SAN FRANCISCO — It might seem odd to make a live-action feature film based on a Mickey Mouse character from 1940. But that's what actor Nicolas Cage and director Jon Turtletaub have done with The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
The film is based on the animated segment of the same name from the Disney classic Fantasia. In the segment, one of eight shorts set to classical music, Mickey is the eager assistant to magician Yen Sid. After being assigned housework, Mickey tries using magic to take care of the tasks. That leads to a near disaster from an army of brooms.
The idea started when Cage told producer Todd Garner, while shooting the 2007 movie Next, that he wanted to play a magician in a future film.
Garner "came in the next day and said we should do Sorcerer's Apprentice," Cage said during an interview earlier this year.
Cage and his business partner at the time, Norm Golightly, came up with a script. It cast Cage as the sorcerer who must teach an eager young apprentice. Jay Baruchel landed the role of the apprentice.
"Mickey Mouse wasn't available," joked Turteltaub.
Baruchel was eager to step into the part.
"I will fuse any part I'm playing with physical comedy. So when I get to do something like pay homage to one of the great funny sequences in film history, I was kind of chomping at the bit," Baruchel said. "I tried my best to give my respect to what Mickey did while doing my own thing as well."
Cage picked Turteltaub as the director. The pair had worked on National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, and Cage was convinced Turteltaub could mix special effects, action scenes and humor into the script.
To turn the animated sequence of less than 15 minutes into a feature-length film, they decided to tell the back story of the sorcerer, which includes a centuries-long battle with an evil magician. There's also a secondary love story for the apprentice.
Turteltaub was inspired by the original cinematography, which heavily used light and dark to reflect the emotions of a scene. There are a few other small nods, including a 21st-century version of the classic animated scene featuring dancing mops and brooms.