Storks – Q&A with Cast and Crew
With the release of Storks today, we thought it the perfect opportunity to share this Q&A with the cast and crew, including the great Kelsey Grammer. Enjoy!
Directors: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
Writer: Nicholas Stoller
Stars: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer
ANDY SAMBERG (Junior), KATIE CROWN (Tulip), KELSEY GRAMMER (Hunter), STEPHEN KRAMER GLICKMAN (Pigeon Toady), NICHOLAS STOLLER (Director/Writer/Producer), DOUG SWEETLAND (Director) & BRAD LEWIS (Producer) Q&A
For the directors, in the film, the wolf pack can assemble themselves into shapes, like submarines and bridges – how did that idea evolve?
NICHOLAS STOLLER: For a while, they were just the bad guys, but early on I had this idea. I wanted it to be like Raising Arizona, where every character meets the baby, falls in love with the baby, and wants to keep the baby. So, that was an initial idea. This movie took about three-and-a-half years to make. So, a couple years into the movie, I suddenly remembered that it was an animated movie, not live action, and we could do anything we want. So, it seemed funny as an idea to have them start to form different weird things.
BRAD LEWIS: Nick did embrace the bizarre, which makes the movie different. Between Doug’s animation and what Nick embraced, there are some things you look at and think, ‘Oh, my God.’
Andy, when you learned about the birds and the bees, did storks come into it? And how did you find your inner stork?
ANDY SAMBERG: I found my inner stork by looking in the mirror. And how did I learn about the birds and the bees? My parents just sort of casually left the Where Did I Come From? book out on top of a stack of Playboys [laughs]. At some point, I think we had the requisite awkward conversation about it. But, then, I grew up in Berkeley, so it was pretty discussed.
STEPHEN KRAMER GLICKMAN: My mom tried to tell me when I was too old; I already knew. She said, ‘So, this is how it happens.’ I’m like, ‘I’m halfway through puberty.’
NICHOLAS STOLLER: My mom told my dad to take me out to go tell me. He took me for a drive, and this is exactly what he said, ‘Uh … Son, you know about that stuff, right?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘All right. Let’s go get frozen yogurt.’ That was it [laughs].
Kelsey, how about you?
KELSEY GRAMMER: Actually, my grandfather did have a little chat with me about it, but I’d sort of imagined some things already. I’d had an eye on a couple of girls through kindergarten. There was something special about them, so I kind of knew what was coming.
Andy, did this experience make you think about if and when you might become a father? What you would be like as a dad?
ANDY SAMBERG: Well, I would be a terrible dad [laughs]. Because it would be so much more fun. Nick, you know what I’m talking about.
NICHOLAS STOLLER: Yeah, it’s way more fun. The more responsible you are, the more fun it is.
ANDY SAMBERG: That’s my whole point. Just blow the whole thing off.
Kelsey, you play Hunter, who is the bad guy, but this is a movie for kids. When you’re doing voice acting for a character like this, how do you find that balance where you can be menacing but still playful?
KELSEY GRAMMER: John Gielgud once said, ‘Style is knowing what play you’re in.’ Now, that may or may not help you [laughs]. It was a question that I’d always had about how do you do that? Well, you just have to know what play you’re in. You have to know you’re in a comedy. You have to know that you are actually allowing the audience to participate on some level. When you go dark and mean it, then you don’t let them in.
But in this performance, there’s just always something funny going on. It resonates always in the moment, but, also, Nick and the rest of the crew always understand that they’re making the movie. It’s the directors’ movie. So, whatever that performance is, they guide it a little bit, and they also know when to stop and pull back. It’s supposed to be a kids’ movie, so it’s okay. He’s not going to go too far.
What’s interesting about Hunter’s role in the movie, the purpose he plays, is that he’s kind of expositional, honestly. He lays out what’s going on, and when you do that, you have to just speak clearly and forcefully, and good diction can make all the difference. That’s about it.
For the actors, after you complete your voice performance and it’s integrated with the animation, do you see your own mannerisms or personality in the characters when you watch the final film?
KATIE CROWN: Yeah, I definitely notice little inflections. Our own idiosyncrasies are put into the characters for sure in the animation because a lot of ourselves are in the characters.
KELSEY GRAMMER: That’s interesting. A long time ago I did a film called Anastasia, which didn’t look anything like me. I said to them, ‘Please don’t borrow anything I do physically.’ But then, when I did Toy Story 2 with [John] Lassiter and played Stinky Pete, he said, ‘Do you mind if we run a camera and grab some of your visuals?’ I said, ‘No, I get it. They would work there.’ In this one, I’m not sure that they actually did anything like that, but I wasn’t playing myself in that one. I was actually doing Rip Torn [laughs], so it didn’t matter. I was imitating Rip Torn the whole time.
DOUG SWEETLAND: If I could jump in, actually, just because I oversaw the animation at Sony [Sony Pictures Imageworks]. We had video reference, but, personally, I leave it to the animators to choose whether they want to look at it or not. I find that similar to knowing what play you’re in. Animation’s ‘filmmaking by army.’ The material is disseminated out to hundreds of people, and it’s a weird miracle that it can be cohesive even in the end.
But when you get a great read, you can feel it anyway. And, personally, when I was animating, I chose not to look at video reference of the actors because I wanted there to be a space to make my contribution. And when I would record with actors, I actually would keep my eyes closed or look down, because when you’re looking at the actor, it screws up what it actually sounds like. When it’s limited to just the voice, and then you get to do arms, face, hands, eyes, all that stuff. It’s more interesting.
NICHOLAS STOLLER: Yeah. And we have to be true to our characters, right? So it’s a meeting between a great vocal performance animation – and these guys all have inspiring voices that mean something to our animators when they hear them. And those meet in the middle, and they work together. So, the animators are really bringing our characters to life with their great performance.
For the actors, did you get to work with the other actors when you were recording, and, if so, did that help or hinder you in how you personified your particular characters?
STEPHEN KRAMER GLICKMAN: I only got to work with Katie in the room one time, and we just had the best time because our characters, at this point, were so developed. We knew exactly where they were going, so playing around together like that was a lot of fun.
NICHOLAS STOLLER: I’d also say we kept you separate intentionally because Pigeon Toady is so in his own head.
ANDY SAMBERG: We did our first scene together, and I think that was very helpful for the subsequent recordings that I did alone, based on this initial relationship. You find the tone and the rhythm of it together, the same way you would acting on camera.
For the directors, can you talk about directing as a team? Nick, you’ve worked mostly in live action, and Doug, you’re the animation wiz. Do you separate out the vocal performances and the tech, or is it a joint effort all the way through?
NICHOLAS STOLLER: I guess the simplest explanation would be that I was more in charge of directing the vocal performances and, early on, the storyboard animatic part of it, but, obviously, Doug was there too. Then, when it went to the more technical stuff, Doug took that over.
DOUG SWEETLAND: Yeah. There was actually a really good division of labor there. We have separate strengths, which made it really easy to know who did what.
NICHOLAS STOLLER: I am like upper body.
DOUG SWEETLAND: Yeah, I’m more quads.
NICHOLAS STOLLER: Together, we’re like a normal, slightly weak man [laughs].
BRAD LEWIS: The movie ended up being a combination. Our creative leads all had to come together to round out the whole team. Animation is a big collaborative art, and, every step of the way, whether it’s our editor, John Venzon or our layout camera person. We did a lot of lighting and look development and so forth, in addition to supporting Nick and Doug. So, it ends up being a real team effort.
Brag and Doug, you both come from the animated world, and Nick, you’ve directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall and many other films. What do you find more challenging, working with actors in a live action movie or in an audio booth?
NICHOLAS STOLLER: I’ve been very lucky to be involved with people who are very fun to work with. I would say that animation just takes a lot longer, but it is less intense. A live action film is shorter, but when production’s happening, it’s incredibly stressful and intense. So that’s the big difference.