By Anthony Breznican
March 14, 2012 at 10:12 PM EDT

DreamWorks Animation previewed the first footage from its upcoming adventure saga Rise of the Guardians on Wednesday with the most detailed look so far at the movie’s take on some beloved childhood myths.

Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman …

Anyone who grew up hearing stories of these figures can conjure an image of them, but the animated feature debuting Nov. 21 this year fuses those kindly characters with a warrior mythology. They don’t just bring candy, presents, and dreams; they are relentless protectors of innocence and imagination locked in an ongoing war against fear itself.

The movie is based on the new series of books from writer and artist William Joyce (a recent Oscar-winner for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.)

“If you haven’t met Bill, he’s somebody who really, really loves and celebrates the holidays full out, all the time, not just the biggies,” says Bill Damaschke, DreamWorks Animation’s Chief Creative Officer “He’s someone who has an Arbor Day party at his house.”

The idea for an Avengers-style teamup of holiday and childhood characters came to him during his elaborate efforts to plant evidence that would make his kids believe Santa or the Tooth Fairy actually visited their home. “His daughter asked him one day about these icons, ‘Do they know each other?’ That simple question inspired him to write the books, and the answer is in the book and the film,” Damaschke said.

In the story, The Man on the Moon is like the Nick Fury of this superhero team — the guy who brings them all together. He’s a benevolent presence who studies the world from his perch revolving around the Earth and seeks to protect the children from Pitch, a boogeyman who thrives on fear.

Joyce has penned several books about the characters, three of them already in print, with more on the way, but the movie will have all of them joining forces when Pitch’s influence threatens the entire globe. A minor-league childhood myth, Jack Frost is popular for his snow-day school cancellations, but isn’t really a well-known figure compared to Santa or the Easter Bunny. He is a newcomer to the Guardian team who is essential to their victory, but not sure yet he’s actually a good guy.

Here are details about each of the main characters:

North (voiced by Alec Baldwin)

“You know him as Santa Claus, but of course he goes by many names,” says Rise of the Guardians director Peter Ramsey (head of story for Monsters vs. Aliens.) “We call him North, and he doesn’t exactly have a bowl full of jelly for a belly. He’s got ‘Naughty’ tattooed on one arm and ‘Nice’ on the other.” Baldwin gives him a kind of Russian growl, and Ramsey describes North as “a warrior, a wild man, a force of nature. We think of him as kind of a Hells Angel with a heart of gold.”

Tooth (voiced by Isla Fisher)

“She’s a beautiful, shimmering, sort of half-human, half-hummingbird creature who does exactly what we’ve always known the tooth fairy does – leave something nice under your pillow in exchange for one of your teeth,” Ramsey says. “What you don’t know is that in each one of your teeth, as you lose them, are the most precious memories of your childhood. The Tooth Fairy keeps those for you, keeps them safe, so you can draw on them for inspiration later on in life.”

Though he describes her as full of “bubbly charm,” Tooth has a sharp edge and doesn’t always get along with her prima donna Guardian colleagues. “It’s a big job. She’s busy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the help of her little tiny, adorable mini-fairies, and gets a little ticked off at the other guys who work, what, one, two days a year, Christmas and Easter?” Ramsey says. “Life just ain’t fair.”


Bunnymund (voiced by Hugh Jackman)

Picture a fearsome hunter-gatherer crossed with an adorable, furry puffball who travels around the globe through tunnels that pass through the center of the Earth. “Sundance to Santa’s Butch Cassidy is the Easter Bunny,” says Ramsey. “He’s not hopping down the bunny trail, he’s a ranger, a tracker, a warrior, a protector, and of course Easter is definitely better than Christmas in his point of view. Bunny is voiced by Hugh Jackman, who  brings his Aussie toughness and that gooey, icky, sticky core of sweetness.”

Sandy (no voice actor)

This rotund little fellow doesn’t say much, but communicates via a sort of word balloon — images of his thoughts appear over his head in wisps of the golden sand he spreads around the world to create dreams. “Sandy is probably the most charming and the wisest of the team. We think of him as a cross between Harpo Marx and Buddha,” Ramsey says.

Pitch (voiced by Jude Law)

“He’s the original bad guy, none other than the Boogeyman, Pitch, who hides under your bed at night, and brings you scary dreams,” Ramsey says. Pitch’s origin is kind of the 21st century cartoon version of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Ramsey adds, with this malevolent spirit cast out of the celestial realm where The Man on the Moon also originates.

With fear and uncertainty at an all-time high around the Earth, Pitch finds his powers growing to the point where he can make a play for ultimate control. “He’s the last guy you want to believe in,” Ramsey says.

Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine)

“The wildcard, the rebel without a cause of our movie, is Jack Frost,” Ramsey says. “Jack is kind of like the others, but subtly different. He controls all the signs of winter – frost, wind, ice, and flies on the wind. He uses these powers mostly to have fun, to do mischievous tricks. You ever have your water pipes freeze? Ever have to scrape the ice off your windshield in the morning? Fun, right? Well, that’s Jack Frost having a little fun with you.

Jack has a problem the others don’t — he’s sort of known, but not a beloved icon like the others. “Everybody believes in the Guardians. Belief is important, but nobody believes in Jack Frost, not even Jack Frost,” Ramsey says. “And in the world of the Guardians, if no one believes in you, you don’t really exist.”

That’s true in the world of movies, too. Jack Frost, just ask John Carter.

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