Writer and director Jill Culton took on a massive project in making Abominable for DreamWorks, which premieres in theaters on September 27. She crafted a tale of unlikely partnership between a mythical Yeti and a brave teenage girl named Yi (Chloe Bennet) that speaks to friendship and family as much as it does legendary creatures.
The filmmaker sat down with Screen Rant to explain what drew her to the idea in the first place, why her heroine is so dear to her heart, and how Everest the Yeti evolves over the course of the film.
First of all, congratulations on Abominable. Amazing, amazing job. But where did the inspiration and idea for Abominable come from?
Jill Culton: Well, when I first started working at DreamWorks, they pitched a bunch of ideas. But there was this blank canvas; they wanted a Yeti movie, and that's what they had.
I did some research on yetis and found that there's not a lot about them. We know they live on Mount Everest; we've seen the footprints – but it was a character I could create and create the lore around. So, this ability that he has to kind of enhance nature or to control nature was something that I was allowed to give to him as kind of his superpower. That was inspiring.
Then I also had a real desire to make a really strong-willed, independent girl who would drive this movie. [She’s] strong-willed, but she's also very flawed. She leaps before she looks sometimes, and it gets her into trouble. She was the role model that I wish I had growing up. I wasn't into the princess movies, and so I hope she's a strong role model for our audiences.
It's interesting. I heard that you had said something about how there's a lot of you in the story and in the characters. Can you expand on that a little bit?
Jill Culton: Yeah. I mean, I grew up in Ventura. I was a surfer; a skateboarder. I was just like Yi. And even her clothing that she put on is kind of funky; it's a t-shirt and shorts over leggings, over socks with chunky boots. I had no awareness when I was a kid that you're supposed to dress like a proper girl. So what she's wearing, I think, is such an example of just an independent, kind of free-spirited person. And so, I definitely can relate to her.
Also, her relationship with Everest. I've had big dogs my whole life; I have two bloodhounds that are 100 pounds each right now. But I've always grown up with giant dogs. And there's something about that nonverbal communication you have with your pets – anyone who has them – that I think is really special.
Of course, Everest becomes much more than that. Throughout the movie, he evolves. That was also a fun part: to just give him layers so that by the end of the movie, instead of Yi taking care of him, he's taking care of her. Almost like the guardian angel who led her to a place where she can heal. He becomes even more than just a creature.
Another character that I found fascinating was Eddie Izzard’s character. He has a very specific and certain point of view. Can you talk to me about what that represents in the story, but also what that represents historically?
Jill Culton: I think he is that person that sees animals as a trophy. He sees this rare animal, this Yeti, and he thinks that he can capture it and capitalize on it. And he wanted to tell the world that Yetis exist. Of course, without the proof, the world laughed at him. So, he's out to get his proof.
At the beginning of the movie, he's like, “Dead or alive. I don't care. I just got to prove it.” So, he's that kind of cynical guy, who doesn't see this creature as [having] a personality, or with any sort of empathy. But by the end of the movie, of course – I'm not going to give it away for everybody, but – he has kind of a change of heart, I should say.
So, I think he's that person out there whose heart needs to be opened a little bit more into what these creatures are in this world.
- Abominable (2019) release date: Sep 27, 2019