Interview with Secret of the Wings Director Peggy Holmes #DisneyMoviesEvent

At the screening Secret of the Wings at DisneyToon Studios, the bloggers had a chance to talk to the director of the movie, Peggy Holmes. Peggy was full of energy as she spoke to us about making Secret of the Wings. Her eyes lit up when she talked about the characters and what the creative process was like. It was so cool meeting her and learning the reasons behind the way the certain elements were set up. I found it very interesting that hired a snow doctor for research purposes to create a real make-believe world.

I’ve shared the interview below with Peggy Holmes to give you the inside scoop on Secret of the Wings!

Can you tell us how you picked the names? 

Peggy Holmes: When we started I looked at photography of winter and I noticed there were so many awesome looking whites and blues. One of the things we wanted to focus on in the movie is that this can’t feel like a Christmas place. It’s not a season winter. In this particular movie it’s a place. It’s a place they live and it’s there all the time. We needed to create this magical winter and the images I was drawn to were all the whites and the blues. We decided to research all the different shades of blue and find the names out of that. Periwinkle became Periwinkle. And for Lord Milori, Milori is a shade of blue!

How did you get Jane Horrocks to sound so matronly and husky?

Peggy Holmes: She’s such an amazing actress, isn’t she? She just embodies that character. If there’s a line that doesn’t sound right, she knows how to turn it around and make it feel like that character. She just owns that character. I actually have never gotten to meet her in person.

Did she come in to do the recording for her part?

Peggy Holmes: We record here in our recording booth, but we do it from London where she lives. She’s very busy and she’s always in theater and working in television and doing lots of stuff. She’s a joy. She’s very funny. She pretty much nails it in the first or second take.

Tell me a little bit about the process of introducing Tinker Bell’s sister.

Peggy Holmes: I talked to you in the beginning about wanting to tell a story about bringing two worlds together. When we originally created Periwinkle it was not Tink’s sister. When I was in the first day of kindergarten or the first day at a job, there’s always someone you gravitate toward and you don’t know why yet. Then as you get to be better friends you realize why. They complete your life in a way that maybe another kid doesn’t complete your life. So originally that is how we developed the story and it just wasn’t having as much emotional impact.

So Clay Hall who directed Lost Treasure actually said why don’t we just make it her sister. And we were all like oh, you know- because that’s a universal idea that it’s your very right to know your sister. Then we started the process of what does that mean in this world. That was a fun creative process and we came upon this idea that oh my gosh there were two little wisps and we just didn’t see it in the first movie.

That is how kind of the process worked creatively and it was a really fun challenge and not easy I must say. I have three sisters so I understand that bond that happens between sisters. That sort of unspoken thing. That you just look at each other and you know. You don’t have to talk about I would go to the end of the earth for you. You don’t even have to like say it. You know? You can- you just do it.

I wanted to put that feeling in there. Then in the future, what we’re doing with Tinker Bell is continually showing you different sides of Tinker Bell’s character.  I think of Tinker Bell as someone who is so loyal. We saw it in Peter Pan the first time we met her. She is a super loyal girl. For me, a loyal person has a huge heart. This was an opportunity to step into Tinker Bell’s heart a little bit and show how emotional she really is.

We know she gets red-faced. There’s the other side of that which is deep love. That’s what I wanted us to bring out and-and in…in terms of the future.  We will continue to tell Tinker Bell’s stories. And if it makes sense for Periwinkle to be in that adventure with Tinker Bell she will be there. Periwinkle is at the parks which is really thrilling.

So what is next for Tinker Bell?

Peggy Holmes: There are several stories in development for Tinker Bell. It’s really exciting and fun and it’s a director driven process. Every director looks at it a different way and thinks what could I tell about her. That keeps it really fresh and exciting.

Whose decision was it to use the McClain sisters for a couple of the songs?

Peggy Holmes: Make a Wish Foundation had a request for us: a little girl who wanted to see the film. McCoul, our producer, pressed a special copy and he flew it to her this morning in Vancouver so that’s where he is, sharing with this beautiful young girl. McCoul and I were last year at the licensing show for the toys. We went to present and talk about the movie. At that licensing show, China and McClain performed. Meanwhile we had gotten emails from Matt Walker here in our music department that said “there’s someone I want you to see for your movie!” We were there and we saw her and we were like, “we must have her for our movie!” Sure enough it was the same person. It was really just a fantastic thing that the music department was excited about her and thought she would be right, and then she’s launching a record with her sister. I mean that is so perfect! We brought them in and we showed them the film. We wanted to get them excited and really have them on board and have them relate to the movie.

Did they write their own songs?

Peggy Holmes: In this case they did not write this. Brendan and Val have written the majority of the songs for the fairies franchise and they wrote this song. They wrote this song and it’s been in from the beginning. Once they wrote this song we loved it so much. That song has been in for a really long time.

As far as the 3D, how do you balance wanting to add the 3D elements in there without making it all about 3D for the people who are watching it in 2D?

Peggy: That’s a great question. It was exciting to learn about that 3D. We have a stereographer who showed me the scale of 3D. You can go into the screen or you can go out of the screen. I prefer going deep into the screen because for me in this particular world, it made it feel to me like a living diorama. It just makes that world of Pixie Hollow feel that much more real and tangible.

The decision is based creatively on what you think will help you tell the story better. When you watch it in 3D you’re feeling that depth more than 2D, but it’s still present in 2D. With the kind of staging we did, in 3D it just enhances it a little bit.

The other thing I want to say about 3D is for me in this particular story is that I didn’t want to be aware of it… especially the emotional moments. I didn’t want to feel like the character was separated from the background. That’s a big thing for me. In a different style movie, it would be different. But for this movie I just wanted you to be able to be lost in kind of the emotion of the story and never really be aware of it, and only use it for sort of magical moments to enhance the magic.

Once we decided to make Tinker Bell and Periwinkle sisters, we thought okay let’s make them identical sisters and what does that mean in the fairy world. We decided that they would have identical wings. It would be not a good choice to make Tinker Bell – Periwinkle look like Tinker Bell. We needed her to have the spunk- the underlying spunk that Tinker Bell has but not quite be developed yet. Tinker Bell has much more life experience than Periwinkle. We decided on identical wings and we immediately brought in a twin specialist who specialized in twins that had been separated at birth or an early age, and reunited later in life. There are specialists out there for everything you can think of! We brought this fascinating woman in and she did a huge presentation for us.

In her studies, she found that let’s say these fifty-something year-old men are meeting each other for the first time and they walk in such specific outfits that they find that the characteristics – even though they lived apart – the characteristics and the trends, the hobbies, are often very, very similar.

The other thing she taught us about is that with the case of twins and that connection and having been apart for so long is that the women want to learn everything about what they missed. These two women came in and from the moment they saw each other they just started talking and the whole world went away. She said they talked as they walked into lunch with all of us and they talked as they got into a cab. That was sort of how they reconnect. That’s how women reconnect. We did that with Tink and Peri too. Everything else goes away and they just want to learn about each other’s life.

Then a snow specialist came in because John is huge on research and understanding the science and the logic of something. If you skew off of it you understand why and why you skewed off and for what reason. We brought in Tom Painter who is a Doctor of snow.  Honestly we always tell this story that we would call him because maybe a story idea would rise and I’d want to call Tom and see can I do this, is this possible? And literally we—he goes hi! Whoooo {sound of wind blowing}!  And you’re always like, Tom? Yeah! Whoooo. I gotta question. Whoooo. And I’m like, where are you? And he goes I’m taking a class down the snow hill. He’s skiing in Utah with a class of people teaching them about snow glisten or something like that.

He was a fantastic source and we learned that frost actually does protect from freeze and that you could actually cover your body in frost and be protected in a freeze. You hear that science and you figure out how can I do this in the story. What can I do? How can I bring that real fact into a story because it’s counter intuitive. Originally, we wanted to have Peri be an icicle fairy.  John has a vineyard and in the vineyards the sprinklers go off to protect the crops from an incoming freeze. So originally that’s what we did. Periwinkle was an icicle fairy and she was going to put ice over everything to save it from the freeze.

We sent that to Thomas Painter and he said okay you’ve just now killed all of Pixie Hollow. And we said why? He said the reason that the sprinkler system works is because it’s constant. So there’s constant action that is creating heat and it is protecting the plant. So we weren’t going do that. It’s just the research affects your story so much. He’s like this is what would protect frost so now Peri is a frost fairy. She’s not an icicle fairy anymore and it’s a really fun process to use research to develop creativity. He was really funny too. He did a whole PowerPoint on how everyone will now hate Tinker Bell because she just killed off Pixie Hollow. He was like she will now be shipped off to Bakersfield, or something like that. He got into it so much. It was really, really great.

We learned so much about light refraction. He had sunglasses and the chapped lips and it was really cute. We also hired an in-house person. There is a man by the name of Joe Rodey who is an imagineer. He is really amazing. We brought Joe in just for a small little session at the beginning when I only had like images of winter and winter animals that I’d liked and stuff like that. Joe is responsible for animal kingdom. He is a super inventive guy and he took the reigns and was responsible for that project. He is just a guy that delves into research. We brought him in early on to just say what’s unique about winter. What do you know about winter that we’re not thinking about. That’s just us working with other departments and being creative across the company.

Can you tell us about the fairies hair?

Peggy Holmes: I wanted the winter fairies to be a little hipper than our warm fairies.They had a little different look- a little more angular and just slightly different. With Peri’s hair, we understood what we wanted it to look like but it needed to look good from all sides. As you get into CG and you have to model something and it’s very difficult. We had to ask how does the hair really look in that scene? With real hair you can kind of fluff it up and put some hair spray and it will look okay but you can’t really do that in CG. You have to actually really know the construction of it. The idea came that we would hire a hairstyle expert to do that. We interviewed a couple people on the phone and the moment I talked to Ken and told him what the story was about he goes I am in. This is a guy that travels the world for different women’s causes and is in love with this idea of bringing world together. We brought him on and he dyed the wigs of Periwinkle’s hair in his bathtub the night before. He brought in this beautiful model and the hair was like down to here and he literally cut the hair in front of us throughout the day so that our technicians here that have to actually create Periwinkle could see moment to moment how to actually make that style work. What I told him was that she needs to look good on the red carpet from 360 degrees. That’s the goal. It was a fantastic process.

SECRET OF THE WINGS is coming to Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download on October 23rd!

*I received an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles in order to participate in this event. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.*

Stacie Vaughan

Stacie is the mom of two girls and lives in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys cooking/baking, photography, reading, DIY and is fueled by lots of coffee!

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