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Published October 13, 2023

Director Michael Giacchino Talks Colorizing ‘Werewolf by Night’

Plus, catch the Marvel Studios Special Presentation live in concert this October!

There’s a chill in the air and monsters are afoot in Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation Werewolf by Night. The hour-long special debuted last year on Disney+, introducing viewers to Jack Russell (the titular werewolf), Elsa Bloodstone, and Man-Thing — but please, call him Ted. Though presented in black and white, by the end of the special everything has switched to color as Elsa comes into possession of the glowing-red Bloodstone, giving some life back to the black-and-grey world.

But what if the whole special was presented in color? That’s an idea director (and long-time Marvel composer) Michael Giacchino started playing around with while wrapping up Werewolf by Night. Now, one year later, Werewolf by Night is arriving on Disney+ for the second time but now with more reds, blues, and greens throughout Bloodstone Manor.

And, if you’re looking to be fully immersed in the Werewolf world, Giacchino is hosting two Live to Picture concerts in both Minnesota and Washington D.C. this month. Ahead of this and everything that goes bump in the night, hopped on a video call with Giacchino to discuss the return of Jack Russell.

MARVEL: I know that colorizing Werewolf by Night has been discussed for a long time, but why was now the perfect time to release it?

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: Last year when we were finishing the film, we started messing around. What would the color version of this look like if we were to do it? We started doing some tests, and we were like, that's cool. We were well into this a year ago — wanting to do this and share this. We thought after a year of people having seen it, it's been up there, it would be fun to reintroduce it in another way — in another version of what horror really is, which is in those old movies that I used to love growing up from Hammer horror films, which were these saturated colors and stark lighting.

When we shot it, we tried to— at least in my head, I always knew black and white was foremost, the first version we were going to do. But I also kept an eye on what we were doing color-wise, in hopes that if we did a color version, it could be fun. So I think it's just a fun, nice way to reintroduce it to the world in a different way for them to experience Werewolf By Night.

And maybe if we're lucky, some viewers will go, “I want to go check out some of the films that inspired this.” Maybe they'll go back and check out some of those crazy Hammer horror films and things like that, which are nuts. But I love them, and it was just fun to bring a touch of that to what we did with Werewolf.

MARVEL: You mentioned that the Hammer films were a big inspiration in the colorization. Can you talk about any specific references you pulled from those classic movies?

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: We were looking at stills from every one of those movies— I mean, it was across the board. It wasn't any one thing. Because they kind of had a house style, especially for the things that they were shooting on sets. The way they would light them, the way that they would push the colors in the scenes. As best as we could, we did that.

MARVEL: I'm not sure what I was expecting with it in colorization, but in my mind, it was just going to be whatever you actually filmed. And no, it's a heightened saturation. Can you talk about any of the very specific color choices you made?

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: You're always thinking about, what are we accentuating here? You can boost every color, but that's not really the answer. It's about boosting certain colors, and it's really a scene-by-scene choice that you have to make. It's not just a global thing that you can put a filter on and go, OK, it's done.

You must go in almost shot by shot. We spent a lot of time in a dark room at Disney looking at every single shot, one by one, and going, you know what? That's great, but maybe a little more contrast and push the red a little bit.

You're artistically going in and making choices, and then going back and watching the whole thing to make sure that it carries over. It's a lot of work and it's a lot of intense focus. It was a lot more intensive than I thought it would be. But it was a great education in how you can then look at the past and bring it into the future.

The tools we have available to us these days are incredible. Werewolf was on film— we put it out to film and scanned it back in. And that scan is what we used then to go ahead and look at our color and see, how can we match that look. I didn't want to lose the look of the film. That was very important to me. So we were able to match it in a way that really surpassed anything I had hoped for. I was happy with it.

MARVEL: I obviously knew there would be a lot of reds and saturated blacks and greys in there, but I was surprised by how much green was in it.

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: Well, that was one of the things. Looking at some of those old movies, there was a tendency to go with a color scheme. As with any great graphic novel, or any great comic book, when they go with a color scheme, it's so much better than just treating each panel as its own thing.

Part of storytelling is making sure that what you're doing, the color is also helping you tell the story. It's not just about putting this thing in color when it wasn't. It's about how can we use color to help tell our story. When you're creating these moods, these greens will create a mood that, say, if you had put purple, or red, or something else, that's a completely different mood. It's about just tracking color and story together.

It's very similar to when you're putting music to something. Music has to reflect the story. So the color that we're choosing from scene to scene has to reflect what's happening in that scene. It can't just be bright and cheery the whole time. You really have to ride the dial and make sure that you're calibrating it in a way that helps the audience understand the story you want to tell.

MARVEL: Was there anything, seeing it in color, that surprised you about Werewolf By Night?

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: I did have one concern, which was obviously in the black and white one, you have a big turn at the end when it goes to color. The intention there was that Elsa created a whole new world. The possibilities are endless. What's she going to do with this new power she has?

That was reflected in bringing color to a place that was for years a dreary part of her life. She was able to finally bring color to it. I was worried, how will that affect the storytelling if the whole thing is in color?

But after watching it, I still felt the same feelings. I still felt the same about everything. It's certainly a different experience than in black and white, but it's just a different experience. It's just, as I said, a new way to experience that story.

MARVEL: And this might be like picking your favorite child, but are you partial to either one version or the other?

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: It's hard to say. I think the original will always be the original. The vision from the beginning was to do this thing in black and white so that we could then do something different under the Marvel umbrella. To do something that hadn't been done before. I will always be appreciative that Marvel allowed me to do that. But I do love the color one just as much. And it's like two kids, like a brother and sister that you're like, they're both great. They're both great.

MARVEL: Now, does this mean that next year we'll get Werewolf By Night in 3D?

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: 3D! Yes! Yes, then we'll do the 1950s version of the movie where it was just 3D. Yeah, maybe. I don't know. That would be great. I'd be down.

MARVEL: I’ll watch every single version. We first talked about Werewolf by Night a year ago, and now a year later, what is it like to have the show back in the zeitgeist?

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: Well, it was funny. As I was prepping for this, looking at everything, I was like, wow. I haven't watched this in a long time. I had forgotten a bunch of things. And when you really think about it, it's been a year since that came out already. It made me think, wait, when are we making the next one? When is that happening? That's what I want to do.

MARVEL: And now, of course, the color special is coming out. But you also have two live concerts coming up as well. Can you talk about putting those together?

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: We thought it would be fun for the fall and Halloween, and the spirit of all of that is that do these live-to-picture concerts. I've been doing them for years all of the other movies that I've been working on, a lot of the Pixar films.

It just felt like, hey, why don't we build a concert around this? And the first half of the concert could be about teaching about old horror movies and where they came from, and how music works in them. We can show how it works with and without music, and what music does to help elevate a story and bring characters to the forefront.

We put together something where the first half of the concert is all about this fun education of what horror movies are, what the music is, and how it works. And then the second half of the concert is Werewolf By Night Live-to-Picture. So they actually get to see the orchestra playing along with the movie— the entire score live, right in front of their eyes.

It's an incredible experience to see that when you realize that it's not just a thing that lives on my TV. There were humans involved in making this thing. Now I get to see exactly how that works. That there's an entire orchestra of people that have studied music for years and years and years to be good enough to get up on that stage and just play whatever you put in front of them.

I think it was built to be a fun night celebrating the movies that I loved growing up. And it was just a blast to make Werewolf By Night, and we get to do it now Live-to-Picture with an orchestra.

werewolf by night

MARVEL: What's it like watching an audience watch your score and your special up on the big screen?

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: Any of these things are always best watched with an audience. I was very lucky that Werewolf By Night, we did a ton of screenings around town. We would do all of these midnight things. We had it on film. We projected it. That's usually not done with the streaming shows. Normally you don't get to have that audience experience in the end. Which is the thing that any filmmaker craves is just sharing it with an audience and feeling that communal experience of watching something together.

I felt so lucky to be able to do that. And the fact that we get to then do it again in the form of a concert is also fun. I will always hope that the things I work on end up in a place where they can be shared communally because that just elevates the experience in a way that sitting at home on your sofa just doesn't do.

Not that that's bad. That's fun. But get out and see it with people. I think that's the best version of watching a movie.

See Werewolf by Night in concert this October! Tickets are on sale now for a performance on October 21 with The National Symphony Orchestra

Watch Werewolf by Night now on Disney+, and streaming on Hulu until October 31. 

Werewolf by Night in Color arrives on Disney+ on October 20. 


WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #1 cover by E.M. Gist


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