SPY KIDS - GADGETS AND SPECIAL EFFECTS
Nothing gets a spy, or a kid, as excited as a wildly inventive new gadget - and SPY KIDS is full of amazing gizmos and inventions that will tickled adult funny bones and light up children's imaginations. Most importantly, SPY KIDS gadgets use playfulness, skill, curiosity and strategy to outsmart villains, rather than violence.
Most of the SPY KIDS gadgets came right out of the fertile imagination of Robert Rodriguez, who became a sort of no-holds-barred "Q" for kids, coming up with modes of transportation and means of surveillance that would make anyone's eye pop. Some of Rodriguez's most exotic gadgets include:
A computer-programmed Super Guppy submarine pod that can transform into a boat
A shiny silver Spy Car with video screens that can turn amphibious at a moment's notice
A GPS locator that can tell you where on earth anybody you're looking for is
A speedy, kid-size spy plane with video-game controls that can circle the globe in minutes
Buddy Pack jetpacks that slip on like backpacks but take off like rockets
Tool belts filled with surprises
But throughout the film, there are also myriad smaller but equally fascinating inventions that turn ordinary "kid" items - such as bubblegum and crayolas - into powerful forces for good. There's even a silly-string-like Instant Cement that gets the kids out of a jam.
Most of the gadgets seen in SPY KIDS began as drawings in Robert Rodriguez's notebooks. As Elizabeth Avellan notes: "He'd been working on the shape of the submarine pod for years, refining it over and over until it was just right."
With his sketches finalized, Rodriguez then handed his fledgling designs over to an accomplished team of makeup, special effects, modeling and computer artists to bring his ideas to life - by any means necessary. Much of the real work of making kids fly in jet packs, and cars turn into submarines, was done inside computers. But working models were also created, including a life-size Spy Plane.
The logistics behind some of the creations stretched even the filmmakers' imaginations, requiring forays into physics and trigonometry. For example, when the Spy Pod carrying Carmen and Juni turns for awhile into a speed-boat-like contraption, riding across the surface of the water and producing a unique wake, the filmmakers were stumped as to how to shoot the scene properly. The kids needed to be mounted high up on the boat, but this would put them in danger of capsizing due to the high center of gravity. What Rodriguez decided he really needed was a square boat. Crazy as that sounded, days later while flying on a plane to Los Angeles, Rodriguez saw a picture of exactly that: a square boat used in rescue missions. The production bought one - and not only did it keep the kids safe, it created exactly the right kind of wake for the pod shape!"
Some gadgets were simpler than others, of course. To create the highly top-secret "Third Brain" that gets the Cortez family in so much trouble, Rodriguez held a "Brain Painting Party" one day on the set, with prizes for the best rendition.
The operation of SPY KID's gadgets required the latest state-of-the-art computer-generated effects. Many of the film's most high-action sequences were shot in an airplane hangar in Austin, Texas - formerly used by George Bush - which had an entire wall converted in a green screen, which could be used to later layer in digital shots and effects.
The SPY KIDS gadgets also necessitated many high-flying stunts, which were made even more exciting because children were involved in their performance, an unusual situation, especially when you have characters jumping from planes! As stunt coordinator Jeff Dashro explains: "It's different working with kids, especially when you've got them flying across rooms and doing stuff they don't normally do in movies. There's always an element of danger so you have to really use your imagination to come up with the best way to do things. But, on the other hand, it's very enjoyable because the kids just have a blast. It isn't work to them. It's sheer joy."
Both Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara had stunt doubles - who were in turn children of stunt men and women - but Dashro estimates that they each performed about 80 percent of the stunts themselves. Daryl, for example, was ratcheted thirty feet backwards through the air, across Alamo Park in San Antonio Texas, during the sequence in which he battles Carmen's look-alike robot. "It was a so much fun that Alexa kept asking if she could do it," recalls Dashro. "But we always had to remember that this is a seven year-old kid. We were doing big-guy stunts with little kids."
"The kids were amazing, unbelievably coordinated, smart and brave," adds producer Elizabeth Avellan. "For them it was exciting, wild and full of action. But we really are a family and we keep a family atmosphere on the set. It was a safe, fun environment for them and they really thrived."