DOROTHY MCKIM – PRODUCER – MEET THE ROBINSONS DOROTHY McKim is a Disney veteran, having joined the Walt Disney Company back in 1980. Four years later she became part of the team in Disney Feature Animation and worked on classic films such as THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE LION KING and TARZAN.
You have been with Disney for 27 years so you must have witnessed a technical revolution?
Yes. I have worked on many traditional hand draw movies and it has been exciting watching computer animation evolve and see traditional animators do computer. The studio has been very supportive in training those traditional animators. For me, whether it is a traditional or a CG animated movie, what matters is that it is a really great, heart felt story. The medium is just a different tool. That is the way I look at it. The look of traditional movies is breathtaking. And the CG world opens up new doors for our cinematographers, our layout people and directors who can move the camera so much more than they were able to. But both traditional and computer animation are great and it’s great to see how we have brought those two worlds together.
What about the work that has gone into making the story of MEET THE ROBINSONS is so complex?
The great part of MEET THE ROBINONS is that it is the director Stephen Robinson’s story. It comes from his heart, it’s his passion. When he read the script he was able to connect with it immediately, because he was adopted. It was really exciting to see our story team come up with the story within an eight or nine month period. They were able to board the entire thing and get it up on reels. We would never do this, but you could almost have released that working reel. Those story guys were so in sync with each other and it was such a passion for Stephen that he had such a clear vision of what he wanted it to be. So he was able to rally the story team and the entire production team around him. That was the reason I wanted to work on it, because I saw how passionate he was.
In what ways does the movie differ from the original book?
This story lived in the live action world for a while. We acquired it in 2001. The imagery of Bill Joyce in his original book is amazing. It is a picture book and there is not really too much of a story in there – it’s about a boy who is going to his friend’s house. The script took the Robinson family and made them a part of the story. In the movie we go to see the Robinsons to find out who these people are. We gave them their lives. Bill was a visual development consultant with us and we had his approval. We had weekly conversations with him and he was an integral part of the look of the movie.
How is working with Pixar going to change things?
I admire and adore John Lassetter, he is a visionary. I don’t want this to sound corny, but I think he is the Walt Disney of today. He approaches things through a child’s eyes. John is a colleague and the enthusiasm he brings to our studio is amazing. He is the nicest person, he allows these directors to make THEIR movies. He came in and gave us great notes on this film. It was about the emotion and making it believable. He said you want to make movies that the audience is going to connect with. John is so interested in hearing everybody’s story. He wanted to know everything about me and Stephen. He is a person who loves his job and we have fun. I have been at the studio for a very long time and this is very exciting. But it is not just one person. At the studio we are evolving and maturing; we have great film makers and an enormous amount of talent. I am awestruck, that is why I love my job.
Whose idea was it to have Walt Disney’s mission statement on screen at the end of the film?
That was Stephen Anderson. Stephen is a HUGE Disney fan. I have never seen a bigger fan. He probably goes to Disneyland once a week. He goes constantly with his seven year-old son. He was so excited to be at this launch in Euro Disney. He was the one with the theme of ‘keep moving forward’ and don’t dwell on the past. There was a publication at work that was celebrating the 100th year of Walt Disney and it had different quotes. One of his quotes was ‘keep moving forward’ and he thought that would be perfect.
Would Walt Disney like today’s animation?
I think he would. I think he would be excited top see where the technology was going because he was such a visionary himself. You see some of the things of today and he had those at Disneyland. I think he would be really proud. And I think he would be really proud that we are still doing traditional animation and we are not letting that legacy go. It is very important to John Lassetter as well.
Are you already working on the next film?
I am going to go to development to become the development producer. So I will be working with other directors. I want to work with Stephen again. But is a good three or four years away. It is going to be so exciting working with all our story guys in visual development. I will be supporting them and helping them.
When you begin work on a film like this do you have the idea of creating new iconic characters?
Oh absolutely! Right from the beginning. I have been with these characters for so long that I think that they are real. Now I want the world to get to know them and for them to be able to live way beyond this movie.
Paul Schrader has suggested that the time of the cinema is over. Do you agree?
I disagree. I think cinema is still a great venue for people. We are doing this movie in 3-D as well and I think that is also part of the future. We hired Phil McNally who we call Captain 3-D and he is amazing. He was able to educate myself and Stephen with the process. He was brilliant at picking the wow! Moments for 3-D in the film. When you see the time machine floating you feel that you can touch the wings.
What can we look forward to on the DVD?
There are a lot of extra goodies, it’s very exciting but I don’t want to give away the secret. We are working on it right now and there will be a lot of exciting stuff in there.
What is the film’s target audience?
I think it is for everybody, there is something in his movie for little children, teenagers and adults. We made it as family entertainment.
Could there be sequels?
It depends on Stephen. John Lassetter has said that if a director wants to make a sequel to his film he can. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to.
When did Danny Elfman come on board?
Stephen has always wanted to work with Danny Elfman. We had a list of composers and Danny was on the top. Danny was a little hesitant at first because he had not seen the movie and he had work pretty exclusively in the animation world with Tim Burton. So we showed him the film and he immediately connected with it. He is brilliant and it was fun to work with him.