summary : From Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation comes the story of Sam Greenfield, the unhappiest man alive! Suddenly she finds herself in the never-before-seen land of happiness and must unite with the magical creatures there to turn her fortune around.
Valuation: G / genre: Comedy / original language: English
director: Peggy Holmes /Manufacturer:David Eisenmann, David Ellison, Dan Goldberg, John Lasseter, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger / Writer: Wedge Murray
Release Date (Streaming): August 5, 2022
Interview with actor Simon Pegg
Q: Do you believe in bad luck?
SP: I believe that we make our own luck. There is no other agency that gives us good and bad [luck]. I think happiness is something we create in terms of how we respond to the opportunities that are presented to us. Sometimes things can feel like bad luck, like dropping your toast on the buttered side or all the lights are red trying to get home at night. But in the end it’s just the ebb and flow of reality.
As humans, we like to blame things – if something goes wrong, it can’t be our fault. Or someone has something against us – it’s like, “Oh, this being has a grudge against me.” It’s not true. But I believe we create our own opportunities and if you want to call it luck, I’m fine with that.
Q: This is Skydance’s first animated film; You have worked with skydance over the years. So who picked you and how did they recruit you?
SP: It just came in. Obviously I have a relationship with Skydance, as you say, because of Mission Impossible and Star Trek, so I know the team there. Basically, I got a note with a picture of Bob and a description of the character, and it felt like a no-brainer, “Oh, this is going to be great fun.” So it was an email pitch I guess.
Nothing beats seeing the character. When you make an animation and see a picture of the character, you immediately start thinking, how do they speak? how are you So it was a smart way to do it instead of someone just saying, “Hey, do you want to play a black cat?” It was like, here he is.
Q: Since this movie is about happiness, do you think you’re more like Sam? [Eva Noblezada] or more like Bob in real life?
SP: [laughs] That’s a tough one, because the ebb and flow of happiness for Bob and Sam changes over time. For Sam, because she’s so unlucky, she’s almost… Well, it’s a fantasy story, I don’t think anyone’s as unlucky as Sam. But I feel like I’ve been lucky in my life and career in that good things have happened to me. It’s tempting to call these things luck.
I think we take ourselves out of the equation a little bit when we talk about happiness because, as I said, we make our own happiness. We are given certain opportunities, things happen to us and it’s all about what we do with them, how we process them. I’m probably a combination of Bob and Sam if you will. Maybe a little black cat named Sam.
Q: Your comedy style is very physical. How did you manage to translate that in the animation with just your voice?
SP: The great thing about voiceovers – and I think it always has been – is that you are filmed at the same time as your voice. Even if you channel everything into your voice, it’s impossible to deliver the performance required unless you embody it at the same time. Otherwise it wouldn’t feel convincing because you couldn’t hear that physicality in the voice.
I’ll just give it my all that day as long as I stay in front of the microphone and don’t go off here or there. They film it so the animators can then watch the video of my voiceover. You can look at my facial expressions and physical behavior and then add that to the animation.
It’s more than just my voice, it’s also how I physically made it in the studio. That’s impossible because you’re trying to put everything you can into your voice. I’m doing it now: how we gesture, how we move, when we talk, I have to do all of that. A lot of what Bob does on screen I do in the studio—aside from changing gravity. That was difficult.
Q: Director Peggy Holmes has an interesting career – dancer, choreographer – but this is animation. What element as a director stood out for you as a director?
SP: Peggy is really enthusiastic and with Bob she was really invested in the material. She worked closely with the author [Kiel Murray]. The author was there when we held our meetings in case anything changed. But she was really great at keeping the energy high and making sure the voice actors – I can only speak for myself but I’m sure she did that with Eva and Whoopie [Goldberg] and Jane [Fonda] – felt constantly excited because she was passionate about the work. This is really helpful in a language session. You need the energy to keep putting in high energy performances and Peggy was great at that.
I don’t know if that was something from her previous incarnations. She is incredibly talented. But for us as voice actors, it was all about her enthusiasm, which we never, ever wanted.
Q: You have a career exploring different genres and now you are approaching these types of projects [your] animated voice. What did you like best about it?
SP: It’s a very different discipline from live action. It’s a really interesting process. It is exhausting. You think you just seem to stand still in a room and talk, it would be less tiring than hanging on a plane or something. But at the end of every session you come out completely exhausted because you put everything into your voice. Everything’s a little bigger because all your expressions and physicality have also increased a little bit because you want to try and get it through the camera to the animators. It’s a really, really funny thing. As an actor I naturally want to do as many different things as possible to keep my job interesting. And it is fun. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work with great animators, great voice actors, and great directors like Peggy.
Q: You mentioned that when you saw the email you looked at the picture of the cat, Bob, and imagined what kind of voice he had. Obviously Bob speaks differently than you and must have had a Scottish accent. Earlier this year you shot another Ice Age film [“The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild”] and of course Buck [his character] speaks differently. How did you decide on the voice?
SP: Bob’s accent was very region specific because he’s a Scottish black cat. In the UK, black cats are lucky in Scotland but unlucky in England. So he absolutely had to be a Scottish black cat. Having previously used a Scottish accent on Star Trek and having a Scottish family – my wife is Scottish so half my family is Scottish so I’m very glad – it was fun to come back and use an accent that I was used to doing and doing well. They always pull me up: If I do something wrong, they tell me. So I’m afraid they’ll see if I did it.
But I feel like I’m used to it now. The starting point was the fact that he was a Scottish black cat, and then I worked with Peggy to refine the nuances of who he was and how he spoke.
Q: Sometimes when people are unlucky they do something that will hopefully bring them good luck. Do you have a certain way or habit of bringing yourself luck?
SP: When I was younger I was more superstitious and tended to believe in good luck and bad luck, these kinds of talismans and stuff. There is a good and bad luck tradition in Britain: if you see a magpie it’s bad luck, if you see two magpies it’s good luck. There are other things for subsequent numbers. It’s “one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never told”.
If I’ve ever seen a magpie, you have to ward off bad luck by spitting. Of course, that would be extremely inconvenient if I was indoors and saw one by the window. And I would often just be quiet [light spit three times] – just to ward off bad luck. But like I said, that was when I was younger and used to believe in such mumbo-jumbo nonsense.
Q: One of the main themes that runs through your work is the idea of hope – which definitely shines through as happiness as well. Why is that important to you personally?
SP: I think hope is a realistic emotion. We don’t depend on anything else to hope. Hope is very personal and subjective. We hope for good things, and we do everything we can to bring about those good things or make good things happen—everything in our power. Hope is a really important human emotion.
It’s more of a realistic idea than, say, faith that is blind hope. It’s like you’re relying on something you don’t even know is real. You trust it’s real because other people have told you it’s real or whatever. It’s all right and good to have faith in people and things, because that’s one version of faith in a way. But you have to be smart about it.
Hope is what keeps us going through even the darkest moments of our worst happiness, as we might see it. Hope is what keeps the light on, for it is the idea that maybe things will get better and we will have “good luck.” It’s important to stay alive.
Q: What was it like working with lead actress Eva Noblezada? She came from Broadway, including “Miss Saigon”.
SP: As so often in animation, I didn’t meet Eva until after we finished our voice work. Peggy played me a few things and obviously I knew Eva’s work and that she was a big star on Broadway. She has a great voice and a great presence. So it was exciting to know that I was working with this talent even though I had never met her or had any experience with her.
We’ve been hanging out and promoting the film ever since. The chemistry we have in real life is similar to the chemistry Bob and Sam have. This is a testament to how amazing Eva is and what she brings to the role. She is an incredible talent and absolutely irresistible in terms of her vulnerability, positivity and the sweetness she shows towards Sam.
It’s a strange thing. With animations, you’re often never in the same room with the other people. It’s kind of nice because these days are just about you, just you. But at the same time, you never get the back and forth that you get from live action. Luckily Eva and I developed chemistry before we met and it seemed to work.
Check out more items from Nobuhiro.
Here is the trailer of the film.