The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas Director Talks Crude Humor and Working with the Late Jonathan Harris
The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas is, obviously, a parody of the beloved How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Narrated by the late Jonathan Harris [Lost in Space, A Bugs Life], the animated film follows The Bolt as he tries to ruin Christmas, and his subsequent change of heart thanks to Cindy Loose Screw (we'll give you a hint: she's way better endowed than Cindy Lou Who). The seven-minute short will be screening at Florida Supercon this weekend as part of the Geek Film Festival.
Cultist got a chance to talk to producer John Wardlaw about his idea for the film, what is was like to communicate with his animator solely via email, and working with Harris.
Cultist: Where did the idea for The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas come from?
John Wardlaw: After graduating from film school, I was working at Specialty Tool and Bolt, which is the company my brother and father run. Michael Wilcox, my friend and cinematographer on my previous film Chessmaster Theatre, was at the warehouse with me and said, "We should make a film about nuts and bolts," I replied with something like "how about 'How the Bolt Screwed Christmas!'" and the film was written that night.
What was your involvement with the animators like, in terms of the decision process, actual visuals, etc.?
Adny Angrand responded to an ad I placed seeking an animator for the film. He lived in Florida at the time and I'm in California so the entire film was done via email. We actually only had one phone call and we have still not met in person.
Technology is amazing that way. Adny sent me character designs and I would send him my basic comments. For example, he had Phillips heads on all the screws and I pointed out to separate the sexes the males should be Phillips and the females should be slotted. A bit crude but it goes with the humor in the film. Most of his art was perfect and required no suggestions.
Adny then sent me storyboards to approve and later low-res videos of the animation in progress. My comments were minimal because we seemed to be on the same track. I loved everything he did including a couple of scenes he added that I had left open to interpretation. Sometimes those get the best reaction.
We both wanted that Chuck Jones/Bugs Bunny/Warner Bros cartoon look, so there was no argument on the style. Cindi Foster did a lot of the animation with Adny and I commend both of them, and the whole animation team for a job well done.
How does BWSC compare to other projects you've worked on?
Most of my work is satire or parody, so from that point of view the writing was the same. This is the first film I have done that didn't utilize any kind of camera. I've done features [Indiana Zone and the Temple of Shroom, You Only Die Once - A James Bond Spoof], a lot of music videos, and some stop action animation. They were all very hands-on.
The biggest difference is that for the Bolt I took a step back and really worked as director/producer and let the talent show their stuff. In the past, I would have done voices, sound effects, and music myself. This time around I hired the best I could get for the job to make the film work. This film started with Jonathan Harris accepting the role of the Bolt so I knew I couldn't cut corners. Working with him along with Tress MacNeille [Simpsons, Futurama], Bill Mumy, Marta Kristen, and Angela Cartwright was a blast.
What was it like working with the late Jonathan Harris, Tress MacNeille, and Bill Mumy?
When Jonathan Harris accepted the part, I was both excited and nervous. Here was a man I had seen or heard his voice work in many TV shows from Lost in Space, Battlestar Glactica, and Twilight Zone and he was currently doing movies like A Bugs Life and Toy Story II.
His agent had offered me Tress MacNeille for the party of Cindi Loose Screw. He said that she and Jonathan were friends and if he were on board she would do it. She took the role without reading the script. The two of them were hilarious together in the studio.
And then, a few months after recording, Harris passed away. I suddenly had his last film, not something I intended or wanted. As the animation was progressing, I started to promote the film and I met Dave Goudsward who had run Jonathan's web page as well as that of Bill Mumy and Marta Kristen.
He asked me if I needed more voices and suggested that Bill would probably be very interested in being in Jonathan's final project, as they were good friends. One thing led to another and on my birthday, oddly enough, I found myself in the studio with half the cast of Lost In Space - Mumy, Kristen, and Cartwright.
This was the first time they had all been together in something unrelated to Lost in Space and it was a blast. They listened to what Harris had recorded and there were laughs and some tears. Then they recorded their lines for the scene I added to the film just for them, the Ratchet Family in a Christmas Carol satire scene. I and the engineer at the studio couldn't stop laughing as they did their takes and then were broken up by Bill doing a bit of improv to keep things light. It was a day I shall remember for a long time.
What are you working on now?
I currently have three animated projects planned with Adny. The first will be a faux movie trailer about Jesus called Resurrection. I am also returning to live action with two short films. Double or Nothing, written by Hunter Daniels who I met at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, will be the first film for me to direct that I didn't have a part in writing. It involves a poker game with the Devil.
The other is Death Benefits, written by Eric Gilmartin. This is a dark comedy about a corporation that discovers the financial benefits of having their employees declared legally dead when they are very much alive.
Catch The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas at Supercon this weekend. Screenings on today at 12:15 p.m. and tomorrow at 6 p.m. Director of animation Adny Angrand and animators Cyndi Foster and David Goudsward will be in attendance. Visit floridasupercon.com.
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