LIMA, KEVIN – ENCHANTED
RELYING ON INSTINCTS
Kevin Lima was scared to death when starting to direct Enchanted, but his
instincts helped him make a film he is proud of – and makes him cry, he tells
Q: Did you know from the start that Enchanted was going to be a hit?
A: “No I was scared to death, because the movie was a very delicate organism to
bring to life. I felt like all the pieces had to work perfectly together or else
it was just going to be a disaster. You are juggling a comedy with a musical and
some action adventure as well as 2D and 3D animation and a tone that is really
delicate. I had to consider how to pay a loving homage to the material, but
still have enough edge so that it did not come across too saccharine. Those were
elements that I thought were in flux here and I did not know until I saw it with
an audience, whether or not it was going to work. I kept thinking: ‘how are
people going to react to this?’ Everybody around me was saying ‘it’s going to be
great’ and I was Mr. Doomsday. I kept wondering ‘what if adult men hate it.’ My
gut feeling was that it was good. Was I positive that I was doing the right
thing? No you never are. I think I had an instinct telling me that tonally, the
actors were right and that this was the way to do a wonderful homage to Disney,
I knew those things but did not really know how all the pieces would fit
together. You just hope and it really does come down to gut and instinct. Then
seeing it with an audience was a real eye opener because everyone loved it. ”
Q: When did you sense that you had created something special?
A: “I really sensed it when I was standing in the lobby after a screening and
the audience came out and they were all happy. I have never made a movie where
the audience was that happy at the end and vocal about the film, expressing
their feelings. They were singing songs from the film and then I thought ‘this
could be something special’ because the whole goal of the movie was to make
something that was joyful. How do you make a piece of entertainment that
families can go to see, that adults and kids and grandparents and teenagers can
all watch together and everybody can get something out of it? How do you make a
great contemporary Disney film? How do I create the experience of joy that you
get in Mary Poppins, how do I create a modern day Mary Poppins?”
Q: What do you think distinguishes it from other Disney classics?
A: “What’s great about it is that now you have an alternative Disney film. You
can still go back and watch Snow White and enjoy it, Enchanted does not diminish
those stories, but now you have a film with a different point of view. You can
say: you know what? You can pursue what you want. If you want that guy, you can
go after him and maybe you will get him, maybe you will live happily ever after.
Or maybe you could start a business and live happily ever after in a different
way. It gives you different options.”
Q: Can you talk about the casting of the main characters?
A: “It all started with Amy. There was casting going on for other characters but
I thought I am not going to make any other decisions until I have found Giselle.
And I saw 300 girls for the role. I did not want to hire a star, because I
wanted you to believe in Giselle as an innocent creature. I didn’t want you to
think about the DUI (driving under the influence charge) that happened the night
before (in the way you do about some famous stars). I didn’t want the media to
infringe upon the character. It was a bit like perhaps the first time you saw
Splash, or the first time you saw Pretty Woman. With those films you invested in
the characters first and then discovered the actors. That was really the goal.
Amy’s film Junebug had come out when I was casting, but I hadn’t seen it. There
was no Oscar nomination yet for her. I saw other girls but no one right and I
said: ‘I am not making this movie without the right girl. I do not have a girl
who I believe in.’ We were all very worried. I said ‘I will keep trying’. Then
Amy walked into the room one morning. I was really sick on that day and she came
in and lit up and I was so excited because she looked like a Disney princess to
Q: In what way?
A: “She has a really simple way about her. She came in and personified innocence
to me. She has those round eyes and fair skin and I said to myself: ‘please let
her understand how to play this character.’ I wanted the character to be real, I
didn’t want her to be a joke or caricature and she got it. She just became the
character and in that moment I knew – ‘we can make this movie, we have Giselle’.
Because Amy was not a star at that time. We decided that we would have stars in
other roles such as Susan Sarandon and Patrick Dempsey.”
Q: Why Patrick Dempsey as Robert?
A: “We were thinking about a few other guys and I thought that Patrick Dempsey
felt like a modern day Prince Charming. He had those qualities and that kind of
wounded sensitivity that women love, they want to save him. It is actually a
reverse of the whole princess concept. It is a reverse of the fairy tale and I
thought, ‘aah maybe this can work for us’.”
Q: What about James Marsden as Prince Edward, he is very funny?
A: “I had seen him before I met Amy and he was great, then once I had Amy, I
knew it was a great match.”
Q: And Susan Sarandon as Queen Narissa?
A: “Susan was interested in the movie long before I was involved. She had read
it earlier and I knew she loved it and wanted to play the role and I just said
‘ok’. Who wouldn’t want Susan Sarandon in their movie? So I met with her and we
talked about the character and how I felt the actors had to dedicate themselves
to the existence of these characters and she just took it all on board. She
enjoyed it and she loved being the hag. Her favourite part of making the movie
was putting that makeup on and freaking everyone out.”
Q: What does she bring to the character?
A: “She was dedicated to the theatricality of the part. She was not afraid of
the role. If you think about what I asked her to look like, she really looks
like a drag queen. I had pictures for her to look at and I said: ‘this is what I
am thinking’. And she stepped into those shoes which takes some guts to wear
those costumes and live up to them.”
Q: How do you categorise or classify the film?
A: “It is simply a Disney movie. It has all the elements of a classic Disney
film. It takes on the classic Disney structure and modernises it. If you break
it down and you look at it, the placement of the songs are all classical in line
with the Disney structure. The thematic idea is truly a Disney ideal: ‘if you
believe in the joy that is in your heart you can live happily ever after’.”
Q: How do you direct your actors?
A: “It is different for everyone, because everyone has a different journey. You
have a lot of different acting styles happening at the same time. For Amy we had
discussions about the arc of her character, because I thought it was really
important that she grow and evolve. I think Amy is amazing. She really anchors
the film and makes it believable. Patrick was totally frustrated the whole time
on the movie because he could not act over the top like the others and he wanted
to play with all of them, because they were having a great time. His character
was different, he was grounded and that caused a little bit of turmoil for him,
because he didn’t know whether what he was doing was appropriate. There were two
tones going on. He and I would talk about it a lot and I would tell him what he
was doing was right, that it was right for him to act as a real person in
contrast to all these cartoon characters. That was hard for him but he was
great. I used to say to him: ‘trust the confusion, it’s all part of the
Q: What about James?
A: “I can tell you; both James and Amy came in fully formed. They knew what was
needed. It was really just about guidance, they totally understood what they
were doing, they loved Disney movies and they were living in the skin of the
characters. I told them ‘lets go on a journey, let’s play’.”
Q: Was it very challenging directing the wonderful Park scene, when Amy
bursts into song? It is delightful.
A: “I am glad it comes over that way because it was really hard. It was the
hardest part of the movie to pull together because it has so many different
moving parts. If you look at each section of it, it just goes to a new place
with a whole new set of characters. I spent a lot of time at the very beginning
of production working on the scene. I went out with my choreographer and we
talked about everything – the settings and people. It has 150 dancers, 300
extras – there were screaming Patrick Dempsey fans (out of the shot) on the side
the whole time we were filming. It was a really rainy month so we were in and
out of the studio back and forth trying to get as much sunshine as we could. It
took 7 days to shoot over a course of 17 days and it was tough. And the whole
time I was being nagged by a worrying feeling, wondering whether or not it was
going to work, to enchant real people in the real world, because it is really
the only part of the movie where you completely step out of reality and
something fantastic happens. I am thrilled with it though, it feels so
effortless on the screen, it feels like it is happening in the moment.”
Q: Can you talk about the musical element which is central to the film?
A: “When I first read the script there was only one song in the movie at the
very beginning. And I said ‘no if we are going to do an homage to Disney, I want
to follow the structure of a typical Disney movie musically,’ so I added all the
rest of the songs and the songs follow the arc of the growth of Giselle. They
move forward. With the ballroom scene she becomes more human and by the end of
the movie she is totally real. Everything in the movie was about supporting her
evolution. The number in Central Park was all about her singing in the real
world. Some people would find it ridiculous, on the other hand she enchants – as
the title suggests. She enchants everyone she comes into contact with. She
changes their lives.”
Q: Can you talk about Alan Menken’s contribution to the film?
A: “He has an incredible gift of writing a tune that just sticks in your head. I
don’t know why, it’s one of those mystical things. His songs have a special
quality. You hear ‘True Love’s Kiss’ and it somehow reminds you of Snow White.
You have a reference point to accept the song. It was great working with Alan.
He accepted me into his process. I have a great love of music and we
Q: Can you talk about your move from animator to director?
A: “All my life I have had trouble doing one thing for any long period of time.
But I have always been exploring different avenues. From a very early age I knew
I wanted to be an animator. When I was five years old I knew that. Then I went
on side journeys, I became a puppeteer and I was doing a lot of live
performances. I became an animator and did all kinds of jobs at Disney
Animation. I was a character designer; I was a storyboard artist. I had directed
some community theater in the past and eventually I said: ‘I want to be a
director’, I just said it to them and they said: ‘sorry Kev there are no
directing deals here’. So I went away and then one day got called to direct The
Goofy Movie. Then after directing Tarzan I was really proud and felt like I had
made a very good Disney movie. I felt like it was an accomplishment, but decided
I was going to take a big jump and I really wanted to make a live action Disney
movie. Luckily Glenn Close, who was the voice of the mother ape in Tarzan, was
encouraging and said to me: ‘you know what, you direct more like a live action
director than an animation director. Have you ever thought about doing that?’
And it just happened that they were looking for a director for 102 Dalmatians
and they called me. So I have Glenn to blame for my journey! (laughs) But it is
interesting to keep growing, to be at the forefront of new technology, finding
different ways and techniques to direct different stories.”
Q: Where will you go from here?
A: “I don’t really know, I am leaving it open. This movie means a lot for my
career so I am waiting to see what happens. There are a couple of films I want
to do. I have been talking with Disney about doing a film based on a comic from
the early 1900s, which you may not be aware of called Little Nemo In Slumberland.
It is a comic about a little boy who goes into a dream world. It is kind of like
the reverse of what we did with Enchanted, taking a real person and putting him
into an animated world. So we will see what happens.’
Q: Would you like to do an entirely different kind of project?
A: ‘I think about it everyday, I would love to do a drama that is emotional?
Q: Were you a big Disney fan as a child?
A: “I saw Jungle Book when I was five years old. My mom tells me in that moment
I decided to be an animator. I have been drawing all my life and I cannot
remember a time when I did not have a pencil in my hand to be quite honest with
you. And she says I turned to her and said: ‘Mom I am going to draw Disney
cartoons when I grow up’. I have a fondness for Jungle Book - that film really
speaks to me. My mom would buy me the record albums and there was a sleeve on
the inside and I would draw all the Disney characters. I was obsessed with them.
I still have a couple of them. My Mom was very encouraging; she actually bought
me a book on animation. I took to it so naturally. She didn’t know if my dream
would ever come true, it was a big dream, but she always supported me. For me as
an adult, the trick is to keep growing and evolving as an artist, but still be
true to that dream – who I am and what I love. This film is part of my dream and
I consider myself quite lucky that this movie came together the way it did and
that audiences have been responding such a positive way. I am so happy.”
Q: You must be thrilled with Enchanted?
A: “I am thrilled, I am proud of the film, it makes me cry.”
Published: May 29, 2008
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Kevin Lima and Amy Adams on set
Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) is a fairytale princess about to be married to
Prince Edward (James Marsden). But the evil queen (Susan Sarandon) thrusts her
from her fantasy world to present day New York City, where she meets Robert
(Patrick Dempsey), a handsome lawyer, who lives with his young daughter Morgan
(Rachel Covey). Giselle quickly discovers that the reality of life and love are
quite different from what she imagined. But in order to make her dreams come
true, she needs to avoid the poisoned apple with which the queen’s henchman
Nathanial (Timothy Spall) is trying to tempt her and avoid the wicked queen.