Animators and actor bring China Girl to life in ‘Oz The Great and Powerful’
(l-r) China Girl (Joey King) begs Oz (James Franco) to go with him to kill a witch in "Oz The Great and Powerful." ©Disney.

(l-r) China Girl (Joey King) begs Oz (James Franco) to go with him to kill a witch in “Oz The Great and Powerful.” ©Disney.

Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—As theatergoers discovered the life before “The Wizard of Oz”  through the recent theatrical release of Disney’s “Oz The Great and Powerful,” viewers will experience that excitement with the Blu-ray/DVD and digital On-Demand release of the film on June 11.

The film takes viewers on the journey of how the wizard (James Franco) ended up in Oz. We discover new characters that helped shape that world. One particular character that stood out with moviegoers was
that of China Girl voiced by teen actress Joey King. In the Blu-ray/DVD release, the magic of bringing China Girl is revealed in the bonus feature “China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief.”

Coming together at the studios of Sony Pictures Imageworks, King along with visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk, supervising animator Michael Kimmel and animator Carolyn Vale explained how the lovable animated China Girl character came to life and how the world of Oz was shaped.

Q: What was different in working on the film?

King: I didn’t have to be a sound booth most of the time to record my lines. They actually superimposed by face along with my voice onto the face of China Girl.

Stokdyk: In working on other films, we’d shoot on location. With this film, it was all on set.. We worked on a stripped down set so it was more of world creation and much more fantastical world. Typically, I’ve been able to work in our real world which I love. This was a nice stretch for me to go into this fantasy world.

Q: So the animators had more control of the creation of Oz?

Stokdyk: There was a huge team on this from production designers to set dressers at the head of the movie the visual effects team and I would say easily over 500 people had creative input in contributed to
every little thing of Oz.

Q: Joey, did you add any of your personality in creating China Girl?

King: I had add myself to her to have her heart and her personality to really shine through to the viewers watching the film. I added a little bit of feistiness to her because she’s this little two foot
doll who is very fragile. She’s gotta have a little spice to her. You have to have that heart and soul of that character. You have to have warmth. I definitely added my owness. I added a lot to China Girl. She’s such a unique character.

Q: Scott you mentioned, working with blue screen. The general public usually hears the term green screen. Why shoot with blue screen instead of green screen?

Stokdyk: There’s a lot of school of thought of blue screen vs green screen. If you look at all the art of OZ, you’ll see a lot of lush green in that. In that I mean, hands down, that’s the biggest factor. Also, we had a one hundred day shoot What’s not commonly known is that our eyes are more receptive to green and its harder to be at work on a green screen for days. It;s harder on the eyes. Cooler blues are more calmer and relaxing.

Q: How did you get involved in this film?

Stokdyk: I was at a screening of movie at Imageworks and Sam Raimi (director of “Oz The Great and Powerful”) and his came to that screening and kind of bumped into him and he mentioned he was doing this movie and I said, “Where do I sign up Sam?”

FRF: Joey, how was it working closely with James Franco (Oz) and Sam?
King: They were wonderful. Sam is this gentle, kindhearted person. Not just director but person ever. He’s a lovely director, a lovely person and a lovely friend. James Franco was so sweet, funny and those guys were so nice. I had the best time getting to collaborate with them and work with them.

Q: How did the build up of China Girl character happen?

Vale: We didn’t use any motion capture in animating China Girl. We took the references of the marionette doll that was used as a stand in along with references of Joey Kings facial expressions. Joey was
amazing. We wanted to make sure she was grounded in the world. A lot of times, we used video references of ourselves to build onto of the marionette movements of China Girl. There was some restrictions such as the brows and the hands with their positions. But we got to add some of the details of the marionette such as the wobbles or the certain ways she would move or bend that it matches the feel that she’s a doll.

Q: Michael, did you have any input on set to ensure that the reference
shots would be helpful to the animators?

Kimmel: Yeah. What’s great about Sam is that he’s very collaborative. For example, shooting a scene with China Doll and I see the timing that they have kind of have set up through out the shoot is not enough time for the character to do the action that they’re talking about, it’s really easy to talk to him about it and say, “I think we’re going to need a longer time on camera for her to be able to reach this

Q: Joey, wouldn’t you love to have the marionette doll of China Doll yourself?

King: I would die to have that marionette doll. Unfortunately, I don’t think they can locate it because the direct and I were wondering where’s the doll because we want one. There were only two marionette dolls. They do have dolls of China Girls at Toys R Us and other shop. They even have a limited edition one made in ceramic.