Angry Birds Assemble

September 10, 2019
Producer John Cohen (right) and Director Thurop Van Orman (left) open up about The Angry Birds Movie 2, which sees the birds and pigs team up to defeat a new enemy.

“We’ve brought back all of the audience favourite characters from the first film and we’ve also made room for some great new characters,” says Producer John Cohen. “We have a villain, Zeta, who’s been voiced by Leslie Jones; she’s an eagle that comes from a place called Eagle Island and I think she is very very unexpected. They often say in the Marvel movies that the heroes have to have flaws, but the villains have to have virtues and she’s a character that I think the audience is going to find themselves unexpectedly relating to and connecting with, without spoiling too much.

“And we have another new character named Silver, Chuck’s sister, who is a very popular character from the Angry Birds games that we didn’t have in the first movie and she’s being played by Rachel Bloom [pictured, top, centre]. Chuck, the Josh Gad character, is a bird who goes super fast, everything about him moves fast. Well, she has the same DNA but she thinks super fast, so she can solve complex equations in about the time that it would take me to even realise that I don’t know the answer. She’s a great new character. And one last character that we have is Courtney played by Awkwafina and she is so funny and delightful.”

“I started in video games and the golden standard for a video game is it takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master,” adds co-director Thurop Van Orman. “And they nailed it. Angry Birds does that so well, you can learn how to play the game within a minute, but you never master it. We have got a lot of characters that steal the show, it’s amazing how many characters we have that the scene becomes about them, without losing track of the story; so many characters that are so funny in and of themselves.”

Zeta, voiced by Leslie Jones

Thurop, you’re experienced in the animation world [Powerpuff Girls, Adventure Time, The Little Prince, etc], but what led you to this sequel in particular?

Thurop: I love the TV world, I love how fast it moves, I love how quickly you come up with stories, but I think for the last 20 years I’ve wanted to tell a bigger story. John gave me a call and brought me in to talk about it and it’s been amazing to use those same skills of working really fast and telling stories visually with story boards to really figure out a lot of the jokes and a lot of the story. I don’t think that story boards are usually done in features so much, but I think it’s one reason our movie’s come out so funny.

The video game was pigs against birds, but now they’re frenemies. Have you talked to the video game developers to go in the same direction?

John: When we made the first Angry Birds movie, we really wanted to bring the games to life in a way that honoured all of the key things that people loved from the games and knew from the games. And with the sequel, we had the opportunity to then take it in a brand new direction, and a lot of people in the audience probably thought this would be ‘Oh, another film with birds and pigs battling each other’ and we really wanted to do something new and different. We talked to Rovio, the company that creates the games and we said ‘Here’s the idea, we’d love to tell this story and introduce a new villain that was never in the games and force the birds and pigs to have to team up and work together’. They have no common ground and yet they have to find some way to function not unlike when the Guardians of the Galaxy came together and the Avengers came together for the first time. They had trust issues and there’s a lot of friction and Rovio said ‘That is such a cool idea’ and they really embraced it.

Silver, voiced by Rachel Bloom

Do you think there is a chance of another game that might incorporate some of your ideas?

John: There is a very good chance of that. They are already working on that, and one of the cool things for us is that while we make the movie, we get to play all the games that they’re developing. You get to see them early and they have got some really cool things planned with the new movie characters.

Thurop: And that’s cool because we can influence each other. We can influence them, they can influence us and there’s a nice cross-pollination there.

What was it like to work with Nicki Minaj [who voices Pinky]?

Thurop: It was awesome. I was a big fan of hers, so I knew she was funny just from her albums. I knew that she had some acting chops. We got to go to her house and record her which was so cool. But she was really good, she’s a great actress and is really funny in the movie.

Do you feel restricted at all in adapting established IP?

John: For us a video game movie has a lot of opportunity because not everything is defined. When you have a big book property like Harry Potter or a comic book property like Spider-Man or any of the great Marvel ones, pretty much everything has already been defined and the translation of that into a movie is really translating someone else’s vision. With a video game like Angry Birds, we have some key things that are a part of it but not the same mythology that you would have in something else and so it’s a chance to actually create an original story and original characters and do it with something that already has some great brand recognition.

Many family movies have layers for the kids to enjoy and also their parents. How have you worked this aspect in the film?

Thurop: When I started in animation, I was making TV shows for college kids and people my age, because I was in my twenties and that’s what I knew and that’s the only thing I really knew how to do at that point. 20 years later, now I have kids, I can see the world through their perspective, so really we’re making them for kids, and it’s cool how once you have kids you can see the world through children’s eyes again. It’s not just testing it with my kids, I’m like ‘Oh yeah, that’s how you think when you’re a kid’, so we’re really playing it for kids and for us and for everyone in between.

We’ve had a few test screenings and played it for audiences of people who aren’t related to us or didn’t work on the movie, just total strangers and it’s amazing to see how many of the jokes little kids laugh at and their parents and their grandparents. And sometimes they’re different jokes but for the most part it’s like, ‘Oh, everyone’s laughing at the same thing, that’s so cool’. And I think one reason is, we try to find meaning in the story that makes you think but the jokes in the story, almost everyone can get. They’re very visual, so they translate past language barriers, past children’s vocabulary until like, ‘Oh that’s funny, I saw why that’s funny, I didn’t have to understand why that’s funny, I can see through the acting, through the visual story telling why somethings funny’. I think we tried to tell a very sophisticated story but all of the moments I think translate comedically to everyone.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 is in cinemas September 12, 2019

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