Together for a press conference in LA in support of the Warner Bros Pictures family-friendly film, Midler, Marsden, and Applegate talked about working on this PG rated comedy.
Bette Midler, James Marsden, and Christina Applegate Press ConferenceWhat was the best quality about the cat or dog you voiced, and are you a cat or dog person?
Bette Midler: "I’m a cat. I play Kitty Galore. Kitty Galore is an Egyptian Sphinx cat. She’s hairless except for a little hair on her tail. She’s very cranky because she’s been rejected by her beloved human family and she’s determined to rule the world. I came in for a number of sessions and it was really curious because when I first started, it was just a sketch. As the time went on, the backgrounds of the other characters got more and more filled in. That was very, very exciting to watch. I’ve never experienced that before."
"In real life, my pet passed. I’m a non-pet person at this point."
James Marsden: "I play Diggs. He’s the German Shepherd. He’s a dog that worked for the police force but was rejected from the police force because he had difficulty following orders. A lot of raw ability and talent, but unfortunately his ego eclipses all of those natural abilities. He’s hired or recruited by this separate group of dogs to thwart Kitty Galore and ultimately has to team up with cats, which is the end all be all. That’s not happening, but he has to overcome his own sense of pride to work together. I like his confidence and his boldness. Again, doesn’t really know about teamwork so much but he’s very comfortable in his own skin. And I’m a dog person. I’m allergic to cats so by default I’m a dog person."
Christina Applegate: "I play Catherine, who is the agent from MEOWS. She’s an incredibly sophisticated, smart agent – spy-like, if you will – and she begrudgingly has to be teamed up with these dogs in order for her to stop Kitty Galore, who is about to destroy her universe as well. I love her. I think she’s a really wonderful, rich cat. And I am a both person. I love all the animals. All shapes, colors, sizes, and species."
What was the process of doing the characters? Did you all get to work together, and was there a big moment where you discovered your 'inner animal'?
James Marsden: "You know, it was an interesting process. We talked a lot about this yesterday. When you’re in a film or doing television and you’re in front of the camera, you have a tool box. You have your expressions in your face, your body language. This experience for me was challenging in a sense that you really do rely on your voice to convey emotion, to play a scene. It was definitely a journey. Early on we had some just sort of scratch track sessions where we were just sort of finding the voice of the character. It was important to find the voice that matched the physicality of the dog, to match the energy that was needed for the animators. All of that was very new to me and it was a big learning process for me. It was a great sort of journey where we went many times all over the place to try to find the voice of Diggs."
"For this type of movie, you’re in a dark room with a microphone sitting in front of you and not a lot of imagery to go along. We just had Brad the director saying, 'Say that again but remember that what you’re yelling at, that you can’t see right now, is actually 50 meters ahead of you so you need to be a little louder.' You put a lot of trust into Brad, and he is the guide. It was unlike any experience I’ve ever experienced before and it was very gratifying to see the final picture of all these puzzle pieces coming together. It’s great. You don’t always have that luxury on film sets to be able to play and go here and there. You’re not burning film. You’re just burning time in the studio, I guess."
Christina Applegate: "It took me a minute to figure out exactly what was going on. My first session with them, I had worked on Samantha Who? until 9 in the morning, and then I had to be there at 11, so I wasn’t in the best possible condition to start doing this kind of voice. But Brad kept saying, 'More energy, more energy,' and I guess I didn’t really... With, I think a lot of other animated movies, they can animate thought in the eyes of the character, and they can animate physicality, and all of these things. But for this, these are real dogs and cats; with our characters, at least, there was very little that was enhanced. So it really was a cat sitting there. So what we really had to do is convey so much through the voice, and I think that’s when I finally understood when he said, 'More energy.' It wasn’t, 'Louder, bigger,' it needed to be so full because that cat is not gonna swerve this way, or cock their head, or do these things that you want it to do. So it took me a minute to get used to it. And I think it turned out really well. I was happy with it. I’d like to go back and change a couple of things, for myself. But I truly enjoy doing this kind of work. Even though it’s a little isolating, it’s quite gratifying to then finally see the picture and see what they’ve been so busy doing all these months and years."
Bette Midler: "I agree. Actually, it’s not just isolating. It’s a little bit lonely because it’s just you in a dark room with a sketch of a character or sometimes a filled in scene, but still you don’t work with the other actors. It’s like one long looping session, I said. It’s like oh my God, ADR for days. The real thrill I think comes from seeing the finished product when all this amazing... You see, my feeling is that Brad - and we discussed this yesterday - the fact that he could keep all these balls in the air and make all these [elements] that would form into one movie, it was absolutely staggering to me. I couldn’t imagine. I couldn’t imagine how you did it because he was working with live actors, he was working with animals. There’s nothing harder than working with animals. Those animals really looked like they knew what they were doing but, honestly, they’re animals. 'Stay, stay, stay.' I worked with animals before and it’s like, 'Oh god.' So the fact that he was working with live actors, live animals, they’re actually quite similar. And then the robots and the cartoons...it all melds together and you say, 'Well, I can’t tell which part is drawn and which part is a robot and which part is a real animal.' I couldn’t get over it. I think it’s really an extraordinary achievement."
Christina Applegate: "I was so nervous about – with our characters, at least – because [Bette’s] character had to do all this stuff that a cat wouldn’t be able to pet a mouse, that’d be dangerous, but I know that our mouse had to move, and all I could picture in my head was like on the Conan O’Brien show when he would have Arnold Schwarzenegger, just a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and was like, (Schwarzenegger impression), 'Allo Conan!' You know, the mouth is doing this, and I thought, 'Oh God, this is going to look ridiculous,' and it didn’t. It was really incredible how you’re able to get that done."
Bette, did you channel anybody to play evil?
Bette Midler: "No, pardon me? Did I channel anyone or am I just plain evil? I’m just plain evil - it’s true. Now you know the real me."