To celebrate the release of SMALLFOOT in cinemas September 27th, actor Channing Tatum (Step Up, Jupiter Ascending, The Lego Movie) talks about taking his daughter to see the film and how he found his character Migo’s voice!
What drew you to the film?
I love stories and myths, and I thought the way the filmmakers role-reversed the Bigfoot myth was really clever. Also, I grew up on Looney Tunes and the Warner Bros. style of animation and physical comedy. I miss Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, and Tom and Jerry. So, when I heard about the plans for Smallfoot and how it would pay homage to that Looney Tunes style and comedy, I thought it could be a lot of fun.
What scene in Smallfoot reflects that style?
There are several, but I remember one of the first animatics I was shown when I began work on the film, which led me to think, “Yeah, this could really work.” Migo journeys below the clouds of his Yeti village for the first time. He’s falling and falling, and runs out of breath, and he’s going, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh…” – and he’s still falling (laughs). It’s a real Wile E. Coyote moment that’s right out of my childhood. It got a lot of laughs out of me. I wanted to explore this further and create a character that would live inside this world.
Is your daughter looking forward to seeing Smallfoot with you?
Of course, I want to experience this film with my daughter. But I know I’m going to have to trick her into seeing this with me because she doesn’t like anything I appear in (laughs). When I ask if she wants to see a film I’m in, her answer is, “No, I want to see a real movie.” I tell her, “It is a real movie; please, just watch it.”
I’ve got a plan to make sure she sees Smallfoot: I’m not telling her that I’m in the movie. I’d see Smallfoot with her, and if she liked it, I was going to be like, “Ha ha, daddy’s in that. It’s a real movie and you liked it. Gotcha!” But I think she already knows that I’m in it because she gets a little funny when someone mentions Smallfoot. She’ll kind of give me a weird look, like I’m keeping a secret from her – which I’m trying to do!
How did you find Migo’s voice?
It’s my voice, but it’s definitely not the way I talk. There’s a naivety, youthfulness and optimism in Migo’s voice. In fact, I’d call him the ultimate optimist because even when he thinks somebody has said something strange, he’ll do anything to avoid offending them.
I think our director, Karey Kirkpatrick, heard Migo’s voice before I did. Karey was my sounding board for that. I always tried to maintain an optimistic mindset and he would dial me up or down.
Most of your voice recordings were done without the other actors present, which is how it works in most animated feature films. But I understand you did work for a day with Zendaya, who voices Meechee. What was that like?
It was great. It was the first time I’ve acted opposite another actor for an animated film. Working with Zendaya was fun because she’s a fantastic actress. She’s a gamer. Zendaya loves her work and you can really feel that. She wants it to be great. Our recording sessions together went by really quickly, because I was having fun with a beautiful, talented, actress and singer (laughs).
Zendaya’s song in Smallfoot, “A Beautiful Life,” is incredible. She has the voice of an angel. She can do it all.
Another actor-singer who stars in Smallfoot is Common, who voices Stonekeeper. Have you had a chance to experience the song he performs in the film, “Let it Lie”?
I grew up on hip hop, and I’m a big fan of Common, so it was really something to see his Stonekeeper rap in the film.
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What was it like to work with Smallfoot director Karey Kirkpatrick?
Karey directed Over the Hedge, which is one of my favorite animated movies. I used to be called Hammy – after the squirrel in Over the Hedge – because I was a hyperactive kid. I’m still sometimes hyperactive! [Laughs]
Karey was not only working to get a good performance out of me; he was actually enjoying the process. In addition to directing, he listens like an audience member. For me, that combination always creates the best results. Karey would be in the booth, directing, and at the same time he’d be laughing with me and coming up with ideas and improv bits.
It’s a fun process, which is impressive because making animated movies can be really challenging. There’s always the potential to feel overwhelmed, but the really good directors, like Karey, rise above that pressure because they love what they’re doing. They find real joy making these movies. Karey is a student of cinema – and he’s always trying to be better and make you better.
What do you hope audiences experience when they see the film starting in September?
I want audiences to be wildly entertained and laugh, and care about the characters.
I’ve learned many of my biggest lessons in life through laughter – and didn’t even know I was learning! I’d be laughing and having a good time – and, suddenly, the message would be there. Smallfoot has a lot of beautiful themes and, maybe, even some lessons worth learning. But you’ll learn them through a lot of laughter and fun.