Sylvain Chomet was originally set to direct before being dismissed by the production company, to be replaced with Sam Fell. Chomet stated his ideas were too dark for them, and that marketing would question his character designs with future merchandising in mind.
A couple of characters have names that are artistic references. "Roscuro" refers to the "Chiaroscuro Movement", Botticelli is a reference to the artist Sandro Botticelli of "The Birth of Venus", and Boldo is named after Giuseppe Arcimboldo, a famous surrealistic painter who composed faces and figures out of various objects in the way that Boldo himself is made out of fruit, vegetables and kitchen utensils.
For the scene in which Andre and Boldo were throwing things at each other, Kevin Kline and Stanley Tucci threw things at each other, reading the lines and improvising them based on what transpires into the scene. While they acted the scene out, a cameraman was walking around filming the action. Gary Ross wanted to have them really act it out fully. They tried a variety of different things, different degrees of insanity and intensity.