"Owls of Ga'Hoole" swoop into movie with Aussie accents

CANBERRA Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:49am EDT

A scene from the film ''Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole''; a Warner Bros. release. REUTERS/Warner Bros. Pictures

A scene from the film ''Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole''; a Warner Bros. release.

Credit: Reuters/Warner Bros. Pictures

CANBERRA (Reuters) - When American writer Kathryn Lasky created a world of good and evil owls, she didn't envisage them with Australian accents but somehow it fit the movie screen adaptation of her "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" books.

The 3D animated movie "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole," which hits U.S. theaters on Friday, is based on the first three of the 15 books in the fantasy series written by Lasky between 2003 and 2008 about a post-human world of owls.

The movie, described as a cross between "Watership Down" and "The Lord of the Rings," was directed by Zack Snyder of "300" and "Watchmen" fame and produced by Oscar-winning Sydney-based animation house, Animal Logic, as well as Australia's Village Roadshow production company, which also collaborated on the 2006 dancing penguin film "Happy Feet."

The film features a list of top Australian actors voicing the owls including Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia, Sam Neill and Abbie Cornish. U.S. actor Jim Sturgess voices the hero, Soren, and Britain's Helen Mirren is the evil owl Nyra.

Lasky, 66, a prolific writer with over 100 fiction and non-fiction books to her name, said she was happy with Snyder's decision to cast Australians in the majority of the roles.

"I didn't envisage the owls having Australian accents but it is fine with me," Lasky told Reuters in a telephone interview from her Boston home.

"It gives a certain 'je ne sais quoi.' Harry Potter had these British accents. For American filmgoers, I think particularly with fantasy, it is a little value adding to have a different accent as it adds something exotic."

The film follows the young barn owl Soren as he is kidnapped by the owls of the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls which brainwashes its wards into becoming soldiers for the Pure Ones who believe Barn Owls are superior to all others.

The evil Pure Ones are mounting an offensive against the wise and peaceful band of winged warriors known as the Guardians of Ga'Hoole who protect "owlkind."

Although the books were aimed at young adults, Lasky said adult and historical themes run throughout. One book includes material based on a World War II speech by Winston Churchill, and battles based on the Normandy Invasion and the ancient Battle of Thermopylae also appear in the series.

That particular battle was also the subject of Snyder's 2006 movie "300," but Lasky said it was pure coincidence she had written it into her series. She added that her use of history should not be taken too seriously.

"I don't write with an instructive purpose in mind...but I don't see why history has to be exclusively the realm of historical fiction books and not fantasy," said Lasky who is now writing a spin-off series from Ga'Hoole about wolves.

"I also use a lot of Shakespeare. Why not reuse this stuff? It is great. I always give credit and I think it adds to the richness of the writing."

Lasky said she was involved in the making of the film in a minor way. This is her first book adapted to screen.

"The sceenwriters consulted me and everyone listened to what I had to say which was great and I was impressed with the final script," she said. "The film is incredibly faithful to the spirit of the books and the characters."

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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