that people are curious about my personal beliefs when it comes to this subject. I don’t think I would have been able to direct Enchanted if I didn’t.”