Director Talks “Little Spirit”
By Ryan Bell; December 10, 2008
A pet project that started off as an independent short film is now an animated primetime network holiday special airing Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. on NBC. We chatted with writer/director/producer/animator Leopoldo Gout to learn a bit about the making of Little Spirit: Christmas in New York, his love letter to the Big Apple featuring the voices of Danny Devito, Lucy Liu, Freddy Rodriguez, Brian Williams and Brenda Song. Animation was produced at Curious Pictures (Little Einsteins, Codename: Kids Next Door), of which Gout is a partner.
DeVito is heard as a wisecracking cab driver who picks up two grouchy teens and tries to fill them with the holiday spirit by telling them the story of boy who reluctantly moved to New York City with his parents. As young Leo tries to get along in his new surroundings, his small dog, Ramona, gets lost in the big city and has a series of misadventures involving flocks of pigeons and packs of squirrels. When he realizes his pet is missing, Leo is visited by a little, yellow spirit who helps him find Ramona and realize that New York can be a magical place to be during the holiday.
Gout, who says he came to the U.S. from Mexico City with nothing but a few paint brushes, tells us he was feeling a lot of positive energy in New York and wanted to capture the spirit of the city in a heartwarming tale for his son. “Coming from Mexico, I still see snow through the eyes of a child—it’s still magical to me,” he says. “Walking through the city in the winter, I wondered why nobody had made an animated holiday special that takes place here.”
To authentically capture the essence of New York City and make it a character in the story, shot a lot of photos and video on the city streets. Accompanied by music and original songs by Grammy- and Tony-award winning composer Duncan Sheik, the rich backgrounds are remarkable considering the special was made under tight time and budgetary constraints.
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