In Walt Disney Animated Studio’s new film “Planes,” stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias (AKA Fluffy) works double duty to give voice to the characters Ned and Zed, two disruptive airplanes that fly alongside the film’s main antagonist Ripslinger in hopes of helping him win a big aerial competition. During our interview, Iglesias, 37, talked about how lucky he was to land a role in the film after missing the first audition, and shared his 15-year-old son’s sentiments when he told him he was starring in a summer movie for Disney.
What’s up, Kiko?!
Hey, Gabriel! What’s going on, man?
Ah, nothing. Just sitting here waiting for my bagel.
Ah, nice. What do you put on it? Cream cheese?
That or butter. I’m weird.
How did you get pitched this film and why did you say yes?
It was a no-brainer. If Disney calls and you don’t go, you’re kind of dumb. (Laughs) Originally, I had read for the character Chupacabra, but I did not make myself available for the table read. I was out of town doing stand-up. When I missed the table read, someone else filled in (Carlos Alazraqui). But you don’t send in Mike Tyson to fill in for some regular fighter. [Carlos] is amazing with voices. So, he came in and they liked him better for that part. Luckily for me they had two other characters in the film (Ned and Zed), so they called me up for it. I did not miss that table read.
It’s pretty unique you got to give voice to both characters.
Yeah, two characters, one check.
How did you differentiate between the two characters’ voices?
Well, for one character, they let me use my regular voice, so I sound just like this. The other one sounds like a 60s hippy guy.
What did you think when you first saw what Ned and Zed looked like?
I was excited. I was like, “I want the toy!” The movie hasn’t even come out yet and I already went and got the toy. It’s pretty cool.
Are you going to try and get your hands on everything that features Ned and Zed in the toy aisles?
I’m going to go get all that stuff. I’m going to stockpile it at my house and give it away as Christmas presents.
Who’s most excited about you being in this movie? Do you have any kids in your life that flipped out when you told them you were going to be in “Planes?”
I have a 15 year old at home. When I showed him the characters I was playing he said, “That’s nice. Wanna play Call of Duty?” (Laughs) “Are the planes going to be shooting anything?” was his question. I was like, “No, they’re not going to be shooting anything!”
What experience as a stand-up comedian do you take into a gig like this – doing voice work for a major animated film?
Well, I basically walk in there and do what I do on stage. The cool part was they let me ad-lib a little bit. I would tag up some of the lines. I’d add a sound effect or change the tone a little. They let me have fun with it. So, yeah, doing voice over work was a walk in the park. On stage you only have one shot to do it, but in the studio if you don’t get it right, you can do it again and again. I was able to knock out the whole movie – both characters – in about four hours.
That’s not even a full day’s work, come on!
I know. I walked in, they made me an omelet and I got to work.
We’ve been seeing a lot of Latino characters in animated films this summer. Michael Peña and Luis Guzman voiced taco vendors in “Turbo” and Benjamin Bratt and Moises Arias had roles in “Despicable Me 2.” Do you think studios are starting to realize they have to hit that demographic?
I think that’s part of it. But I also think that guys like me – and this is going to sound crazy – can go either way with it. I’m a Latino, but I don’t necessarily have to go into that vein. But I do think people see there are a lot of dollars in the Latino market. We go to the movies a lot. It’s nice to see there is something there that connects. I think more and more studios are going to start doing that. Having the Chupacabra character (voiced by Alazraqui) in [“Planes”] adds so much to the movie.
We’re around the same age. We didn’t grow up with computer generated cartoons on TV and movie screens where the planes are flying at you in 3D. Do you like cartoons like this or are you more old-school?
I love it. Back in the day we didn’t have high-quality televisions like we do now. The best movies I had at the time were “The Fox and the Hound” and “101 Dalmatians.” I love that a “Cars”-type movie or a “Turbo”-type movie or a “Shrek”-type movie looks so lifelike. It adds so much to the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I still like cartoon animations, but I definitely think this is what people want to see right now.
What cartoons or TV shows did you grow up watching?
Let’s see, “Dukes of Hazzard,” “Knight Rider” “A-Team,” and “Three’s Company. Those were the shows I watched.
Big John Ritter fan, huh?
Oh, man, he was the best. He was funny and very physical with his comedy. He was really good at slapstick and falling.
I think he’s one of the very few recent comedians that did slapstick right. He wasn’t just some fat dude falling over something for a cheap laugh.
I could not pull that off successfully. Well, maybe I could do it once. (Laughs)
I know your first love is still stand-up comedy, but have you started to keep your options open when film opportunities come up?
If it’s something like “Planes,” definitely. But for the most part, I’m not trying to chase a film career. If a great opportunity presents itself, I’ll go for it, but my love and my passion is stand-up. I don’t want to be one of those guys that just uses stand-up as a stepping stone. My goal was always to be a stand-up comedian. All the other stuff is frosting on the cake.
I heard you were going to start working with NUVOtv.
Yeah, there’s a potential project in the works right now – in animation as a matter of fact. We’re doing a pilot, that’s for sure. It’s an animated series called “Hey, it’s Fluffy.” It’s basically me as a kid.
The first thing I thought of when you mentioned the cartoon was Louie Anderson’s cartoon “Louie,” which I always thought was underrated.
That’s funny. I just had a conversation about that a few minutes ago. Yeah, [“Hey, it’s Fluffy” is] in that vein. It’s my voice. I’m not changing it up. It’s me surrounded by my friends and what life was like as a kid.
What was Gabriel Iglesias like as a kid in comparison to as an adult now?
Not a whole lot of difference, bro. I got a little more grey hairs now. (Laughs) But, actually, I was pretty quiet as a kid. I definitely talk a lot more as an adult. I listened a lot more when I was a kid. Everybody was always telling me to be quiet, so that was my childhood. I was real chill, but as soon as the curtains opened up, I was on. The first time I got on stage, I was 10 years old.
I would’ve guessed you were the class clown.
Nah, I was never that guy. There are some guys that are always on and never turn it off, but I need a break. I need to use the restroom, check my Twitter. I can’t be trying to entertain everybody all the time.
When was the first time you realized you could make someone laugh?
Probably when I was 9 or 10 years old. The first time I got a laugh on stage, it threw me off. I was a big fan – and still am – of impressionist Rich Little. When he would do some of his stuff, people would applaud. In my head I thought that’s what they were supposed to do. When they started laughing it was like, “Whoa, wait a minute!” But once I got the second and third laugh I was like, “OK, this is working!”
Now that you’re in “Planes,” are you going to try to get some kind of cross promotion deals with an airline and fly around for free for the rest of your life? I hear stand-up comedians travel a whole lot.
Man, if I could, that would be great. I fly so much! I fly SO much! I’m at an airport right now! That’s funny to me that we’re doing this interview and I’m at an airport. (Laughs) I’m in an airport at least 300 hours a year.
What’s the longest layover you’ve had?
About nine hours!
Oh, man. You’re like the Edward Snowden of stand-up comedians.
Yeah, like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal!”
What do you think Snowden does all day long in the airport?
I don’t know. You can only go to the gift shop and restroom so many times.