Planes

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.

Gabriel Iglesias – Planes

August 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

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.

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!