Imagine creating fantastical creatures that inhabit a magical world. Now picture those creations sharing the screen with the likes of Colin Hanks, J.K. Simmons, and Catherine O’Hara. That dream is a reality for some people who contributed to the new social film series “What Lives Inside,” which premieres Wednesday on Hulu.
Hanks plays Taylor, the son of Pops, a famous puppeteer (Simmons) whose sudden death is mourned throughout the world. While poking around his dad’s workshop, he’s suddenly catapulted into the magical world his father created. (Think “Fraggle Rock” meets Candy Land meets Tim Burton in Oz with some Lisa Frank sprinkled in.)
That enchanted land is exactly where the social element comes in. In an interesting take on blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, the public was invited to collaborate with two-time Oscar-winning director Robert Stromberg ("Maleficent"). Crowdsourced sketches and drawings of characters and scenery for possible inclusion in the final product were entered from January 13 through March 9 of this year. Stromberg hand-picked the winners himself. They’ll get to see their creations fully rendered and given the Hollywood treatment on the big screen. And by big screen, we mean whatever screen they watch Hulu on.
“The artistry level is off the charts,” Hanks told HLN. “Another big component of this that I thought was pretty interesting was the fact that people were going to be able to submit their own artwork, which for me I thought was a very cool way to go about this and a cool way of being able to incorporate more aspects and sort of take the project to a different, cool space."
“What Lives Inside” may sound like a Disney movie, but it actually comes from Intel and Dell. And in the classiest instance of product-placement ever, the new Dell Venue 8 7000 Series tablet plays a bona fide role in this tale.
"My character discovers this tablet in his father's workshop,” explained Hanks, “and through that tablet he's able to take photographs of the new land that he's in that his father had created. He's able to add to it and add color to it. He basically uses the tablet to be able to find answers to riddles and stuff like that so it ends up becoming an important tool within the story."
Hanks, who may know a thing or two about having a mega-famous dad, told HLN that he was drawn to the project for multiple reasons: He wanted to collaborate with Stromberg, he loves green screen work -- he hadn’t done anything this large in scope since 2005’s “King Kong” -- and couldn’t wait to work with Simmons and O’Hara (who played Hanks’ mother in 2002’s “Orange County”).
"J.K. is, obviously, a treat,” said Hanks. “He's a very nice man and I had heard nothing but great things about him so it was just a treat to be able to spend an afternoon with him. I had a little bit of a reunion with Catherine, which was, I love working with her. We make each other laugh and it'd been awhile since we'd done that."
Hanks’ character, a by-the-numbers guy who often butted heads with his free-wheelin’ dad, discovers a little bit about himself by escaping to the world Pops created. Themes of forgiveness are explored as Taylor also taps into his own innate creativity -- a gift he rejected for most of his life.
The tablet computer accompanies Taylor on the journey, by helping out with maps, unlocking clues, and allowing the artist bubbling inside the young man to have a 4 million pixel creative outlet. Also, he uses the thing as a flashlight. Because we all do.
Hanks had just returned from presenting his directorial debut, “All Things Must Pass” at SXSW to high praise; but we simply could not let him go without asking about his Twitter profile pic:
Via Twitter / @ColinHanks
"The picture of me holding the spoon is a reference to an animated short called " Rejected" and it's sort of a little bit of an inside joke between me and some friends but obviously anyone who's seen Don Hertzfeldt's short gets the reference pretty quick."