The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Full Production Notes

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The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can’t do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, as his reluctant protégé. The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and together, these unlikely partners work to stop the forces of darkness. It’ll take all the courage Dave can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl as he becomes The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Walt Disney Studios, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Jon Turteltaub, the creators of the “National Treasure” franchise, present The Sorcerer’s Apprentice — an innovative and epic comedy adventure about a sorcerer and his hapless apprentice who are swept into the center of an ancient conflict between good and evil.

Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can’t do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, as his reluctant protégé.

The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and together, these unlikely partners work to stop the forces of darkness. It’ll take all the courage Dave can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl as he becomes The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The screenplay is by Matt Lopez and Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard from a screen story by Matt Lopez and Larry Konner & Mark Rosenthal.

A Magical Journey Through Time

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” has sparked the imagination of some of the most creative minds in history—from Nicolas Cage, Jon Turteltaub and Jerry Bruckheimer to composer Paul Dukas and Walt Disney.

But it all started with a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a great German writer, thinker and natural scientist who penned “Der Zauberlehrling,” the enduring work of poetry, in 1797. Goethe’s 14-stanza poem is narrated by the apprentice himself, who, upon being left to his own devices by his old “Hexenmeister,” takes it upon himself to arrogantly demonstrate his own magical arts. The apprentice orders an old broomstick to wrap itself in rags, grow a head and two arms and, with a bucket, prepare a bath for him.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Teresa Palmer

The living broomstick fills not only the tub, but every bowl and cup, and the apprentice has forgotten the magic word to make it stop, resulting in a massive flood. The apprentice takes an axe to the poor old broom, splitting it in twain…resulting in two living broomsticks. The apprentice is finally bailed out, quite literally, by the return of the old hexenmeister, who quickly sends the broom back into the closet from whence it came, with an imprecation that it will return only when he, the true master, calls it forth once again to do his bidding.

A hundred years later, the poem was adapted into a hugely popular 10-minute symphonic piece, “L’apprenti sorcier,” by the French composer Paul Dukas. An immediate success for its brilliant musical coloration and rhythmic excellence, and its wonderfully jaunty “march of the broomsticks,” the scherzo has truly stood the test of time and is, to a popular audience anyway, Dukas’ most enduring work. Walt Disney discovered it some four decades after that, creating an animated version for his immortal “Fantasia,” casting none other than Mickey Mouse in the title role of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” In the summer of 1937, while dining alone at Chasen’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, the still-youthful king of movie animation invited the famed conductor Leopold Stokowski to join him, and something extraordinary was conjured up between them.

Walt Disney had already utilized music as a foundation of his animated film series, Silly Symphonies, and hoped to collaborate with Stokowski on a cartoon short based on Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

The idea of putting classical music to animated segments was later expanded, ultimately creating the wildly risky but wonderfully ambitious “Fantasia.” The 125-minute film—unusually long even today for an animated feature—opened to great fanfare on November 13, 1940, at the Broadway Theatre in New York City. The music was enhanced by a multichannel sound system, especially developed for the film, called Fantasound, and “Fantasia” became the first commercial motion picture ever to be exhibited with stereophonic sound. The film now stands as an eternal testament to Walt Disney’s artistic ambitions and unshakable will to advance the art form of both animation and motion pictures by creating something which audiences had never before seen nor heard. “Fantasia” is one of the films selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” episode is generally considered the best and most beloved episode of all.

Now, 69 years after the release of “Fantasia,” Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films have created a fresh story for the big screen. While inspired by those that came before it, 2010’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is an all-new live-action adventure. The message remains simple and fun, yet timeless and profound. “What’s great about the story is this little lesson about cutting corners, doing things the easy way, trying to fulfill this desire we all have to grow up a little too fast,” says Turteltaub.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The living broomstick fills not only the tub, but every bowl and cup, and the apprentice has forgotten the magic word to make it stop, resulting in a massive flood. The apprentice takes an axe to the poor old broom, splitting it in twain…resulting in two living broomsticks. The apprentice is finally bailed out, quite literally, by the return of the old hexenmeister, who quickly sends the broom back into the closet from whence it came, with an imprecation that it will return only when he, the true master, calls it forth once again to do his bidding.

A hundred years later, the poem was adapted into a hugely popular 10-minute symphonic piece, “L’apprenti sorcier,” by the French composer Paul Dukas. An immediate success for its brilliant musical coloration and rhythmic excellence, and its wonderfully jaunty “march of the broomsticks,” the scherzo has truly stood the test of time and is, to a popular audience anyway, Dukas’ most enduring work. Walt Disney discovered it some four decades after that, creating an animated version for his immortal “Fantasia,” casting none other than Mickey Mouse in the title role of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” In the summer of 1937, while dining alone at Chasen’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, the still-youthful king of movie animation invited the famed conductor Leopold Stokowski to join him, and something extraordinary was conjured up between them.

Walt Disney had already utilized music as a foundation of his animated film series, Silly Symphonies, and hoped to collaborate with Stokowski on a cartoon short based on Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

The idea of putting classical music to animated segments was later expanded, ultimately creating the wildly risky but wonderfully ambitious “Fantasia.” The 125-minute film—unusually long even today for an animated feature—opened to great fanfare on November 13, 1940, at the Broadway Theatre in New York City. The music was enhanced by a multichannel sound system, especially developed for the film, called Fantasound, and “Fantasia” became the first commercial motion picture ever to be exhibited with stereophonic sound. The film now stands as an eternal testament to Walt Disney’s artistic ambitions and unshakable will to advance the art form of both animation and motion pictures by creating something which audiences had never before seen nor heard. “Fantasia” is one of the films selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” episode is generally considered the best and most beloved episode of all.

Now, 69 years after the release of “Fantasia,” Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films have created a fresh story for the big screen. While inspired by those that came before it, 2010’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is an all-new live-action adventure. The message remains simple and fun, yet timeless and profound. “What’s great about the story is this little lesson about cutting corners, doing things the easy way, trying to fulfill this desire we all have to grow up a little too fast,” says Turteltaub.

Locations

“The idea is that sorcerers and the ancient art of sorcery are alive and well in present-day New York City,” says director Jon Turteltaub. “It’s much more entertaining to show audiences the magic in things they recognize than to create something.

“New York City is an extraordinary place,” Turteltaub continues, “and New Yorkers are so busy achieving, they often don’t actually notice what is here. If you stop and look around, there are amazing things everywhere. If you walk through Manhattan one day, and instead of looking straight ahead you look up instead, you will see the most amazing architectural details on those buildings. New York is an entire universe.”

For its adoring inhabitants and millions of visitors, New York is truly a city like no other. It has, of course, been the backdrop for countless films, including, now, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

“New York has everything,” says the Detroit-born producer Jerry Bruckheimer, “wonderful high rises, a fast pace, the greatest restaurants in the world, the centers of publishing and finance. It will never look as magical as it does in ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.’”

“This movie is a love letter to New York City,” says Montreal native Jay Baruchel. “Anyone who’s spent any time in New York knows that it is truly the world’s capital. In the film, when we’re driving in Times Square or on Sixth Avenue in the car chase, we’re actually doing it. Everybody, including my mother, has been blown away, gobsmacked and awestruck by the size, grandeur and detail. People are going to see our movie and get taken away into a New York that they recognize, but have never really seen before.”

Baruchel also got a kick out of shooting at New York University in Greenwich Village for very particular reasons. “It was amazing for me, because I’d always dreamt of going to NYU Film School and could never float the bill. So many great movies have come as a result of that institution, and it’s so seared into the collective consciousness.”

“It’s an incredibly photogenic city,” says London-born Alfred Molina, “and has such a dramatic presence and throbbing life. When the magic happens, it happens in a city which is magical in itself, so there’s a double whammy.”

“I’ve never spent much time in New York before,” admits Australia-born Teresa Palmer, “but there is a magical energy there that just feels so alive and energetic. It’s the sort of city where dreams really do come true, and I think the film definitely lends itself to that.”

Adds Toby Kebbell, “Although New York is so much younger than London, where I live, you can have all these amazing things going on right in front of your face, and you just brush it off, because with all of the millions of people milling about, your brain doesn’t even register them.”

“The goal of this movie,” says director of photography Bojan Bazelli, who originally hails from far-off Serbia, “is to create ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ New York. We are not trying to particularly change the look of the city, we are embracing it, and then blending it with our own magical vision. The energy between light and dark are in almost every shot, and we used the latest technology and most creative people to give audiences a New York that’s fresh, different and alive with magic.”

Of course, shooting in NYC has its challenges, including vehicular and human traffic. But filmmakers ultimately found a wide range of real locations with extraordinary history behind them. Locations spanned the city, from Times Square and Midtown Manhattan to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Production designer Naomi Shohan worked her magic in Tribeca, creating the exterior of the Arcana Cabana in the 1869 Grosvenor Building on White Street.

Duking It Out in the Arcana Cabana

The first action sequence of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is a spectacular sorcerer’s duel between arch enemies Balthazar Blake and Maxim Horvath in the Arcana Cabana, Balthazar’s decidedly bizarre old curiosity shop in Lower Manhattan, its spooky confines stuffed to the rafters with all manner of bric-a-brac. The magical battle is witnessed by 10-year-old Dave Stutler, who has been lured to the shop by a runaway love note he penned to young Becky.

The Arcana Cabana battle is the first time we see sorcery in action in the film, from Merlin’s dragon ring, which very magically comes to life and walks onto Dave’s finger, to Horvath’s emergence from the Grimhold, and then Balthazar and Horvath using the full range of their powers to cast spells, move objects and, in essence, blow the place to bits before they’re both sucked into a large urn—where they will remain until both return into each other’s (and Dave’s) lives in a decade.

“The Grimhold,” explains Nicolas Cage, “is a prison for the very, very scary and wicked Morganians, and the more evil the Morganian, the deeper into the circles of this sort of Russian nesting doll they go. Morgana is in the center. The obstacle is that it keeps getting taken, and every time that happens, Horvath has the ability to open it and release another very dangerous force of Morganian evil.”

The Arcana Cabana sequence provides a perfect example of how interdepartmental cooperation was essential to creating a compelling and believable sequence. As with every other foot of film, the scene combined the efforts of director Jon Turteltaub along with the other magicians of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” His key creative team included masterful director of photography Bojan Bazelli, production designer Naomi Shohan, costume designer Michael Kaplan, visual effects supervisor John Nelson, legendary special effects supervisor John Frazier and his on-set coordinator, Mark Hawker, and stunt coordinator George Marshall Ruge.

“This scene establishes the magic that sorcerers are capable of doing,” says Nelson. “We see plasma generated and fired for the first time, fires are created through pyrokinesis, there are concussion blasts, matter is moved through telekinesis, and there’s a gravity inversion spell by Balthazar which sends Horvath hurtling up to the ceiling. It’s a true collaborative effort of practical effects, stunts, the actors, camera, direction.”

In the last decade, Nelson has earned three Oscar® nominations, winning for his work on 2000’s “Gladiator.” His professional philosophy is straightforward. “We do visual effects for things that are too dangerous, too expensive or impossible to do,” says Nelson. “My idea of a perfect visual effect is one that starts with a practical effect—a real event that can be photographed—and then goes into something that’s amazing that looks real, ending with another practical effect. We have a great group of people under physical effects supervisor John Frazier working on set, and they’re terrific at providing what’s known as ‘floor effects’ to make everything as real as possible. Then we take it someplace else.”

“With this film, we knew there would be a really great mix of CGI and live mechanical effects,” says Frazier. “That’s the way Jon Turteltaub likes to shoot. He wants as much of it live as possible, and then enhance it with CGI. Audiences are now so sophisticated, they don’t want to see stuff like what we did in the ’60s and ’70s that was totally mechanical. But on the other hand, sometimes when something is done entirely CGI, it looks like a cartoon rather than a movie.

“We did a lot of live effects on ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,’” continues Frazier. “Magic has always been about smoke and mirrors, and we have both in the movie!”

The “Fantasia” Scene

In his underground lab, trying to hurry for a date with Becky for which he’s waited a decade, Dave breaks the first rule of sorcery: “Magic is not to be used for personal gain or shortcuts.” In an effort to quickly tidy up the lab, Dave begins to manipulate mops, brooms, buckets and even sponges to perform his chores for him…with disastrous results!

“‘Fantasia’s’ ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ is one of the greatest works of Disney animation, so we had to be very careful with how we adapted it,” says producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “We didn’t want to ruin the magic, but create new magic as a loving homage to the original.”

Says director Jon Turteltaub, “One of the biggest mistakes a director can make is to take on a piece in which every critic in the world will be judging you against one of the greatest things ever made. We’re taking eight of the most famous minutes in movie history, and what are our choices? We could either wisely just make a little wink towards it and then move on and try not to compete. Or we can really go for it. Let’s update, let’s do our version relative to this movie, with the technology that we now have—and for me, this is the key element—keeping the moral the same.

“Paul Dukas’ music was the inspiration for the episode in ‘Fantasia,’ while the original story from the Goethe poem was the inspiration to the music,” Turteltaub continues. “So with an enormous number of people and resources, we put together what we hope is a really entertaining, fun experience which really takes the essence of Walt Disney’s ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ and gives you our version, which is the essence of the fable, the Goethe poem, the Dukas music and the Disney animation.”

Jay Baruchel was challenged and honored by the task at hand, but never intimidated. “It’s a huge honor and a tremendous responsibility to walk in Mickey Mouse’s shoes. Those are pretty big shoes to fill, and I wondered how to do my own thing and make it funny without stepping on or moving away from what made that sequence so iconic in the first place. For me to be in this movie, and be allowed to put my stamp on and at the same time pay homage to one of the most beloved sequences in film history, wasn’t lost on me. It was an absolute treat, incredibly fun, and I loved having all those mops and brooms kick my butt. It was just magical. It was hard not to be a kid in that situation, man. I grew up watching that scene in ‘Fantasia,’ so after getting to do my own version of it, I could retire right now.”

Part of what gave Baruchel so much impetus and creativity in his own interpretation of the scene was his intrinsic and thoughtful understanding of the tale’s essence. “Adam and Eve couldn’t help but eat the apple, right? It’s the old ‘curiosity- killed-the-cat’ thing. Trying to find the quickest, easiest way of getting something done is an ambition that we all share, and we’ve all had that come back to bite us in the butt cheeks, right? The sequence is about somebody trying to cut out the middleman, and paying a huge price for it.” Although the final version of Paul Dukas’ timeless music was freshly adapted by composer Trevor Rabin, a traditional version of the piece was played on set during the sequence’s filming, not only for atmosphere, but also for specific timing purposes. And although the live-action feature version doesn’t mimic the animated original, there are a few direct references—the shadow cast on the lab wall by Dave wearing his hoodie looks curiously like the one cast by Mickey Mouse in his peaked sorcerer’s cap.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice Movie Poster

Direted by: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Monica Bellucci, Payton List, Alice Krige
Screenplay by: Matt Lopez and Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard
Production Design by: Naomi Shohan
Cinematography by: Bojan Bazelli
Film Editing by: William Goldenberg
Costume Design by: Michael Kaplan
Set Decoration by: George DeTitta Jr.
Music by: Trevor Rabin
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: July 16, 2010

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