Do Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny know each other?
That logical question came, of course, from the mind of a child, specifically, Mary Katherine Joyce, the then-5-year-old daughter of writer and filmmaker William Joyce. Twenty years later, Mary Katherine’s dad has answered that question, not just with the animated movie “Rise of the Guardians,” but also a series of books that explores and expands the mythology behind some of the legendary figures of our childhoods.
DreamWorks Animation held a special screening for the film Tuesday night at the ArcLight Hollywood as it positions “Guardians” as an animated feature Oscar contender. Director Peter Ramsey and producer Christina Steinberg chatted with guests at a reception afterward, as did executive producer Guillermo del Toro, who has been on the project since he saw the galleys for Joyce’s first “Guardians” book three years ago.
“I have always loved his books,” del Toro says of Joyce’s work. “There’s an exquisite sense of design to them as well as a strong sense of narrative.”
“Guardians” imagines a sort of “Avengers” league of tot-loved titans -- Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman -- battling a villain named Pitch. At stake is nothing less than children’s sense of innocence and wonder.
“It would have been easy to approach these figures in a post-modern, ‘sophisticated’ way and had some fun with that,” del Toro says. “Like maybe they’re antiquated or they don’t love their jobs any more.”
“What I really liked about this is that it doesn’t have that cynicism,” del Toro continues. “It’s earnest and wears its heart on its sleeve. There’s a beauty to it that allows children to acknowledge their fears, talk about them and, ultimately, have a stake in the story. It’s not just a group of superheroes saving the children. It’s about all of us coming together to fight fear.”
“Guardians” opens in theaters on Nov. 21, putting it almost at the midpoint between Disney’s animated “Wreck-It Ralph” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which del Toro co-wrote.
“It’s crazy this time of year, isn’t it?” del Toro says, laughing. “But that’s good. I’m excited! I love going to the movies!”