August 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Ashley, Reviews

Starring: Dane Cook, Stacey Keach, Brad Garrett
Directed by: Klay Hall (“Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure”)
Written by: Jeffrey M. Howard (“Tinker Bell”)

You can guess where Disney’s “Planes” is going and how it’ll get there, but because it flies just beyond the clouds – and avoids the rough turbulence – the ride has its moments. Parents are correct if they think they’ve seen this movie before. There’s a generic underdog storyline and an inspiring lead character. Fortunately for “Planes,” the film also comes with an important message every child can benefit from. For parents who are worried about what their kids are watching these days, “Planes” is about as safe as you can get for a PG-rated movie.

Initially created as a spin-off to Pixar’s “Cars” and set to be released as a straight-to-DVD film by Disneytoons (Tinkerbell movies), it wasn’t a big shocker when Disney decided to spare it from ending up in the $5 bin a year from now and capitalize on its market value (toys, video games, etc.) and guaranteed cash flow.

Cropdusting Dusty (Dane Cook) might have some big dreams to enter a round-the-world race, but his chances are pretty slim considering his speed and the fact he is constantly being told he can’t succeed (“Turbo” anyone?). With the support of his friends Dottie, the forklift “mechanic” (Teri Hatcher), Chug, “the fuel truck” (Brad Garret), and the guidance of his heroic war veteran/Navy Corsair coach Skipper (Stacy Keach), he tries out for a spot in the Global Plane Competition. Falling just short of the qualifying spot, Dusty is informed a couple of days later that because of illegal practices by the last qualifier he is now eligible to compete. Dismissed as a joke by all of his competition, Dusty focuses his energy on becoming a better competitor, gradually gaining him more fame and support than hot shot, all-time champ, Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith). Along the way, he makes a few friends, including suave wannabe ladies’ airplane, El Chupacabra or “El Chu” (Carlos Alazraqui).

Filling the spot for the funny secondary characters every animated film is notorious for having nowadays, (Mub and Grub from “Epic,” the Minions from the “Despicable Me” franchise, and Belt the Sloth from “The Croods”), El Chupacabra steps up to the challenge with his thick Mexican accent, infamous cape and his love for the chicas. More specifically, El Chu is trying to win the heart of French-Canadian goody two-shoes plane, Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). One of the best scenes of the film comes when Dusty helps El Chu out by setting him up to sing a Mexican-style serenade of “I’m Just a Love Machine.” As possibly the best serenade ever in an animated film, “Planes” gets props for the memorable musical interlude.

The 7-country competition course in “Planes” sanctions for some stunningly bright colored visuals and with its sporadic and swift POV shots, the 3D animation is enjoyable but not essential. Thanks to the identical looking “Cars” world portrayed on screen and the many characters from the 2006 and 2011 Pixar movies that came before, it’s possible you walk out of “Planes” thinking you just saw the last film of the “Cars” trilogy. Let’s hope Disney find a way to allow the inevitable sequel to stand on its own and not use sister studio Pixar as a crutch.

Carlos Alazraqui – Planes

August 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

And the Oscar for Best Voice Acting for an Animated Film goes to…Carlos Alazraqui for the voice of El Chupacabra in Disney’s “Planes.”

(Applause, applause…standing ovation).

While voice over actors haven’t reached that echelon in Hollywood just yet, Alazraqui, 51, who has given a voice to countless characters in animated films and TV shows over his nearly 20-year career, says things are getting better.

“There’s an effort to make voice actors more prominent and turn us into these cult celebrities and let the industry know that we’re fantastic,” Alazraqui told me during an interview for his new film “Planes.” “We’re the best studio musicians you can hire!”

In “Planes,” Alazraqui plays the character El Chupacabra, a legendary airplane from Mexico who “races with a whole lot of heart and more dramatic flair than is recommended at high altitudes.”

During our interview, Alazraqui, who is of Argentinean descent, talked about how big the role in “Planes” is compared to others in his career, and reveals what he likes even more than cartoons.

What did you think the first time you saw what El Chupacabra was going to look like?

I thought it was awesome. He had a big barrel hull and this telenovela style to him. I thought it was great visually. I thought I could really take advantage of it.

Does an idea for the voice come to you fairly quickly when you see the character or is that something you have to work on for a while?

It was instantaneous. I had a small picture of him at the table read and I just went for it. John Lasseter (chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios) was there and he liked it and they hired me.

I mean, you do a lot of voice work for animated projects, but this is a pretty big deal when Disney is involved.

Oh, absolutely. I’ve worked on big projects like “Happy Feet” and “Happy Feet 2.” I’ve worked on a lot of cartoons [on TV] like “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “The Fairly Odd Parents.” I worked on “The Family Guy” for the first season. In “Monster’s University” I was the tour guide when Mike is a little kid and going on a tour of the university. But this is the most prominent role in a feature that I’ve ever landed so far.

The last time I interviewed you was back in 2008 for “Space Chimps” and we talked about what cartoons you watched as a kid. What about as an adult? Do you watch cartoons now?

You know, I only watch a little bit. I like to watch the old ones like “Go Go Gophers” and “Tennessee Tuxedo” – the cartoons I grew up with. Occasionally, I’ll take a few minutes and check out “The Family Guy” or “The Simpsons” or “Futurama,” but usually I’m watching sports or “The Walking Dead” or CNN. I don’t watch as much animation as you would think.

Not even the ones you’ve worked on?

You know, I’ve done a ton of episodes of “Fairly Odd Parents” and maybe I’ve seen the show like three times over 10 years. For me, I love doing cartoons, but I love sports and watching ESPN more.

What teams do you follow?

San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers, L.A. Clippers, and Golden State Warriors. Those are my teams.

We’ll I’m over here in San Antonio, so we’re still heartbroken about what happen in the Finals.

Ah, man. You know, when Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard missed those free throws [in Game 6] I thought it was going to come back to haunt you.

Yeah. I’ve been a 49ers fan all my life, so we have that in common. It’s hard to be a Niners fan living in Texas.

Yeah, that’s Dallas Cowboys country! I was watching University of Nevada – Reno beat Boise State about three years ago and I thought, “I hope the 49ers can draft Colin Kaepernick.” And sure enough.

Hey, so, are you still comfortable being the go-to guy when it comes to Latino animated characters? You’ve done a lot in your life.

Absolutely.  I’ve been doing “Handy Manny” for a long time (he voices Felipe “the Phillips Screwdriver” among other characters). I love it. It lets me tap into my Argentinean side. I don’t mind it at all. I like to choose super positive characters.

What part of your Argentinean background do you identify with the most?

Probably eating steak and being loud. Argentineans are not shy. It helps I have the ability to be crazy and fun and enjoy a good steak and a glass of wine and some good whiskey.

As animation gets more cutting-edge every year, does that somehow make your job easier as a voice actor or is it all the same?

You still have to work on the voice first and then work outward from there. You still have to imagine things in your own mind because most of the time you’re working alone. I’ve worked with some amazing talent, so I learn by watching. Even though the technology is getting more cutting-edge, you still have to count on the performances. The performances are what make the movie funny.

Well, I’ve always felt there should be an Academy Award given to voice actors.

Well, of course it would go to El Chupacabra!

Carlos Alazraqui – Space Chimps

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

You’ve probably heard his voice before, but never the same way twice.

Meet Carlos Alazraqui, best known for his role as Deputy James Garcia in Comedy Central’s “Reno 911!” Alazraqui, who is also a stand-up comedian, has done voice work for over 70 cartoon and video game characters in his 15-year career.

Along with working on shows such as “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Fairly OddParents,” and “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera,” Alazraqui, 46, is most recognized for his past commercial work as the voice of the Taco Bell chihuahua.

In his most recent role in the animated film “Space Chimps,” Alazraqui, whose roots are Argentinean, lends his voice to Houston, a veteran chimpanzee astronaut who shares his experience flying to the moon with a younger team of NASA apes.

What kind of cartoons did you watch as a kid?

I watched “The Pink Panther” on Saturday mornings. When I got home from school I would watch “Popeye,” “Bugs Bunny” and “Go-Go Gophers.” I watched a ton of cartoons.

How do you feel about seeing more diversity in cartoons these days? Back when you were a kid, there weren’t many Hispanic characters.

The diversity that has come out has been great. It’s nice that they’ve started to tap into that market.

Since you lend your voice to a number of these Hispanic characters, do you feel like you are one of the leaders of this cartoon revolution?

Actually, the Latino part of me didn’t come out until I did the voice for the Taco Bell chihuahua. Then people sort of discovered that I was Latino and I could do these voices. When someone needed a Latino character, they would say, ‘Go get Carlos. He can do that voice.’ So, yeah, I was one of the first to start capitalizing on that.

I was actually surprised that you’re the voice of one of the most popular chihuahuas in history, but you weren’t cast in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”

I think what happens in this town is that studios want on-camera actors to do the voices. There’s a lack of respect for the talent of voice-over actors. What I was surprised to see was that no one was protesting this movie the way they were protesting me [when I voiced the Taco Bell chihuahua]. (Laughing) I mean, no one should protest a movie like this but back then, there was a guy at LULAC named Gabriel Cazares who called the [Taco Bell] commercials “a hate crime.” (Laughing) I guess they realized they were wrong because, ironically, it’s all okay now.

Can a racial stereotype ever be taken too far? For example, I know you’ve done voice work for the cartoon “Minoriteam,” which features a character named El Jefe who uses a leaf blower as a weapon.

It’s all satirical. You don’t see people complaining about the Lucky Charms leprechaun as Irish or Count Chocula as a Romanian. I think we all should be able to laugh at ourselves no matter if we are the minority or the majority.