ABOMINABLE comes to theaters on September 27! See it in RealD 3D! Get your tickets today.
This fall, Dreamworks Animation and Universal Pictures will introduce you to a famous but still-mysterious creature: the Yeti. ABOMINABLE is the story of Yi, a teen girl in Shanghai who encounters a Yeti on her rooftop. Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) has an adventurous spirit, and soon she and her friends have nicknamed the creature Everest, and are accompanying him on a journey back to his homeland.
To prepare you for their journey, we've got exclusive new concept art for ABOMINABLE, which shows off the film's incredible character design. These pieces of art have never been seen outside Dreamworks Animation! They were important steps in developing the film's unique look and feel. We also spoke with writer/director Jill Culton, who told us how her new film came to be.
[Art by Celine Kim]
Culton started working with Dreamworks Animation on ABOMINABLE many years ago, and she had an unusual amount of freedom to make the movie in her own way. "When I came to Dreamworks as a director," Culton remembers, "a lot of times they have a bunch of different ideas, so they pitched me a bunch. The one that was really intriguing to me was this film. They just wanted a Yeti movie."
Culton realized that, despite some pretty general ideas about the Yeti, there aren't a lot of well-known stories about the creature. In fact, the general conception is pretty basic. "There have been footprints found, so to speak, and, typically, they're thought of as being dangerous, right?" So she got to start more or less from scratch.
The notion that a being like Everest might be dangerous really comes through in the concept art above, which depicts the first meeting between Yi and the Yeti who will soon be one of the most important figures in her life.
[Art by Nico Marlet]
Everest is based, at least in part, on a large dog. "I have a big love of big dogs," Culton laughs. "I've had them my whole life. Right now, I have 200-pound dogs, bloodhounds. I've had Great Danes. I love that kind of nonverbal communication that you have with pets. And so it was really important to me that this relationship between the girl and the Yeti was non-speaking."
You can see the camaraderie between Yi and Everest in the sketch above. The two clearly have a rapport, and Everest's physical expression tells you everything you need to know about that moment. Unlike most other animated creatures, Everest won't be cracking jokes. "That was a real sticking point for me," Culton says. "I'm not a big fan of chatty movies. I thought Everst and Yi could have full communication, and a full relationship, without him having to talk. It was also a really fun challenge for the animators, because they had to rely on the acting of Everest to communicate."
[Art by Max Boas]
Which isn't to say that the characters don't have a real connection. As Yi and two of her friends journey with Everest to his ancestral home in the Himalayas, the creature and young heroine have their own version of dialogue, which comes through music.
Yi plays the violin, and the instrument becomes a key part of her expression. Culton says, "When I first started thinking about her — I came from an animation background and designer background. So, when I write, I start doing sketches first, because it always gives me ideas. And I kept sketching her silhouette with a violin, against the backdrop of the city, with the city lights behind her. This was such a romantic image I kept getting in my head."
"The combo of violin and cello is always so beautiful," Culton says, "because they sound like a voice. I always liked the idea that she would express herself through music. Like it was the voice for words that she couldn't express."
The art above shows how deeply Yi pours herself into her music. We'll see this idea expanded as the teen leaves her Shanghai home, when she plays the violin to effectively say goodbye to her father. "[When] she's saying her goodbye to her dad, it's so powerful," Culton enthuses. "Having the violin say it for her, the audience interprets their own goodbyes. It's emotional, because everyone's seeing it through their own lens instead of me trying to write some horrible speech!"
[Art by Max Boas]
The image above hints at Everest's deep connection to the natural world. Indeed, while Yi's musical ability gives her a unique mode of expression, Everest also has his secrets. Culton told us that the Yeti has powers which are "based on nature. He can make nature grow. He can't talk to animals. He can't just do anything he wants. But he can manipulate clouds, water, and plants."
His abilities aren't exactly magic, but they do make Everest special. "I wanted him to be surprising and to keep having things come out that were more surprising," explains Culton. "As the journey goes [on], I wanted it to get more whimsical and more visual and more musical — and just build. And so that power to control nature gave me those elements to just keep making the film more surprising, more whimsical, more different."
Cinemark Movie Rewards members have a chance to own the ABOMINABLE concept art seen above.* Log into your Movie Rewards account and go to https://cinemark.com/movie-rewards to find out more!
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All images courtesy of Dreamworks Animation and Universal Pictures.