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Interview with Disney’s “The Pirate Fairy” Director Peggy Holmes & Producer Jenni Magee-Cook

 

The Pirate Fairy

When I was out in Los Angeles a few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to screen the upcoming Walt Disney Home Entertainment release from Disneytoon Studios called The Pirate Fairy. The Blu-ray/DVD film will be available on April 1, 2014. I’ll be posting my review for the film in the next few days. It’s a fantastic film – great for girls and boys.

After we screened the movie we had the opportunity to interview the film’s Director Peggy Holmes and Producer Jenni Magee-Cook. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

Q: This is an amazing movie with an amazing cast.  How did the casting go about?

Peggy – Well the series, the Fairies Franchise series, our main girls Tinker Bell, Silvermist, Rosetta, Iridessa, and, um, Fawn and Vidia have all been cast since the beginning.  We have Jason Henkel here who’s our casting director.  And he’s fantastic.  And then in this particular case, the cast we added which was Christina Hendricks and Tom Hiddleston, we worked with Jason, we talked about sort of what we wanted the, what the characters were like. And then he brings a list to us. In this case they are our top picks for each character, which was incredible.

Jenni – (In reference to Christina Hendricks being cast as Zarina) … We really wanted you to like her.  And we wanted to find a character that was likeable but yet you could understand made a big mistake, and goes away.  But also had to be powerful, I mean, she’s a seven inch fairy fighting pirates.  So she’s got to be vulnerable and sweet out front.

But then she’s got to be tough when she’s a pirate, so it took a really big range of acting and Christina Hendricks is amazing.  And we all knew her from Mad Men and we knew she could have that sharp tone- tough wit, but she has such a sensitive soft side to her also.  And she has such a passion for this passion and really excited by coming in and doing a fairy.  She’s a, a huge Disney fanatic, so remember we showed her around the building and we were in the story room showing her art and hee just was totally in the story about how it dawned on her.  She was going to be a fairy.

Peggy – Tom Hiddleston was first choice yes, he did it, which was just amazing.  And one of the great things about Tom is first of all he’s a triple threat right. He can sing dance and act, which is amazing.

And that’s what Tom understood was how to then get a bigger than life character, a bigger than life performance that was believable for today’s audience.  And Tom got that right off the bat…  Our thought was that Hook is not as bitter, and evil as he is in Peter Pan yet.  Because he hasn’t had all the failures. But you can see he’s going to start to have a lot of failures and a lot of things that go wrong for him.  And he’s got big ideas that just don’t work out. Tom really had a handle on kind of how to make this a character super charming and loyal and very unassuming. And then make that flip, which was great.

Pirate Fairy display in the Disneytoon Studios lobby

Pirate Fairy display in the Disneytoon Studios lobby

The ladies discussed how the whole pirate theme for the movie came about.

Peggy – We knew we wanted Zarina to make a mistake and run away from home. And I wanted her to come back because that is what Disney is all about, is what Tinker Bell is about. She has a huge heart, Tinker Bell knows all about making mistakes and kind of owning up to those. That’s the kind of gal she is. And she’s super loyal. We know that from Peter Pan. So we wanted Zarina running away from home, they live in Neverland. Where was she going to go?

So we were in a story meeting with Jenni, myself, the other directors and writers… and John Lasseter.  So we’re in a meeting, it’s a two hour creative meeting, on the idea of this movie. And we’re throwing out ideas, where could she go, what could happen, because that would basically build the story. And almost two hours had gone by and all of a sudden John Lassiter pounds his fist on the table, which always means something is coming.

Jenni – Like the light bulb just pops in his head.

Peggy – And we all looked at him, and he goes, pirates, she could run away and get hooked up with pirates, the pirates of Neverland. And from there a whole story just unfolded. So once he said that, we’re like, oh my gosh, we could introduce a young Captain Hook, oh my gosh, we could bring in the crocodile, oh my gosh, you know, it just started, we could see many ideas were thrown out in the room.

Jenni – But it is a huge responsibility to take on that legacy of Peter Pan and to start introducing those, and we couldn’t change the world.  And we had to make sure it was believable to go to where we all know, where Tick Tock Crock came from and where Hook came from and all. So there is a big responsibility in that.  It’s same with working with the fairies… And it creates an incredibly challenging in a positive way creative team.

pirate-fairy-director

Peggy Holmes (L) and Jenni Jenni Magee-Cook (R)
Photo Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images North America

Q: Start to finish what was the time period? 

Peggy – We actually made this film in fifteen months.

Jenni – Yeah it was an incredibly fast project. Peggy had a really clear idea for the emotional track she wanted to take Zarina on. Having the clear story really helps unfold everything else. Because that helps you drive your character design, your visual development. Because everything is about telling and supporting that story.  So clarity of that was great. The help from the entire studio to put it together and our families understanding they’d see us in fifteen months.

Q: I really liked Zarina’s costume. What was it like working with fashion? 

Peggy – Amazing.

Jenni – Incredible.

Peggy – (In reference to fashion designer Christian Siriano who designed the costumes in The Pirate Fairy). He’s really fun. He could relate to this character. And he could relate to her kind of being a little bit on the outside, as we know he has kind of forged his own way in his own career.  So he really liked her and so basically once he was interested, we got on the phone with him and talked to a little bit more about the character. And he actually said he started sketching while we were on the phone.

The film takes place at the turn of the century… So we had done research on different things that can be part of her costume. Like her sword is a hatpin and her belt is a watchband… (it’s a) watchband from the turn of the century. And we said to him maybe she could wear a napkin ring as a belt. We sent him all these ideas and that just got his mind rolling. And then he did these fantastic sketches.

But he did all these amazing sketches, came in here with the studio, worked with our character designer. We had certain ideas about her, we knew we wanted her to have long boots. And we wanted her to have some sort of classic pirate thing, but definitely feel hip and contemporary. And what we found as we started to sketch her outfit was, pirate can go Halloween costume very quickly. And we didn’t want that. We needed it to be fashion. So that’s where we really relied on Christian to help us make the line and the silhouette be classic but contemporary.

Q: With all the fairies, will there be spinoffs? 

Jenni – We haven’t talked about it because it’s a director driven studio. So what we really do here is when the directors have a story they want to tell, that’s what they bring to the table and they decide to tell that story. And they talk about it with our teams.  But we don’t mandate that they must make anything.

Peggy – But we are in production on the next fairies film.

Q: I love the way it’s for boys and girls, the sequel was more for both? 

Jenni – Yeah it’s doing really well with boys, I mean, in general boys don’t tend to always be the market we have for this audience. But every time we screened it we’ve brought boys in for our general audience screenings. And I have boys. And my boy is almost thirteen and he said “I’m not just kissing up to you, mom.  I actually like your movie.” It’s almost like as if he said he loves me in public.

Pirate Fairy display in the Disneytoon Studios lobby

Pirate Fairy display in the Disneytoon Studios lobby

In reference to that fact that the main pirate in the film is actually a young Captain Hook (I had my suspicions early on).

Peggy – We screened it for an audience in a regular theater. We talked to them afterward. Different people discovered that it was Hook at different times in the story. And I thought that was great. It’s something we never had thought of. I personally hadn’t thought of that, you’re just sort of making your movie, you know. But different people discovered at different times. One girl goes “when he put his hat on” and somebody else didn’t know until he grabbed that hook at the end.

Jenni – It was fun. We put a lot of little things in there that not all of them were obvious. I mean one of the ones that you wouldn’t know that’s really fun to tell people is the clock. The tick tocks. That sound of the clock tick tocking we pulled from the original Peter Pan the archives and we reused the actual sounds, we mixed that into it. So then that’s a little for us we got really excited, because we like those little geeky things that we like to do.

Peggy – That’s my son’s initials on the clock. That is one of the fun thing I would have never thought about. The art director said “you know, we’ve got to design this clock“. It’s very simplistic. It’s two dimensional – it’s a very simplistic clock. So we do always have the responsibility to take those elements and bring them into CG (computer generated animation), and you have to put more detail in them.  They just didn’t have a lot of detail. So we brought the clock in and he showed me the clock and it needed to have a maker on it, and he used my son’s initials.  And I was like, wow.

Jenni – Her daughter, who’s amazing, is under the cigar box where Zarina is filtering the blue dust. Her daughter’s name is on there.

Peggy – Yeah Gabriella, a cigar smoker, a fun little tidbit.

Jenni – It’s fun for us because it’s our world that we live in, and we put little geeky things like that in there and get excited. But it’s also just adds the whole flavor and some people catch it and some people don’t, but when you do it’s kind of exciting.

Pirate Fairy display in the Disneytoon Studios lobby

Pirate Fairy display in the Disneytoon Studios lobby

Q:  This was my first Disney fairy movie, and it was great. Were you trying to appeal to boys?

Peggy – We just want to make the best story we can. That’s the goal. That is John’s (Lasseter) goal with us, to tell the greatest story you can.  So that’s always it. There’s never ever any sort of goal. That is never in any of our creative story meetings, any of our creative thoughts about any of our films here. We’re never, that’s never part of the conversation (referring to marketing).

Q: Why didn’t the movie run in theaters?

Peggy – Internationally we’re in forty-two markets. Internationally in theaters.We just make our movie.

Jenni – The powers that be (in reference to Walt Disney Studios deciding how the movie will be released).

In addition we also learned that they had their very own pirate consultant who worked with them on the film. Who knew there was such a person. How does one get a job as a pirate consultant. LOL!

His name is Peter Twist. He was the same consultant on all the Pirates of the Caribbean films. He taught them about the hierarchy of pirates and the pirate language. Pirates also have their own code of ethics. That is a little fun fact about the film.

It was a fun interview.

The Pirate Fairy will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download on April 1, 2014. For more information about this film and to learn more about the characters, visit the official Pirate Fairy website. There you will also find activities, videos and more.

Here is the film’s trailer for your enjoyment.


Trailer – The Pirate Fairy on Disney Video
 

Kimberly

*I attended a free screening. My transportation and accommodations was provided for. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.

About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family and "mini zoo" consisting of five cats, a dog and a Goldfish. Kimberly is a teacher's assistant for a Kindergarten class. When she is not working or blogging, Kimberly enjoys taking photos of nature and hanging out with family and friends.

Comments

  1. Rachel Mouton says

    Such a fun interview! thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  2. Nancy Loring8 says

    It must have been so exciting for you to go to l.a. and get to meet the people you did and experience all those incredible opportunities.

  3. Nancy Loring8 says

    My daughters can’t wait to see this movie.