Looking in the Mirror

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In a fantasy-land of opposing kingdoms, a 15 year old girl must find the fabled MIRRORMASK in order to save the kingdom and get home.

MIRRORMASK, the highly anticipated movie hitting select theaters on September 30, is a groundbreaking effort from director Dave McKean with a screenplay by Neil Gaiman. Teaming up with The Jim Henson Company, they combine live action with digital animation in a spectacular concoction that will dazzle audiences across the board.

MIRRORMASK tells the story of Helena (Leonidas), a fifteen-year-old girl working for her family circus, who wishes-quite ironically-that she could run away from the circus and join real life. But such is not to be the case, as she finds herself on a strange journey into the Dark Lands, a fantastic landscape filled with giants, monkeybirds and dangerous sphinxes.  On her quest to return home, Helena searches for the Mirrormask, an object of enormous power, which is her only hope of escaping the Dark Lands.

A dark fantasy with elements of THE DARK CRYSTAL and LABYRINTH, MIRRORMASK is a thrilling new chapter in the celebrated careers of Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman. Filled with imagination and unforgettable imagery, and fully realized with the help of CGI, MIRRORMASK is a visual and psychological menagerie of dreamscapes, nightmares and otherworldly creatures.

Dave McKean on directing Mirrormask

“I don’t know where to start, every day was a steep learning experience…

I would say I have learned most about my own strengths and weaknesses.  I have a tendency to fall in love with the purity of a formal solution to a problem, and then I just become blind to its possible flaws, and any little changes made feel like they are watering down the idea. I think this caused several difficulties on the film, and I think I'll be conscious of that tunnel vision from now on. 

Editing is always a wondrous experience, an alchemical experience.  But on this film, working with an editor really for the first time, and noticing his approach, continually 'on the story', was a big lesson. Any block of dialogue in the script longer than three lines looked suspiciously like fat needing to be trimmed. We cut our penultimate edit, which didn't have any scenes or large chunks to shed, down by ten minutes just by trimming frames, and the odd shot. I have no idea where all that fat came from, but it really helped.

I have also learned that you don't start up a new computer-rendering studio during production. The little blighters need at least three months to get to know each other before an animator goes anywhere near them. And finally, I learned that computers are as human as the rest of us. Our technical director named all the machines after different bands. The four Macs in the edit suite were named after the Beatles; fair enough, I was John. But then we needed a fifth so he named it Yoko, and they all stopped talking to each other.”

- Dave McKean

Mirrormask's production

Helena’s journey is an incredible story. But how could it be otherwise when its creators are Neil Gaiman, the award-winning author of Sandman, American Gods and Neverwhere, and director/designer and multimedia artist, David McKean. In addition to this potent collaboration, the setting where MIRRORMASK’s story was first conceived is just as inspiring. As Neil Gaiman tells it: “Dave and I created the story and script for MIRRORMASK in the Henson family home in London, surrounded by memorabilia and artifacts from Jim Henson’s astonishing career in television and fantasy filmmaking. It was a true challenge and inspiration to try to make something today that would be as visually rich, creative, funny and as moving as Jim Henson’s original works.”

MIRRORMASK combines live action with digital animation, set in a spectacular computer generated landscape. A “visually rich” and “creative” environment, indeed— and an achievement that is all the more dazzling given the limits imposed by their independent film budget. Working with Producer Simon Moorhead and Executive Producers Martin G. Baker, Lisa Henson and Michael Polis, Gaiman and McKean had to create a production process that mixed new technology, off-the-shelf hardware and just plain unorthodox thinking.

Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge

After shooting on location in London and Brighton for two weeks, followed by four weeks in a blue screen studio, the film entered its arduous post-production phase. McKean researched different computer animation studios who could build the world of MIRRORMASK, but instead chose to form his own team of animators. And so, for just over a year, seventeen animators (many of them recent Computer Animation graduates from Bournemouth University in England) worked at PC stations in a single quiet room in Islington as McKean personally supervised every frame of the film, thus ensuring that his and Gaiman’s original artistic tone would be completely realized.   

MIRRORMASK is a groundbreaking effort to take the stunning authorship and artistry of Gaiman and McKean off the pages of the graphic novel for the first time and put that vision on the screen. The result is a visually and emotionally compelling story that is sweeping and powerful, yet with the intimate, handcrafted feel of an independent film.

For more on Mirrormask, go to www.mirrormask.com.
A trailer of the movie can be viewed here.

(in alphabetical order)

Valentine: JASON BARRY
Morris Campbell/Prime Minister: ROB BRYDON
Joanne/Queen of Light/Queen of Shadows: GINA MCKEE

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Lisa Henson, Michael Polis, Martin G. Baker
PRODUCED BY: Simon Moorhead
STORY BY: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
MUSIC BY: Iain Ballamy
EDITOR: Nicolas Gaster

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