Arthur Christmas Kindles the Spirit with Laughs, Classic Characters and Answers to Tough Questions
Parents can finally explain how Santa delivers millions of presents in one night, thanks to the new Aardman production for Sony Pictures Animation, “Arthur Christmas,” which opens this Thanksgiving weekend. “If you celebrated Christmas growing up, you wondered when you saw the traditional image of Santa and his sack, thinking there was not enough presents in it for your school, much less everyone else,” explained director Sarah Smith, who relished in crafting every last detail of this splendid, humorous film. “So we [detailed in the movie] what it really takes to get the mission of Christmas done.”
The secret, of course, includes an enormous team of diligent elves, but Santa’s well-hidden operation in the North Pole is far more high-tech now than you may have suspected. “We all know that not every house has a chimney, so updating the story was our gift to parents who are asked lots of questions about Christmas.”
Many nuances and lessons unfold through the character of Grandsanta, played by Bill Nighly. As Grandsanta, he recounts stories to young Arthur about riding in his old sleigh, but has since relinquished his reigns to his son Santa. However, that doesn’t mean he’s lost the spirit of Christmas, or how important it is to deliver every child the perfect gift. Bill spoke to www.CelebrityEverything.com at press day about his character, his favorite Christmas memory, his most extraordinary journey and what Christmas now means to him.
Q: How do you like to see yourself portrayed in animated films – during the process or after it has been finished?
Bill Nighly: In this case I waited for it to be all finished. I think I saw it yesterday at a screening in the best circumstances with most of the people in the cinema under 10. I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t think it was going to be quite like this – it was really, really good and I think it’s very smart and I’m proud to be in it.
Q: What did you like about your character and playing him?
BN: When I went for the job I thought I was going for Father Christmas, but they said Grandsanta and showed me the drawing, which was a tad unsettling because he’s 136 and has my teeth (chuckles). But I love my part – he’s a colorful and quite rich character. Sarah Smith (the director) and I struggled for quite a while to get a suitable voice, and I hope we did. But he’s very satisfying to play. He’s got some great lines and great jokes and he does say all the things no one else would dare say, so it was quite refreshing.
Q: What was your favorite Christmas memory and did you ever have a crazy journey yourself?
BN The Christmas I got a bike, I can remember vividly. I was standing upstairs and I could see the outline of the bike and it was the biggest thing – it stayed with me for years. I was probably 8 or 9 and my dad had denied me having one because I wasn’t tall enough, and I had wanted a bike so badly, so that was a big memory.
As for crazy journeys, I drove across the Serengeti in Tanzania in a Land Rover and nothing prepares you for that. It’s immense and extraordinarily beautiful. And I went to the Ngorongoro Crater like this huge bowl of lush green and water with some of all the major animals – lions, giraffes, hyenas, and the giraffes are terribly beautiful, gentle and massive. That was a great journey.
Q: What is your favorite movie and why?
BN: I love Punch Drunk Love – it’s everything I like – it’s romantic in kind of a messed up way. I have nothing against romanticism, but it’s really funny and the two central performances by Adam Sandler and Emily Watson are marvelous. It’s smart and very moving.
Q: What does the Christmas spirit mean to you?
BN: It has something to do with your children, I think. I remember when my daughter got the hamster and the doll she wanted and she woke me up at 4:30 in the morning and sat on my chest and couldn’t express it she was so excited. You become a camera, you take a mental movie or video of those memories and they are the best things that have ever happened in my life. I’m not a philosopher, but that moment is what I think people look for in Christmas.