Hank Azaria & Common Interview For ‘Happy Feet Two’
The sequel to the Academy Award winning animated smash hit, ‘Happy Feet Two’ returns audiences to the magnificent landscape of Antarctica in superb 3D. Mumble, The Master of Tap, has a problem because his tiny son Erik is choreo-phobic. Reluctant to dance, Erik runs away and encounters The Mighty Sven – a penguin who can fly!! Mumble has no hope of competing with this charismatic new role model. But things get worse when the world is shaken by powerful forces. Erik learns of his father’s ‘guts and grit’ as Mumble brings together the penguin nations and all manner of fabulous creatures – from tiny Krill to giant Elephant Seals – to put things right. ‘Happy Feet Two’ features a voice cast of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Alecia Moore (P!nk), Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Sofia Vergara, Hugo Weaving, Richard Carter, Common, Magda Szubanski and Anthony LaPagila. The film is set for release November 18th in the US and December 2nd in the UK.
How do you compare this experience with your other experiences of doing animated films?
Hank Azaria: This was the most soulful animation experience I ever had. We all recorded together, we all went to Australia to record together. Not only did that free us up to improvise and bounce off each other a lot, but it became a very rather intense character exploration. It was one of the most gratifying creative experiences I’ve ever had, in any medium. I really, really enjoyed it.
How was the experience of voice-over for you Common?
Common: This was my first film where I got to do voice-over work for an animated film, it was an incredible experience. I’d been so looking forward to working with George Miller because I just love his creativity. And like what Hank was saying about being able to improv and be creative, in that creative space, it definitely provided me with one of the best creative experiences that I’ve ever been in. It was a great way for me to start my voice-over, animated acting career (laughs). I had a great time. Plus, I got to bring the musical element to it. George wanted my character, Seymour, to be soulful and have a certain essence. I was like, “Man, this really has heart to it, this has meaning to it.” So it was really great for me to get into it and use my imagination the way we are able to when you’re doing this type of work. It was very new for me, and very very refreshing.
How did you go about developing the voice you wanted to use for your characters?
Hank Azaria: I worked with a vocal coach. When it’s an accent that I’m trying to do, Scandinavian was a new one on me for this one. We worked to make it really meticulous and get an authentic Scandinavian accent. And then we realized that it was funnier, in many places, to have sort of a bad Scandinavian accent. So it kind of went in and out for me, that was on purpose – all the mistakes I made accent-wise were designed just to make you laugh.
I experimented a little bit with the voice, but when I was younger I used to have to read out aloud the voice a lot, try out five or ten different voices for an hour or two before I landed on one. Now, honestly after doing it for so long, you sort of get a voice in your head by page ten or twenty of the script. Usually that’s the right one, a lot of it is to do with working the comedy.
Common: I wanted to bring a new voice, but I think most of the time George probably wanted me to stay with mine. For some reason, when I hear it now, it doesn’t sound like me totally, so I’m happy about that. I love just being the character.
From listening to your music, there seems to be a lot of you in Seymour.
Common: Yeah, playing Seymour, what I got from George and what he said he wanted from the character was somebody who had compassion and was a leader in his own right. He was a fatherly person, but he was cool too. He has something cool about him, and was about the community. I felt to the core that’s some of the elements of who I am, in many ways, and I felt that I could bring that essence to Seymour.
Along with that, just as far as being able to bring hip-hop to it, that was really cool for me because George allowed us to do improvisation and different things that would come about from the other actors that I was working with. Everybody was bringing something, and it would just allow us to just go forward with it. If George heard something that he liked, he would say, “That’s it, that’s it right there.” It was really like being in a freestyle session, to a certain extent. You could improv and come up with great songs and riffs, and different things like that. When I got to know what a lot of the music was going to be, I was really overwhelmed. I loved how the music had a universal tone to it. No matter what walk of life you’re from, you could appreciate the music. Even if you don’t know a particular song, whether it was a hip-hop song or a rock song, for some reason these songs resonated with me in my soul and my heart. It really, to me, expressed the universal appeal of the film and what the story is about. It relates to so many walks of life and humanity. I love being able to be a part of that type of music. That’s actually, as an artist, that’s the type of music I want to create. It was great to be a part of it.
Ghetto Dream with Nas, Blue Sky and So Sweet have been on repeat. Your album, ’The Dreamer, The Believer,’ is out in December right?
Common: Yeah, it’s coming out mid-December. People can expect pure hip-hop music, great music that can touch all walks of life. But it’s based in hip-hop, and a lot of the fans that know me to do soulful hip-hop, I’ve linked up with No I.D., who’s a producer on some of my earlier albums, who mentored Kanye West. We’ve been cooking up some great music, trust me (laughs).
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