Last year, ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! correspondent Simon Feldman attended the set of Disney’s upcoming Underdog, based on the popular 1960 cartoon about a dog with super powers. Rather than being a fully animated movie, this new take features live actors interacting with real and computer-generated dogs with Jason Lee and Amy Adams providing the voices of Underdog and his sweetheart Polly Purebred.
While visiting the production in Providence, Rhode Island, Feldman was able to speak briefly with director Frederick du Chau, executive producer Todd Arnow, Visual FX Coordinator Troy Yeatman and Animal Coordinator Boone Narr.
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I arrived at the Providence, Rhode Island Capital Building at 10:15 AM and was met promptly by Todd Arnow, executive producer of Poseidon, Master and Commander, The Perfect Storm and Deep Blue Sea, to name just a few of his projects. Half ironically, he points out, “There’s no water to speak of in this movie”. It’s a hot late-summer day and Arnow is in shorts, a button-down and funky round tortoise-shell glasses. He welcomes me to the set, we chat (see interview below), and then I am led through the back door of the huge white marble Capital Building. The space opens up to the giant domed atrium where they are in the process of filming the climactic aerial fight scene between the crazed, super-powered Simon Bar Sinister and Underdog.
At the moment, Peter Dinklage in full Simon Bar Sinister makeup and costume–burnt prosthetic head applications, pulled-out hair, tattered suit and lab-coat–is sitting casually in his director’s chair doing a crossword puzzle. Moments later, he’s flying through the air, suspended in space on the Underdog set, in the middle of the cavernous 100-foot-high domed atrium of the Rhode Island capital building. On the floor of the atrium is a giant chandelier that has just fallen and crashed to the floor spreading debris everywhere, and around the set are a series of huge marble statues â€“among them Blind Justice and a Centurion with spear and shield. Dinklage, airborne, is hurtled by a serious of belaying ropes and pulleys straight into the Centurion. He hits it, grabs its shield and propels himself backwards, with his feet, across the room preparing to hurl the shield like a discus at his nemesis, Underdog.
This brief action sequence in fact unfolded over the course of about three and a half hours of meticulously prepared and executed stunt work. The stunt and visual effects coordinators of Underdog and the director, Frederik du Chau, had together mapped out each movement in excruciating choreographic detail. Dinklage’s stunt double laboriously tested all the moves and eventually, Dinklage himself was strapped to his harness and sent for a ride, and then another and another, each prompting slight adjustment of the ropes, the trajectories, the costuming and the props. It was amazing how much planning, care, and sheer physical and mental effort had gone into this one sequence, which I’m told will probably comprise about a minute of real movie time in the end. If this is any indication of the overall attention to detail in this film–and I have no doubt it is–then this looks to be a fun movie with some first-rate action sequences.
By 5:00 pm, there are still about thirty members of the crew working on the details of this scene and Dinklage is still on set waiting to be strung up again for more shots and fine-tuning of the action. Doing battle with the forces of good is evidently very hard work, but from my angle, looking onto the set, it looks like that hard work will be well worth the effort.
Director Frederik Du Chau
CS/SHH!: How does Underdog compare with your first two movies, “Quest for Camelot” and “Racing Stripes”?
CS/SHH!: How would you describe “Underdog”?
CS/SHH!: I see you’re looking at your monitor, there, what are you watching?
[He showed me the fresh footage of the action sequence he was in the middle of shooting and the Pre-vis to compare and then the two overlapped.]
CS/SHH!: What are you up to next?
Executive Producer Todd Arnow
CS/SHH!: So, you’ve done “Poseidon”, “Master and Commander,” “The Perfect Storm,” “Deep Blue Sea”–it’s hard not to see a pattern there. Any significance?
CS/SHH!: Any water in “Underdog”?
CS/SHH!: How would you describe “Underdog”? It sort of seems to defy genre?
CS/SHH!: What’s the shoot been like?
CS/SHH!: Is the film almost done?
Visual Effects Coordinator Hoyt Yeatman
CS/SHH!: How would you describe your job as Visual Effects Coordinator?
CS/SHH!: How does that happen on a movie like “Underdog”?
CS/SHH!: How do you do that?
CS/SHH!: What’s your job here on the set?
CS/SHH!: You’ve done a lot of big action movies with big explosions, how does this compare in scope or content to some of your other projects?
Animal Coordinator Boone Narr
CS/SHH!: This is a movie about a dog, so you must play a huge role in this production, right?
CS/SHH!: What was the next step?
CS/SHH!: How many dogs have been involved with this movie?
CS/SHH!: What do the dogs do when they’re not on set?
CS/SHH!: What’s been the biggest challenge of your job?
CS/SHH!: Do you have a training philosophy?
Underdog opens nationwide on August 3.
Source: Simon Feldman