My Little Pony: The Movie – behind the scenes with the cinematographer

Hands up who has a My Little Pony fan careering around the house in excitement at the movie just out? Well I know I certainly do, and so when I got the opportunity to interview the cinematographer for My Little Pony: The Movie – Anthony Di Ninno –  I jumped at the chance. So are you ready? It’s time to find out how the magic really happens…

So tell us what it was like working on My Little Pony: The Movie

Working on My Little Pony was a great experience. We had the opportunity to create a completely new way of working. Early on when I was approached to be a part of the film, I was immediately interested in the opportunity to work on a 2-D animated feature. Then, when I dove into the world that had been created in the TV series I really fell in love with the characters and world that they had built. That was what ultimately drew me to work on the movie.

What was the most difficult part you worked on for the movie and why

Well, that depends on if you mean emotionally difficult or technically difficult!

Emotionally, the toughest scene for me was the scene where Pinkie and Twilight argue on the beach. Initially that scene was staged to include a lot more of the other characters, but as we continued to cut that scene, we ended up removing more and more characters so that we could really focus on the rising tension between the two characters.

Technically, the opening shot of the movie was probably the most difficult shot of the movie. It begins with a spark that ignites the logo of the movie in the stars.  The camera then falls from the sky and follows a group of pegasus through the clouds and continues across the land and right into canterlot where we find Spike. It was the very first thing I ever planned and proposed on the movie and the very last shot that was completed on the film. A lot of people worked very hard on the that shot.

And how much planning went into that scene?

A lot of planning goes into any scene in an animated movie. The very fundamentals of what the medium of animation is means that anything is possible, but absolutely nothing is free. Everything has to be created, by hand, from nothing. So if you are not very clear on your vision for any given scene in the film then a lot of the time, as a result, a lot of money will be wasted.

Can you share a few insights about one of the flagship scenes in the movie?

There is a scene in the movie where our heroes are transformed into sea ponies by Queen Novo. Initially this was planned as a series of static shots focused on a few of the ponies. I was never fully satisfied with this, and thought it lacked the visual impact that this moment deserved. So, late in production, I pulled apart that sequence and connected the 3 shots into one single shot where the camera is guided by this trail of magic past the characters as they transform. The FX team did an amazing job adapting to the change at the last minute and turned it into a beautiful shot that supports the majesty of the moment much more than how it was staged before.

What were your most favourite scenes to work on and why?

I loved working on the Tempest song, simply because she is one of my favourite characters in the movie and it is my favourite song in the movie. Emily Blunt gives a great performance and that scene is a great example of so many different artists coming together and making a scene work.

Can you share a couple of your favourite behind-the-scenes moments from working on the movie?

I remember the first time we got back Emily Blunt’s voice record, and all of sudden that character really came to life for me; I was blown away. I thought it was a great performance that matched the character design so flawlessly that it became impossible to imagine any other actor in that role. It gave the camera and animation teams so much to grab onto when creating the rest of her character. She’s a stand out for me.

On a similar front, after hearing Liev’s performance for the first time, we were all on the floor laughing. And I mean that in a good way. Being a fan of his and knowing he’s an actor that is capable of so much subtly and gravitas, and then to hear this completely bombastic performance – I thought it was a great choice and a perfect counter to Emily’s more stoic performance as Tempest.

What would you like to say to every My Little Pony fan out there….

I hope you truly enjoy the film. The whole crew put our hearts and souls into telling this story and we hope that comes through on screen.

And lastly…are you planning to watch the movie at the cinema when it’s out?

Absolutely! I’ve seen the movie so many times but I’m looking forward to sitting in a movie theatre and experiencing it with the audience, both long time pony fans and new.

My Little Pony: The Movie is in cinemas everywhere now! For more information see the My Little Pony: The Movie website here.


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