Scott Carney ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Although they are both known for their live action work, Josh Gad and Maya Rudolph have build an extensive career in voice over, starring in hit animated films such as Frozen and Big Hero 6. In order to promote their latest animated venture, Angry Birds, Gad and Rudolph sat down with Emertainment Monthly to talk about the different processes between voice over and live action acting, how children’s animation is not really just for children, and what makes a simple game about birds so beloved.
Q: Just to get right into it, Maya, Josh, can you tell us about your characters in The Angry Birds Movie?
Josh Gad: Yes. Maya, would you like to answer for me?
Maya Rudolph: Why yes, Josh, thank you. I play Matilda… I play pretty much the anger management counselor on the island, so I have the record of getting to know the angriest of the birds in the community and working with some of the most troubled… yada yada blah blah blah.
JG: Pick it up…
MR: That’s all I got.
JG: They’re waiting for me.
MR: Aaand… go.
JG: I play a character named Chuck whose what I’d like to call a “speed demon” I know I get that a lot, especially in the bird community.
JG: Not the Berg community, not the Jewish Berg community, but the bird. Chuck is somebody who… he almost operates faster than he can think and so… are you compelled right now by what I’m saying?
JG: Thank you, I’m gonna use you as an MO (laughs) and you know, Chuck has a real problem with anger, which manifests itself through his speed, but during the course of the film, he finds a way to use that anger and translate it into passion and make history on Bird Island with his fellow bird companions played by the likes of Maya Rudolph from the upcoming NBC variety show…
MR: Maya and Marty
JG: … Maya and Marty featuring Maya Rudolph and Martin Scorsese.
MR: Wow, thank you very much.
Q: So how was working on this movie as an Angry Bird change the way you look at apps or technology?
JG: Oh, that’s an interesting… (To Maya) Apps. Apps are what you download on your phone.
MR: Oh, they aren’t advertisements?
JG: No… It’s actually changed my view of both. I really no longer order any advertisement that has a bird in it because of our movie but in terms of technology and apps themselves… I’m not gonna lie, it hasn’t changed my view at all really. I still like downloading apps.
MR: Well then.
JG: I actually wound up getting into the Angry Bird game long before I started working on the film. I was on the set of Wedding Ringer and as a way to get away from one Kevin Hart who’s a little… he’s overbearing.
MR: I thought you were gonna say he was addicted to the Angry Birds game.
JG: No, I became addicted to Angry Birds because I needed an outlet.
MR: I was told by my good friend Andy Samberg if we’re gonna just keep dropping names that… he was the first person (I know) to ever play Angry Birds and I asked him “what are you playing?” and he said, “Don’t start, you’ll get addicted.”
JG: I was told by my close-ish friend Barack Hussein Obama in, I want to say ’09, that he wanted me to come play Angry Birds with him.
MR: I got a phone call from Richard Nixon and he was like “Hey, do you want to come over for pancakes?” and I was like “Oh I’m so sorry I’m busy” and he was like “ Well what about Angry Birds?” And I just drove right over.
Q: Do you prefer working on adult oriented humor? How is getting into character different for you guys between films for adults and films for children?
MR: It’s really liberating to do animation. It takes a lot to get used to; at least it did for me, because you’re not interacting with other human beings in terms of looking into the other actor’s eyeball.
JG: And that’s the main misconception with a lot of animated movies,that you’re getting to actually play with your partner.
MR: Yeah, this is the most I’ve gotten to work with Josh and I gotta be honest, I recommend it.
JG: Wait, you recommend not working with me?
MR: No, I’m saying I recommend working with you.
JG: Oh, got it, ok I misunderstood cause I was gonna leave the room.
MR: No, I don’t want you to.
JG: Ok, good.
MR: If you left, I would be nothing.
JG: I enjoy doing adult oriented humor but I’ll tell you what; in a movie like Angry Birds, it’s not a movie that panders to lowest common denominator, it’s not juvenile. One of the writers is a guy from The Simpsons. So it sort of allows us to do both.
MR: I was gonna say I find… and you can relate to this ‘cause we’re both parents…
MR: We spend a lot of time going to see movies that are technically kids animated movies… and they’re clearly written for both the parents and the children.
JG: Oh, absolutely. And the ones that aren’t, you’re dragging your feet. We’re in an amazing period right now because of movies like Angry Birds and others, especially a lot of the Pixar movies, where they work on two different levels. They work for adults but they also work for the kids and that, as an entertainer, gives us amazing opportunities.
MR: Yeah, to go to the movie theater…
JG: To go to the movie theater with children and be entertained.
MR: …That are hopefully our children.
JG: I’ve made that mistake more than once.
MR: When you take the kid to the bathroom and walk out with the wrong one.
JG: Not even a child. It was a grown man. I don’t know why I grabbed his hand…
MR: You know what, cause you’re friendly.
JG: Yeah, I don’t know how I confused his hand with my daughter’s.
Q: What makes Angry Birds different from other animated movies and what aspect of this film will bring the audience in?
JG: Well, to answer your first question, what makes it different is… it is, in my opinion, it’s one of the funniest movies animated or otherwise that you’re gonna see this year. They’ve assembled one of the craziest all-star comedic casts I have ever seen put together. Everybody from Maya to Kate McKinnon to Bill Hader to Keegan-Michael Key, Danny McBride…
MR: Oh my god.
JG: Tony Hale…
JG: Jason Sudeikis…
JG: I could keep reading off this list in front of me.
MR: Is Peter Dinklage in it?
JG: Peter Dinklage is in it…
MR: Oh my god.
JG: And, of course, Josh Gad…. So, you have this amazing eclectic group of comedic forces and it’s one of those movies that, like we said, appeals to pretty much every demo. There’s plenty for kids to laugh at but the people who take the kids or go without the kids… This is gonna be a movie that you want to see because in the vein of Lego Movie, in the vein of Zootopia, in the vein of some of these movies that skew a little older, you are going to laugh non stop.
MR: It’s satisfying, the language of animated movies at the moment, and I take full credit when I say that I feel like our generation is making those movies now. We’re a good, funny, astute, aware generation that knows that you want to hook in kids and adults, and… when it’s universally funny in that way that bans all age groups, that’s the most pure form of comedy.
JG: I agree.
MR: When I was asked to come do this project, I got involved really, truly because of this cast.
JG: Thank you.
MR: No, thank you.
Q: With this huge all star cast, was there a lot of improvising that went on while you were recording your lines? Or did you mostly just stick to what the script said?
JG: Maya doesn’t think on her feet, she actually doesn’t even read, she’s illiterate.
MR: I can only repeat back what people say to me.
JG: SNL was very difficult. They had to give her an earpiece and they had to believe in her.
MR: There was a lot of belief ‘cause I also don’t know how to use an earpiece.
JG: Part of the beauty of animation is that you get a microphone and two hours of play. There’s no wrong version of what you do, you just get to go off.
MR: And I went off. Did you go off?
JG: I did go off.
MR: I feel like what’s nice about improv, which is completely different than the type of improv you would do on a stage with a group of people, is that you can really focus simply on the sound of your voice. You really connect with the character pretty deeply in a short amount of time because it’s just solely concentrated on the voice; you don’t have to worry about body language, although do you do body language?
JG: I do. And I do it because when you’re playing a character as physical as Chuck, it sort of organically happens. If you’re standing still and you have to speak fast, it’s not gonna come out properly.
MR: Can I ask a personal question?
MR: What was your body language for Olaf?
JG: The way into Olaf was just like a kid, like this naiveté and that sort of added (itself) physically. But it’s really none of your business how I did Olaf.
MR: I knew you were gonna say that!
Emertainment Monthly: Without giving too much away, do you have a favorite scene that you recorded for the film?
JG: Yes, without giving too much away, when Maya’s character dies in Act 3…
MR: Josh loved it
JG: It was so cool because you’re like “wait, they just went there?” … No, my favorite scene was… there’s a great scene where Chuck is introduced and he’s basically given a speeding ticket because he is a speed demon and he sort of messes with this cop who don’t even know he’s being messed with because Chuck is going so fast. It’s just a smart introduction to the character and the visuals that the animators did for that sequence are just inspired. It gives you great insight into the scatological humor of the film.
MR: I gotta be honest, the introduction to Matilda is just, for all intents and purposes, so on the nose of like this zen guru, kind of touchy feely. Her whole universe is completely spelled out in a nutshell when you meet her and when you’re introduced to all the birds. But I also do like it, without giving too much away, when the birds are facing the pigs….
JG: I think one of the other things is… when you see all the birds take on what you’ve come to know as the game tropes, what you’ve come to know as the different ways the birds attack the pigs.
MR: Yeah, I like that. That makes me feel like “ooh, we’re making a movie.”
JG: The origin of that is an awesome moment.
Q: Are there any games you would like to make a movie out of?
JG: I want to do a Contra movie.
MR: Would you want to do Q* bert?
JG: It was called Pixels… and it didn’t work out too well.
MR: What about Donkey Kong?
JG: Again, have you seen my last film? We’ve done all this…. Actually, you know what movie I would love to be a part of honestly? I feel like Super Mario Brothers deserves… They did a movie but it was…
MR: They did, right?
JG: Terrible, awful. It was a live action movie…
MR: With who?
JG: It was with John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, and… Bob Hoskins. So that would be awesome to do a really genuinely great Mario Brothers movie.
JG: It could be either. I’ve tapped out the video game market this will be my final…
MR: This is your swan song?
JG: This is my swan song until the inevitable call comes from Minecraft the adaptation…
MR: By the way, it will come.
JG: Where it’s just gonna be me for two hours building things.
MR: What if somebody was like “Hey, we’re kind of creating a set up of the ghosts from Pac-Man like why they eat what they eat…”
JG: Again, this was a movie called Pixels. I would encourage you to rent it on video.
MR: What about Centipede?
JG: Ok, we’re gonna get off of this. Clearly, Maya needs an education in my film work.
Q: One thing that’s different (in the film) is that the birds actually have dialogue. How much of your persona was put into the characters verbally?
MR: Well, this really feels more like a three dimensional version of what the game is. I, just by accident, found an animated…
JG: By accident, you mean you sought it out.
MR: Well, my son did… He’s so excited about this movie and he was like “Mom, there’s an Angry Birds movie on Netflix” and I said “Ok, let’s watch it” and it’s basically the game but it’s animated. And as I was looking at it, I thought “People are going to be blown away when you actually get to know these birds and they are fully formed and they are walking, talking…” because it’s non- verbal. The Angry Birds that everyone knows up until this point are non-verbal and weirdly we can understand their different personalities. But now we actually get to go and get that, which I love, I think it really pays off when you finally see, like you said before, the tropes of the game come to life.
JG: There’s something really cool about doing a movie where millions of people have a history with it. You’re coming in with a certain predisposed baggage, in a good way, where you have your experiences of playing that game and the game has been successful for so many years because it’s such a universally simple concept. Who hasn’t wanted to fling a bird at a pig in their life?
MR: I mean, this morning…
JG: Just this morning, you went out…
MR: I went out… and there were so many green pigs… and I was like “I gotta do something, I gotta like fling a bird…”
JG: They’re an invasive species; we need to get rid of them.
Q: If you were about to get angry, what is your best advice for not needing to explode?
MR: In my son’s preschool, they teach a really nice thing about breathing where they teach the kids to take a deep inhale and exhale but they say smell the flowers to inhale, and blow out the candles (to exhale). And I like that because it gives you a chance to just breathe, let it out, and take a minute to accept your feelings. Am I teaching you something?
JG: You are teaching me something… That’s actually a really good idea.
MR: I don’t do that by the way.
JG: You just go through with the anger.
MR: I just go off.
JG: With me, if I’m on the precipice of getting really frustrated with something, that my daughters have done if they’re not listening or when they break something intentionally, I will kind of think through my response, think about what the result of that response will be and it diffuses it because then I’ll allow myself to just become logical about the situation so I’ll sit down with them and just talk it through… because usually if I do get angry, it turns into a pissing match with me and a two year old and she’ll always win.
MR: Don’t you feel so stupid afterwards?
JG: My girls always make me feel completely incompetent when I’m arguing with them because they always get the upper hand… They’re just too smart. That’s why I’m doing Luminosity every day.
MR: I did Luminosity, but I used to (always) forget.
MR: Not kidding
Thank you guys very much and good luck with the movie.
JG: Thank you, and if any of these answers disappointed you, this has been Danny McBride and Bill Hader.
MR: I’m Bill Hader.
Angry Birds is in theaters everywhere on May 20th. This interview has been condensed from its original version.