I interviewed the animators for my next book which is a narrative natural science for adults on spiders. I am a recovered arachnophobe who overdid the cure and am now obsessed by them. I have quite a long quote from John Dietz, who headed the animation team, on how they went about doing Charlotte.
The dopers’ answers on the barn spider are quite right. That is one of the garden orb weavers, with different species found all over the world. Anyone who has seen one of those huge orb webs on a summer’s night that is gone in the monring, has a Charlotte there. They are stunning to watch, and almost everywhere in the world.
The animators did make some changes. John didn’t mention wolf spiders, but they did have to give her big eyes for expression. All orb weavers have eight tiny eyes and almost no sight. They used real garden orb weavers a lot, though, especially for the shape and movement. Garden orb weavers are clumbsy off their webs, so John said they made Charlotte move like she does on the web, even when on hard surfaces or pig’s noses.
To make her speak, they couldn’t give her a mouth. A spider’s mouth is underneath, so they made her chelicerae (the bits that hold the fangs) move in and out, which is what they do in ‘modern’ spiders like the orb weavers.
norinew, I have been talking to school kids, some as young as your daughter, about spiders. It’s a presentation I do using the images from the book, on getting to know your own spiders as individuals. I have had a huge positive reaction to it. There is a big differencce in the reaction to kids since Charlotte’s Web came out. I told the animators that, and John replied:
“What you’re saying about changing attitudes of children has really made a lot of people in the office very proud. Anytime we can transcend bounds of film making into an impact on society, it makes all the effort seem way more worthwhile.”
Long Live “Charlotte’s Web” and Long Die “Eight legged Freaks”. One has taken good research on spiders and ended up with a great book and film by extrapolating what is real. The other is arachnid rubbish from beginning to end.