Scott Christian Sava is an fine artist, visual effects artist, illustrator, animator, director, writer, and producer. And I have a feeling this list only begins to scratch the surface of Scott’s many talents. Above all, Scott is a storyteller and dreamer of dreams. And it is those dreams that have me very excited about the possibilities for children’s stories on the big and small screen now and well into the future. Scott’s mission, simply put, is to make “the world a kinder, gentler place, one story at a time.” The world needs a lot more filmmakers like Scott.
His new film coming out this summer is Animal Crackers, only one of many magical projects in his pipeline. So sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and delve into Scott’s world of dreams in our fabulous interview!
Scott Christian Sava’s Magical Beginnings
Reel Mama: Your favorite movies are classics like The Princess Bride, The Neverending Story, and Clash of the Titans, and your favorite books include The Hobbit, The Narnia Chronicles and Princess of Mars. How have these books influenced your own storytelling for the page and screen?
Scott Christian Sava: Oh. I think they’ve instilled a sense of wonder and a fondness for adventure. The Hobbit was the first real novel I ever read, and I still remember the engrossing feeling of being IN middle earth. Being so absorbed with the story and characters that when I would put the book down…I felt like I was waking from a vivid dream.
The Princess Bride, on the other hand… taught me “snark.” Ha Ha. The wit and charm of that film… the one-liners. Wow.
Every book I’ve written has been influenced by these (and others) and I think that’s healthy for any creator to acknowledge that “nothing is new.” We are influenced… and we should embrace our influences. Give credit to them.
Reel Mama: The goal of your production company Blue Dream Studios is to make “the world a kinder, gentler place, one story at a time.” How can your stories help accomplish this?
Scott: I think my wife Donna came up with that goal… and she’s really the champion of this.
I think it came from the fact that we’ve been working in comic books for 20 years now and have seen the heroes we grew up on get darker and grittier with each new iteration. When we had our twin boys 15 years ago, I had just finished a stint on Spider-Man (my childhood dream come true). We had to change writers at the last minute, and suddenly my “kid friendly” Spider-Man story became about greed, death, hitmen, and cancer. Literal cancer (the writer killed off the Lizard’s wife).
When our boys were born, I couldn’t find comics I could read to them. So I decided to make my own.
Over the years, I’ve written over a dozen books and one in particular (The Dreamland Chronicles) has amassed over 34 million readers online. Eight books in the series. A line of toys.
We were getting letters from parents thanking us for giving their kids something to read. Children would come to comic conventions dressed as my characters. They’d bring drawings. The children would give us thank-you cards for helping them through bullying or tragedies in the family.
We found we were making people happy. And I think that’s where Donna solidified our “goal.” And I hope we can make a difference. In any small way we can.
Reel Mama: What is your new animated movie Animal Crackers about, and who is your favorite character in the movie?
Scott: Animal Crackers is based off of one of the books I wrote for my boys. The book (which you can buy in stores or Amazon) is about a boy named Owen and his sister Zoe (named after my niece and nephew) who go to the circus one day with their uncle Doug, and Owen gets a box of magical animal crackers. These crackers turn him into any animal he eats. So, if he eats a lion cookie… POOF. He’s a lion. A giraffe cookie? POOF… he’s a giraffe.
With the aid of the cookies, he and his sister rescue the animals from the circus.
As for my favorite characters…well, I do love them all. A lot of it has to do with the actors who helped bring them to life.
Bulletman was Sylvester Stallone. I do have a soft spot for this character, because it’s inspired by an old GI Joe figure I had as a kid.
Chesterfield is played by Danny DeVito. To be perfectly honest… I always saw Danny as a curmudgeon type in movies and TV roles. So I didn’t know he could be this loving and spontaneous clown. But when I met him, and the recording started… BAM, he just became Chesterfield. It was just amazing.
Ian McKellen. I can listen to him talk all day. He could have played every role, and I would be thrilled.
And John Krasinski and Emily Blunt were just perfect together as Owen and Zoe. What a dream to see them work.
I could go on and on about Raven-Symoné, Tara Strong, Harvey Fierstein, Patrick Warburton, Gilbert Gottfried, James Arnold Taylor, Wallace Shawn, and Lydia Rose Taylor. It was the experience of a lifetime to work with them. To see them bring characters that came from my little noggin to life.
I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite… but if I did… maybe it’d be Esmerelda palyed by Harvey Fierstein. 🙂
Reel Mama: Describe your journey with Animal Crackers. As a filmmaker did you encounter any challenges along the way?
Scott: Ha ha ha. Challenges? ME????
Well. The hardest part of making an animated film on your own (from Franklin, TN, even) is raising the funds. That took us several years to figure out.
And to be perfectly honest… it’s not like we “figured it out.” We got lucky and knew a guy who met a guy who knew 3 guys who knew 2 guys, who worked with a guy who knew a gal who was friends with a gal who worked for a guy, who worked for a gal who had the money to invest.
After that. The actual MAKING of the film was great. I got to meet the stars. I had a blast working with my team in Valencia, Spain. Tony Bancroft (Mulan, The Lion King) and I really enjoyed directing together. Dean Lorey (Arrested Development) had a great time writing the script. Character designer Carter Goodrich (Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Brave) and I became fast friends.
Everything was just a blast for two years.
Then the film finished, and we needed a distributor.
We’re still struggling with that.
Reel Mama: The movie has an element of magic in it. Why did you decide to incorporate themes of magic and a circus into your story?
Scott: I think it goes back to my influences. My desire to give readers/viewers a sense of wonder. I love the visuals that a circus brings. Even though I don’t like what a circus stands for nowadays.
We went to a circus in Spain when working on the film. We got to go backstage, and seeing the animals caged up and such… I just hated it.
So, while I like the VISUALS of a circus… I made sure there were NO actual animals in our circus. Just humans who had eaten a cookie to perform.
As for the magic. I think I flip-flop when writing. I sometimes like to explain things with cold, hard, science-fiction-type logic. And other stories, I just want to say “it’s magic.”
Animal Crackers was written when I was in a sillier mood and wanted to just have a fun story for my boys.
Reel Mama: Tell us about your next project, Pet Robots. What are its origins, and what kind of show do you envision?
Scott: Pet Robots was the fourth book I’d written for my boys. A week after it came out (11 years ago), it was optioned by Disney. A script was written by Colin Trevorrow (this was before he directed Jurassic World), but nothing came of it, and the rights reverted back to me in a couple years.
After that… I decided I’d like to pursue it on my own and have been working on getting it turned into a feature film. But the nice people of Portfolio Entertainment contacted me a few months ago and had some big plans for an animated series.
Their enthusiasm and talent gave me so much confidence that I agreed, and we’ve been working on the development.
The show will most likely be for the 5-12 crowd. Other than that…I really can’t say much else.
Reel Mama: Talk about an animated space comedy project of yours, Ed’s Terrestrials. Who (or what) are they, and when are they landing on a screen near us?
Scott: Ed’s Terrestrials is a fun story I wrote 14 years ago, I think. It’s about three aliens who escape from working at the Intergalactic Food Court. They’re being chased by Mall Security by the name of Maximus Obliterus. The chase takes them to Earth, where they crash into the treehouse of a boy named Ed.
With Ed’s help, they hatch a plan to rescue their friends from the Intergalactic Food Court and integrate them into Earth society.
Hoping this will be the THIRD animated film in a series of films we’d like to make. Animal Crackers, Pet Robots, Ed’s Terrestrials, Max Velocity, Cameron and his Dinosaurs, My Grandparents are Secret Agents.
I just need to meet a guy who knows a gal who is friends with a guy who sat on a bus next to a gal who…
Reel Mama: Finally, your weekly online comic series Dreamland Chronicles was a global phenomenon. Describe the world of the story. Why was it so appealing to an audience of millions?
Scott: Dreamland is my homage to the stories you mentioned earlier. It’s a “kitchen sink” of all of those genres. Dragons, Dwarves, Fairies, Swashbuckling, King Arthur, you name it.
The original idea came when I was in art school, and I discovered Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland.
Little Nemo was a hugely successful weekly comic strip about a boy who would travel to Slumberland each night and have adventures with the Princess of Slumberland (her father was King Morpheus) and a clown named Flip.
One day while engrossed in the stories… I wondered… “What happened to Nemo when he grew up? Did he still go to Slumberland? Did he fall in love with the Princess?”
And that’s how Dreamland was born.
For years I worked on ideas and sketches…but it wasn’t until my wife became pregnant with the twins that it all came together.
I produced the first couple of issues of the comic books (about 100 pages), but while the reviews were positive… the SALES weren’t.
My dear friend Audry Taylor was the one who suggested I “put your story online as a daily comic.” She knew there was more of an audience online, and she was right.
Now, this was in 2006, I think. There weren’t a LOT of online comics at the time. But it was the right call.
I discovered that my fanbase was so much bigger than the few 30-50-year-old men who’d go to a comic shop. There were kids, parents, girls, boys, etc.
As I’d upload a new page each day… I was getting hundreds of comments. Feedback on every panel. Every bit of dialogue. Every plot twist.
This input helped me see how myopic my writing was. As I was just a new writer attempting to tell a story for my twin boys, I was fumbling my way through things. Still finding my voice. Which, at the time, was very “male.”
Seeing the input online of women and girls, hearing how they reacted and their excitement for the female characters…it changed me. It changed the story. My female characters were no longer “the love interest.” They became more real. They had feelings, their own storylines, and they became more empowered.
After that… the story progressed, and my fanbase grew to over 30 million readers. Eight books. Toys. Plushes. It was wonderful.
My boys seemed sad last year when, at 14 years old, they realized there were no more Dreamland pages. I had finished the series. It was all they’d known. I’d written it for them, and it starred twin boys (who’s names, Alexander and Daniel, were my boy’s middle names to match). It almost felt like their childhood ended.
I’d love to go back to Dreamland one day soon. Hopefully as an animated series. We’ll see.
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