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It was all the way back in 2013 that Sony Pictures first announced the development of an The Angry Birds Movie, and after years of work on behalf of the filmmakers and cast, the finished result is almost here. The film is set to arrive in theaters this summer, competing in the deeps of blockbuster season – but earlier this week I got a special look at what the film has in store.
Held on the studio lot in Los Angeles, Sony Pictures held a special presentation for The Angry Birds Movie on Tuesday morning, and in addition to showing off various scenes from the movie, also had actors Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride and Bill Hader on hand for a question and answer session about the animated feature. As you’d expect from a room full of comedians, there were a lot of laughs to be had, but I also learned a great deal about the making of the new movie… so read on to learn a little something!
Jason Sudeikis Took Inspiration From One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s NestAs the story of The Angry Birds Movie begins, we find Jason Sudeikis’ character, Red, in a strange position, as he lives in an isolated land of happiness, but can’t help but be disgruntled by all of the small but varied annoyances that life provides on a daily basis. Looking at this foul fowl and trying to understand him, the actor actually found links between Red and one of Jack Nicholson’s Oscar-winning performances:
He’s angry from the jump. Angry from the get-go. He feels like the wise man, or the angry man on a ship of fools. He’s a contrarian, he’s a little frustrated… he reminds me of McMurphy, from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
Not wanting to let things ever get too serious, Bill Hader then chimed in, jokingly saying, "This movie is a lot like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – especially the ending." There’s actually a part of me that hopes that turns out to be somehow true.
How The Music Man Did, Then Didn’t Inspire Bill Hader’s PerformanceIn The Angry Birds Movie, Bill Hader voices Leonard, the King of the Pigs. He is the chief one responsible for stealing all of the eggs from the birds, and he does so by coming into town and charming everyone on the isolated island with gadgets from across the sea (like slingshots, trampolines, and TNT). In discussions with directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, Hader likened the character to Robert Preston’s turn in The Music Man. This, however, didn’t really work out after the first day:
They said it was like The Music Man, so we did it like that for a full session. And then I came back for the second session and they were like, ‘Well… do you have something else?’
Eventually they settled on something that Bill Hader describes as more of a "Hee-haw Music Man," which does sound about right for an egg-stealing pig.
Josh Gad Got A Little Bit Too Serious About Star Wars Angry BirdsAngry Birds has the kind of reach and brand awareness that pretty much everyone with a smart phone is at least somewhat familiar with the game. This includes the voice cast of the Angry Birds Movie - and while Bill Hader, Danny McBride and Jason Sudeikis had a mostly casual awareness of the game, Josh Gad explained that the Star Wars edition wound up making him weirdly anti-social while shooting a movie.
I became obsessed with Star Wars Angry Birds. I was on set, and I would literally not speak to anybody in between takes. I would just play obsessively as Darth Bird, or whatever it was.
Danny McBride chimed in after, but explained that he always bought his way to victory –Jason Sudeikis following up by calling the method "The Kardashian game."
Apparently Animators Get A Bit Freaked By Voice ActorsFor obvious reasons, animated movies take a much longer time to get made, with artists behind the scenes spending tireless hours constructing each and every scene frame by frame. One could understand why this kind of detailed, careful work could make these animators just a bit frazzled, but it seems that’s especially true when they encounter voice actors.
Discussing the relationship between physical comedy in recording sessions with what the animators bring to the characters, Bill Hader revealed that he has had some awkward conversations with animators in the past. It turns out that when a person has heard your voice repeating the same thing over and over to you from a box for months on end, it’s weird to hear that same voice come out of a living human being. It’s hard to describe the sound Hader made as an impression of a shocked animator, but my best shot at onomatopoeia wound be "Ahh! Waaaah!"
Angry Birds Helped Jason Sudeikis Get In Touch With His Inner Anger… Kind OfIn his movies, Jason Sudeikis certainly comes across as a likable guy, so his discontented role in The Angry Birds Movie is a bit of a new direction for him as an actor. At the start of the presentation, producer John Cohen asked if the performance unlocked any anger within him… and while Sudeikis said that it did, the question also seemed to unlock some sarcasm within him:
It has put me in touch with my inner anger – as does waking up. Just a ton in my world to be angry and ticked off about. It’s one thing after another, from the person I get to sleep next to, a child, a supportive family, cool sisters, and great friends…Yeah, one thing after another, my anger Bingo card is full. Something will turn!
Jason Sudeikis’ life definitely sounds like a mess, and we wish him the best in keeping all of the various pieces together.
Josh Gad Looked To A Childhood Friend In Voicing ChuckOlaf from Frozen and Chuck from The Angry Birds Movie may be voiced by the same actor, but they sound completely different. Doing a legitimate vocal performance, Josh Gad brings the speedy yellow bird with a much quicker speech pattern, as well as a high pitched voice. For his sessions in character, he wasn’t just inspired by his character’s speed – he also kept in mind a motor-mouth kid he knew from when he was young.
I have a friend who I grew up with who talks a mile a minute, and we called him ‘Motor Mouth’ – that put him in therapy for a couple of years and I feel bad about that in retrospect. But I based the character on his mannerisms and the idea of just never being able to shut down and the words coming out faster than you can compute them.
One can only imagine the challenge of combining that voice with by-the-book dialogue dictated by the animation, but Josh Gad isn’t a Tony-nominated actor for nothing.
Bill Hader Doesn’t Find Voice Sessions Fun At AllWatching featurettes for animated movies, it looks like voice over work is easy: you get in a booth, you goof around for a bit, then you go home. This, however, completely ignores the time commitment and repetition required in the work, and it was something that Bill Hader was happy to vent about – having done voices for not just The Angry Birds Movie, but Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, Inside Out, and more:
I’m so braindead after, because it’s just yelling for five hours. The same like over and over and over again. (with different inflections each time) ‘Get in there!’ ‘Get in there!’ ‘Get in there!’ ‘Get in there!’ ‘Get in there!’ ‘Get in there!’… All you care about is the visuals.
Jason Sudeikis followed up in agreement, saying,
It’s like being in a [David] Fincher movie. They beat the acting out of you. ‘Be a bird, be a pig, shut up, and go home.’
Everyone Keeps Getting Called In For New Voice Sessions… Except For Josh GadOver the many years it takes to make an animated movie, elements are constantly changing – requiring actors to return to the recording booth and put down either new lines of dialogue or use different enunciation. During the Angry Birds Movie presentation, Jason Sudeikis noted that he had actually gone in for a session just the day before, and Bill Hader did the same last week. Josh Gad couldn’t help but quip, however, "My stuff must be working – I haven’t gone in in months."
Of course, the crew of comedians wasn’t just going to let this jab lie, and the three men instead decided a different fate for Josh Gad’s role: he got cut out. Jason Sudeikis joked that people don’t respond well to yellow, and Bill Hader dropped his best impression of a snooty test audience member, saying, "I don’t like the quick bird…"
What’s The Message? Anger Is GoodThe Angry Birds video game doesn’t really have a plot or characters, so it’s understandable to question what a movie adaptation would actually be about. Obviously the eternal battle between birds and pigs is part of it, but to hear Jason Sudeikis explain it, the core message of the film is that anger can be a good thing:
That is one of the things that I liked about it, because anger, we’ve gotten better at pretending it doesn’t exist, but it clearly still does. And letting it out now and again, it’s a healthy thing now and then. Never go too far one way or the other – don’t hold it all the way in, and don’t let it all the way out. But a little ‘tude of anger now and then is a nice thing.
So if you’ve ever questioned why the birds are so angry, this film should provide some insight.
The Cast’s Kids Have Very Different Reactions To Their Dads’ WorkIn addition to all starring in The Angry Birds Movie, one thing that Josh Gad, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis and Danny McBride have in common is that they all have kids. What makes them different in this regard, however, is that their children have very different reactions to their voice work. Bill Hader started on the subject, explaining that it wasn’t until their second viewing of Inside Out that his daughters recognized his voice as Fear.
Josh Gad, however, topped Bill Hader with his story about the first time his oldest daughter heard him as the voice of Olaf in Frozen. He took her to a screening of Monsters University, and it was just Olaf’s laugh that perked the kid’s ears, saying "Dada?" After telling the room this, Gad said that it was "two months after that that I conceived of this story." Truth or fiction? You choose what to believe.