I had the opportunity to do a Bruce Stacey Interview for “Ice Dragon – Legend of the Blue Daisies”. This is a faith based movie which can also be described as a musical. It is a great story about faith, love, and has some awesome girl power in the movie. I can’t wait to share our review with all of you soon!
The movie comes out in March, but I wanted to share the interview with you now! Be sure to also check out the trailer below.
Bruce Stacey is the director and producer of this film.
There is a great story behind this film as Bruce wrote it while living in Russia circa. 1990. It was initially written for his children, reflecting on the current state of communism in the country…telling a tale of hope in a time of hopelessness. Originally a short story, it sat in his desk drawer for nearly 25 years until recently when it was turned into a compelling animated feature.
Bruce Stacey Interview
Congratulations on a great movie. My daughters and I really enjoyed the movie. We love the story and the music! I love Melody and her great personality.
1. What was your inspiration for the music? Can you talk about how and when the songs were written? Did it take a team of song writers?
I have always loved musicals as a genre for story-telling. When woven into a narrative, songs can communicate a degree of emotion and meaning like nothing else. Classic musical’s like MGM’s, “The Wizard of Oz” and television productions such as “The Grinch That Stole Christmas” come to mind when I think about influential musical classics.
Ice Dragon – Legend of the Blue Daisies actually started as a short story I wrote for my children 25 years ago, during a period I was in Russia adopting one of our children. The original title was “Blue Daisies in the Summer of Winter”… and it sat in my drawer until 2013, when I was encouraged to develop it into a film.
“The Song” was always central to the blue daisies story. (After all, it is the power of the Song that defeats the Ice Dragon in the end), so it made sense that music would play an important role in the film.
The script came first and the songs followed. In the original short story, the villagers sang a song, “thanking God for the earth, the sea, the sky and the blue daisies that grew in the mountain hills”. With the onslaught of endless winter, the people forgot the Song and lose all hope. “On This Day” was the first song I composed. A simple prayer of thanks. “I Will Be With You”, a lullaby and promise that Melody sings to a frightened child, was next. I had the most fun writing, “Give It Up”. Although humorous in nature, it is also a commentary on how the world often views the church and ancient truth. Mark Underdown and I co-wrote the music for “Maybe Not” and “Living In the Light” with me writing all lyrics. “Giver of All Gifts” was the final song I composed in the creative process. I wanted to symbolize the villagers return to faith and in having them sing, honor Nicholai’s faithfulness to the Giver of All Gifts.
2. How did the casting process work with Rheal and Justin? Did you have a large audition? Did they ever record together in the studio?
Yes, we auditioned a number of actors and actresses for the lead voice roles. In the end, Rheal Rees seemed the perfect choice for Melody. There were many accomplished singers in the audition group, but from the first few lines of Rheal reading for Melody, I knew we had something special. I had cast Justin Justin Dubé before, (in a comedy pilot for television) and remembered him picking up and playing a guitar left on set, during a break. His musicality, comic timing and youthful attitude stuck with me…so Justin was my go-to guy for Leif.
3. Nicholai is a character that is really relatable to different bible stories kids hear growing up? What was your inspiration when creating this character?
Nicholai is a bit of a hybrid, and could have been inspired by any number of old testament prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeramiah, who all warned their people… but were ignored. Nicholai was also inspired by some Godly men that have mentored me through the years, including the late, David Mainse (1936-2017) who once told me that, “A man without a doubt, never had a thought”, (a line that found its way directly into the Ice Dragon film). Finally, I would add my grandfather Joseph, who modeled a Godly, prayer-focused life to me during my teenage years.
4. Who was your favorite character to develop and why?
That’s a tough question. I love different things about all of the lead characters. I tried to create individuals with emotional depth, relatability and authenticity.
I love Nicholai for his faithfulness, steadfastness and wisdom. Melody for her inner beauty, quiet strength, strong convictions and bold witness. Leif, because although a joker and a doubter, he was also a seeker who had the humility and courage to admit he was wrong and become a believer in the end.
5. Which character, do you feel kids are going to relate to the most?
We’ve asked kids that question and have had all three main characters mentioned. Nicholai tends to remind them of their own parents and/or grandparents, Melody as someone they would aspire to be (particularly girls) because of her character traits (and beauty). Leif, because he is so relatable – someone, spontaneously learning and trying to figure things out as he goes.
6. Not only did you work with real kids, but you worked with your grandkids in the movie. Can you tell us about that?
Ha-ha, Well, that’s one of the privileges you have when producing your own movie – you can involve the grandkids, pay them with sweet treats and a hug… and still be a hero in the end!
The wonderful (and sometimes scary) thing about working with kids, is that you get what you get. The final children’s dialogue in the Ice Dragon was captured in the first or second take in the studio. Wonderful, because what you record is always genuine, but scary because you can’t always count on getting what you want! Fortunately, everything worked out great for us. Autumn Neilson (the little girl who sings “I Will Be With You” with Melody), was five years old when we recorded her, and I think we captured something truly magical on the microphone when she sang that day.
7. In the animation you mentioned creating the characters and taking them to a software program to add gradient and shading to get the characters to pop. I thought the lighting and color of the film was really awesome. Can you talk about how you animate those effects (lighting and color)?
We had to work with a small fraction of the typical budget allotted for a Disney or Pixar animated film, so needed to be creative with our approach to animation. We chose to work with vector-based, 2-D animation and a stylized character approach (not 3-D). Characters and painted backgrounds were created and then brought into a separate software program called After Effects, where individual elements and multiple layers (characters, backgrounds, props, etc.) were individually enhanced with focus, lighting, shading, color and other visual effects (snow, dust etc.) to create the final look for the film. This amounted to an additional year of work (after basic animation was completed) to deliver the final movie.
8. What is your next project?
Although Ice Dragon – Legend of the Blue Daises has a satisfying enough ending, there is more to the story. I have the story frame-work for a trilogy of Ice Dragon films, with Legend of the Blue Daisies being the first. Depending on the box-office response received this March, viewers could see the adventure continue! Other than Ice Dragon, I also have a number of other stories in that old desk drawer, just waiting to be pulled out.
We’ll have to wait and see!
About “Ice Dragon: Legends of the Blue Daisies”:
Melody, a gifted young dreamer and her feisty friend Leif, must set aside their differences and use the power of magical Blue Daisies and an ancient Song to save their world from an evil Ice Dragon. When the blue flowers that once bloomed all around her village begin to disappear, Melody and her eccentric grandfather recognize this as a sign of great danger…but no one believes them! Racing against time, Melody must convince Leif and the other villagers before it’s too late. Great songs and engaging characters highlight this inspiring, animated adventure for the whole family.