Verbinski cleared up some plot details. Rango (Depp) is really a pet chameleon who lives in a terrarium. “He’s a thespian in search of an audience, ” says Verbinski. “He’s created friends with the inanimate objects in his terrarium — he calls them all by name. And when we meet him, he’s along the way of putting on a play using the various objects. ” Verbinski then alluded to Roadkill, an armadillo voiced by Alfred Molina: “Roadkill’s run over within the origin of Rango’s demise, exactly where his terrarium is thrust from his car, and he leads to the desert. ”
Via a bizarre set of circumstances, Rango winds up at a town called Dirt, which is populated by all sorts of Mojave Desert wildlife. “This town is actually hungry for a hero, and they get the fantastic pretender, ” says Verbinski. “Rango has to ultimately comprehend the difference between pretending and what’s real. ” The director also mentioned that Rango, as an aquatic creature desperately in need of hydration, ironically finds himself obtaining involved in a Chinatown-esque water subplot.
Already Rango comes off as an animated movie with a lot more substance on its mind and much more tricks up its sleeve than most. And the way Verbinski went about recording his characters’ voices was a departure for an animated movie. Typically, actors perform their lines alone in a recording studio. But instead, Verbinski gathered his entire cast — including Depp, Timothy Olyphant, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Isla Fisher, Ray Winstone, and Harry Dean Stanton — and had them act out the entire movie in a studio during the course of a 20-day shoot. Utilizing a limited quantity of props, sets, and costumes, the actors repeatedly tackled their scenes while video cameras recorded their performances.
“It’s not motion capture — it is called emotion-capture, ” says Verbinski. “I didn’t want to stop the strategies that were developed in shooting live action, exactly where you try to optimize the possibility of capturing the awkward moment — the moment in which things aren’t cerebral or manufactured. Everything in an animated film is manufactured. There are no accidents. So we had been trying to encourage a kinetic, raw spark to the audio track. ” Verbinski showed us some of this footage, and obviously, the sight of Johnny Depp pretending to be a heroic cowboy lizard is simultaneously amusing and slightly disturbing.