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Rise of the Guardians poster

Written by Matthew Pejkovic

With Rise of the Guardians set to hit Australian cinemas soon, Matt’s Movie Reviews breaks down who and what is involved on the latest DreamWorks animated release.


Rise of the Guardians is a 3D animation film based on the popular “The Guardians of Childhood” book series written by William Joyce, an American author, illustrator, screenwriter and filmmaker who created conceptual characters for films such as Toy Story and A Bugs Life, and produced Robots. He also won an Oscar for his short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Plot wise Rise of the Guardians is a fantasy adventure where the crème de la crème of mythical childhood figures – Santa Clause, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman and Jack Frost – team up to stop The Boogeyman from engulfing the world in darkness.

“My children inspired me” said Joyce in an interview with Buzzine. “They asked, ‘Does Santa Claus know the Tooth Fairy?’ And I was like, ‘Excellent question.’ I felt like from then on, I had to have an answer. So it got me on this whole thing about, yes, they know each other.”

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As mentioned, Rise of the Guardians features a who’s who of the great childhood mythic figures. Yet in Joyce’s world they are not the marketing commodities we have come to know them as, but are ancient almost warrior like figures who fearlessly protect the children of the world from harm.

The film especially focuses on Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), a teenage rebel whose only pleasure comes from spreading winter solstice wherever he goes.  “I'm really, really excited to show my nephew and all the kids in my life this film” said Pine in an interview with The Huffington Post. “For me growing up, Christmas time was always the most fantastic, exciting time of year, and you'd stay up until three in the morning. You'd hear the parents wrapping in the other room but you knew that also, maybe, they were in collusion with Santa Claus.”

Things change for Jack Frost when his approached by the Guardians to join them in their fight against evil. Among his new comrades is North, aka Santa Clause. Yet rather than the pudgy “ho-ho-ho” Santa we know and love, North is a Russian accented warrior with “Naughty” and “Nice” tattooed on both arms, and seems more likely to knock back a bottle of Vodka on Christmas Eve than warm milk and cookies!  “I tried to do the whole Rocky and Bullwinkle thing, too, so I hit the ball right down the middle,” Baldwin explained to The National Post. “I wanted the voice to have a varying tone, and make it silly, fun and child friendly.”

Rise of the Guardians image

Alongside North is Bunnymund, aka The Easter Bunny. Again the iconic character is given a makeover from fluffy cutesy bunny to Australian road warrior (complete with enchanted boomerangs and exploding Easter eggs) and is suitably voiced by everyone’s favourite Aussie, Wolverine himself  Hugh Jackman.   "I think what's great about the characters is that they're all incredibly different. I mean, they represent incredibly different things," explained Jackman to Digtial Spy .  "I think it's exciting for kids to think of all of these beloved characters actually knowing each other and actually working together. I think that's something really unique."

Every hero needs a villain, and The Guardians get more than they can handle with Pitch, aka The Boogeyman, an entity so dark and twisted that his ambition is to destroy belief in The Guardians and all they represent by unleashing his army if Nightmares upon unsuspecting children worldwide. Jude Law took on the task on voicing the dark, evil creature. “Pitch is everybody’s fear and nightmare manifest” said Law to Zimbio. “He is what lurks under the bed, in dark rooms. Pitch, he’s really the amalgamation of the unknown and fears. He has a huge amount resentment for being shoved under the beds for hundreds of years. He figures out a way to take the Sandman’s dream sand – the positive, pure golden sand that gives everyone happy dreams – and twist it into nightmares, these amorphous black stallions subject to his command, creating fear within children.”


Rise of the Guardians was to be a directorial collaboration between Joyce and Peter Ramsey, a long time story board artist who worked on films as diverse as Men in Black, Minority Report and Fight Club.

Rise of the Guardians image

After the tragic passing of Joyce’s eldest daughter to brain cancer, Ramsey took on the reigns himself and immersed himself in Joyce’s world of magic, hope and wonder featuring iconic characters represented in a new way.

“When I first heard about the idea I assumed the intention was we’d see Santa with a cell phone or the Easter Bunny on Twitter” explained Ramsey to Film School Rejects. “When I saw what William Joyce was doing – which is showing you a slightly shocking version of these characters – then, I thought, it was brilliant.”

“When you’re a kid and you believe in these characters you form an emotional bond with them, because they’re real forces in your life. When you think about the particular things they represent they become, like, these Greek gods and mythical figures. The combination of those things made it the engine of the movie.”


Prolific filmmaker Guillermo del Toro – he of Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy fame – appears as an executive producer on Rise of the Guardians, and had a hands on approach on the visual characterisations of these characters, as well as story theme and structure.   

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“I think it’s a very beautiful movie, I think Peter Ramsay has created a world that is incredibly gorgeous and colourful” said Del Toro to Collider. “It’s one that mixes better than any other with stuff I like and the themes that I like to approach; the idea that believing is seeing other than seeing is believing.  The idea of faith, the idea of fear being a thing that you can acknowledge and deal with.  The movie opens in such a beautiful, delicate, understated way—almost poetic—and we were watching the opening and we were giggling because we were thinking, “We got away with this!”  We’re doing a movie that is this expensive, that is destined for a family audience and we were able to open with a dark and moody and poetic piece, and then we have other pieces like that throughout the movie.  We had some radical ideas with it.  I hope it can set a different tone for family movies, for entertainment movies.”


Those lucky buggers in the States will be getting their Rise of the Guardians fix this week. For us Aussies we’ll have to wait until the 13th of December. Until then, keep on believing!

(This is a sponsored post but opinions are my own. 17/11/2012)

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