How Guardians of Ga'Hoole will move animation to a new level

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Zack Snyder's latest film has him working a double shift: He's getting ready to shoot Sucker Punch while his animators work on Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a fantasy adventure movie based on the children's books by Kathryn Lasky.

Animal Logic is creating the animation in its Australian studio, and Snyder told reporters that he has just begun watching footage with the initial voice recordings. Now he must hone the cut to prepare for more recording sessions.

"It's just been the way that we sort of designed the movie to be made," Snyder said on Wednesday in Burbank, Calif., where he was promoting Watchmen: Director's Cut on Blu-ray. "Basically I have an HD video conferencing system that I have in the house and I'll have up in Canada [where Sucker Punch will film]. I basically do about three hours with them in Australia every day."

Guardians of Ga'Hoole is an adventure story in a fantasy realm of owls, who will of course speak English via animation and A-list voice talent. Snyder called the early footage mind-boggling, adding that if each animation studio—Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky—has a signature look, he has created yet another one. His owls are photo-real, but stylized.

"I wish I had them on my phone [to show you]," Snyder said. "I can't wait until we start to show those images, because it's really something else. They're talking owls, but they're just not. It's not a cartoon. I think that's the point. It's really not a cartoon. It looks like talking owls, but they are expressing, and they're emoting, but there's this awesome proprietary software that we created for the feathers, so all the inclusion happens, and it's all real, and it looks totally—it's just awesome."

It seems any animated film these days has to be in 3-D to book theater space, so Snyder also plans a 3-D release of Guardians. "It will be 3-D," he said. "We're making it 3-D, but it's 3-D and 2-D. Even without the 3-D it's mind-boggling. I don't know what the hell it's going to be like."

Snyder called the tone more Harry Potter than Shrek, meaning a commitment to the fantasy world, not a lot of pop-culture references. The voice cast also lends itself more to character acting than celebrity stunt casting.

"I think that's kind of the movie," Snyder said. "It's an adventure film sort of like Harry Potter, so if you think of that cast at the beginning when it first was announced. Sure, Helen Mirren's awesome, and Geoffrey Rush. Those are guys you want, Hugo [Weaving]. These are people that just make a great movie."

Guardians of Ga'Hoole is due in theaters Sept. 24, 2010.