Who doesn’t love Jason Bateman? In everything he’s in he is this guy you relate to and makes you laugh and I mean come on…he’s good looking to boot the whole package. In Zootopia he plays our main sly fox Nick Wilde who in truth may be sly, but has a heart of gold. While in Orlando for the #ZootopiaEvent he took a moment to sit with us Mom Bloggers and chat about his role as Nick. So let’s get straight to the interview:
Q: So this is your first animated film. How is this different?
Jason: This is um, for all intents and purposes, my first and it’s a really interesting process because you know, as an actor you can, you say your line and then you’ve got your face and your body language and everything to kind of contribute to the whole thing. With this, obviously you just have your voice to use and then you hope that the animators that you pass that line reading off to are going to make the character do something that either supports what you’ve done or offset it or juxtapose it. It’s kind of a cocktail to make somebody laugh with something. You don’t realize how many little components there are. I mean, I don’t mean to sound like some kind of a comedy scientist but, we all do it, you know. When you tell a joke or a story there’s inflection and then there’s facial gestures and it’s a pretty strange thing to just hope that the rest of the recipe gets cooked in the right way. There’s not much of a fear that that (with) Disney animation. So it’s an exciting thing to be a part of.
Q: How do you go into a role like this as a dad? Do you have a different mindset?
Jason: Yeah, it’s very, very cool to be leaving home to do a job that I can prove that I was actually doing. It didn’t show that way with the other stuff, and then knowing that they are going to see it. I have two little girls, nine and four, knowing that they are going to see it, it’s just yeah, it gives you pride. First of all, it’s the only movies that I see now, that we all know, like a kid movie comes out, like you have to take them and you just hope that it’s good.
If it’s not good, you are still buying a ticket to it. You still have to sit there. You just might catch a little nap, you know? With this one there won’t be any napping cause there’s — this company is so good at, at braiding, some stuff in there for us that whether it be thematic or just with the jokes, there’s always kind of that parallel lane of, of satisfaction for the adults. In this one, there are some really great issues and teams that, I don’t know if my nine year old really picks up on some of the nuance and sophistication of kind of these heady, highbrow issues in here yet, but I’ll bet you some of it kind of permeates, and when the coin finally does drop maybe when she’s another year older or something when we’re watching it for the 20th time at home, as we all buy it again when it comes on.
It’s a nice tool for me as a dad to talk about like in this film racism or xenophobia or fear mongering or bullying. When I have a character that I can pause and I can say okay, you see how that, you know, hippopotamus kind of like gave a look to the — so it kind of makes the medicine go down a little bit easier and it makes it a little less ominous for them to kind of um, to kind of broach these subjects. It’s a nice tool for me as a parent, I like that.
Q: As a parent do find yourself ever relating to Mr. and Mrs. Hopps? And my eight year old also wants to know what is Nick Wilde’s favorite color? [Laughter]
Jason: Nick Wilde’s favorite color, probably green, right, because he’s a scam artist, he likes the cash. That’s a great answer. [Laughter]
Can I relate to those parents? Well, if you mean the fact that they’re concerned of their daughter going to the big city, yeah, I mean of course. I mean, if you’re like me, you hope and pray that you’re not going to be the kind of parent that when they are allowed to and should leave the house that you are going to be paralyzed with this fear that ugh.
I have another nine years left, at least with Francesca, to get myself ready to be confident that she’s got a good enough decision maker on her shoulders to go out there and navigate the inevitable challenges that — I mean, think about all the stuff that you guys have been exposed to that your parents never dreamed that you would be and you being good people didn’t really willingly get into dangerous situations but it just happens. So, I’m really trying to be okay with the fact that I can’t keep her in a bubble and I can’t control her her whole life. The only kind of peace that I can give myself is that I’m confident that she knows how to make good decisions so that’s my job. So, I will keep working hard to build her as good a car as possible so she can drive through it okay, you know?
Q: Was it strange for your four year old to think daddy is a cartoon now?
Jason: Yeah, the, the nine year old thank God is smart enough to put it all together. The four year old, we were at a movie theater a few weeks ago and there was one of those cardboard standees, I think they call them, you know, where they’ve got the fox and the bunny there and I walked her over to it and I squatted down next to her and I pointed out to the fox who is life size and I said see this guy? He’s in a movie, and this bunny, they’re going to solve a mystery. They are like, they’re on an adventure. She said oh can we see that movie? I said, yeah, yeah and you know this fox talks, you know? It’s a talking fox. And, she said oh yeah. I said and when it talks it sounds like me and she said really? I said yes. I said and it’s because I’m the voice of that fox. I recorded all of his lines. So she was trying to understand like what [laughter] — she doesn’t know what a microphone is. She certainly doesn’t know the way movies are made. So, she just looked at the fox and she looked at me, so she doesn’t — I’m really excited to be sitting next to her in a movie theater and see how many minutes into the movie she’s going to hear that familiar sound.
Q: Can you talk about the cocktail, like there’s this going back and forth, is there ever a time that you felt like hey, that wasn’t quite it, can we go back and re-record something? Or where you might have had input into that cocktail.
Jason: Yeah, well, you know, the animation happens you know, much further after the the voice. So the first time I saw the animation really was when I saw the premiere. I mean, I saw little tiny clips but they are very, kind of basic. There’s just so much work that goes into it. So you see sketches and things like that.
They videotape you when you are recording your lines. There are a couple of cameras in there. So, the animators if they want to use that as a guideline they can. I mean there’s like an easel or whatever it’s called in front of me, so you can’t really see my whole body and I’m not doing anything to try to guide them, but you can’t help but your face moves a little bit when you say “hey wait,” or “what are you talking about?” There’s a certain way my face folds or not, and so they, they do use some of that and they are that good, you know, to really fine-tune it.
Q: Does any of your personality go into your character?
Jason: Yeah, I mean, I’m not a big fan of seeing a lot of acting, you know? Like I mean, I think that’s the goal is to, is to not act, right, to look natural so I try to use as much of me as possible in any part that I play plus that I’m also pretty lazy so, any character I play is always inside my skillset, sort of my goal post. If I read a script and there’s a character that is so far from me that I would have to do a lot of acting to play that character, then just kind of by definition I probably shouldn’t play that character because then you are going to see acting, you know? So yes, there is quite a conniving, sarcastic fatigued part of me. My mother is British so she kind of taught me that kind of sense of humor, that dry, reactive sort of sense of humor.
Q: How long (did you work on the project)?
Jason: The call first came in about a little over three years ago and we started sessions right around then, so about three years of recording sessions and those happened like once every couple of months and each one would take two hours, so about 20, 25 sessions, two hours a piece, and with each session you do about two or three scenes, which are anywhere from three to five pages each.
The way you do it usually is they record you reading through top to bottom and the director will kind of read the other part. You’ve got to make sure you don’t overlap because his voice would be on my track then. They record that a couple of times and then you go in and you record each line individually about six to 10 times a bunch of different ways. You do one kind of fast, one kind of slow, one kind of angry, one kind of happy, and just give them a bunch of choices because they don’t know what the other actor is going to do that’s actually reading the line that follows you, you know, in this kind of conversation.
So, there’s just an immense amount of work that they have to do to cobble it all together and blend that cocktail, you know? It’s a neat process, it really is.
The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a
place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But
when rookie Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a
police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia,” a comedy-adventure directed by Byron Howard (“Tangled,”“Bolt”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “The Simpsons”) and co-directed by Jared Bush (“Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero”), opens in theaters on March 4, 2016.
***Disclosure: I attended the #ZootopiaEvent My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney All opinions are 100% mine. ***