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Elijah Wood, Robin Williams and Director George Miller Discuss "Happy Feet"

Wood, Williams and Miller Talk About the Animated Penguin Movie


Elijah Wood, Robin Williams and Director George Miller Discuss

Elijah Wood provides the voice of Mumble in "Happy Feet."

© Warner Bros Pictures
Elijah Wood and Robin Williams star in Warner Bros Pictures’ animated movie, Happy Feet, a family-friendly film that follows a group of penguins who call Antarctica home. Although humans aren’t aware of this, penguins are born with a talent for singing. That is most penguins can sing. Poor Mumble (Wood) can’t warble a tune if his life depends on it – but he can out dance all his tuxedo attired companions. Mumble's lack of singing ability makes him an outcast, and it's only when he meets up with Ramon (Williams) and his penguin gang that he discovers it’s perfectly fine to be different.

Williams and Wood joined their Happy Feet director George Miller for a press conference to discuss their animated penguin movie. Williams kept the event lively, although his use of many different voices while answering Happy Feet questions doesn’t translate well in print.

George, can you compare and contrast the experience of Babe with live animals and working on an animated animal film?

George Miller: “Ah, in a way, it's a lot easier. It's obviously a lot easier working with computer-generated animals, but a lot slower.”

Elijah Wood: “They're friendlier as well.”

Miller: “Yeah.”

Robin Williams: “And people don't eat computers.”

Miller: “Exactly. There's a good answer. Look, animal trainers, particularly the ones we had on the Babe films, were really really [good]. It’s surprisingly a lot easier to work with animals than one would normally think. But, of course, working with computer-generated creatures is just a matter of - it's really painstaking work. Obviously you can get the creatures to do whatever you want. When we first decided to do this movie, we realized we weren't ever going to be able to train penguins. They're not domestic animals. You can't go to Antarctica and screw around with their environment. It's a very delicate environment so this was the only way to do it.”

Elijah, is there any connection whatsoever between the lonely hobbit and his lonely village in Lord of the Rings

Wood: “Oh, here we go!” (laughter)

And a little happy-footed penguin who stands apart from the crowd and has to find his own destiny?

Wood: “Ah, as much as you'd like to read into it, I guess. That's about it. No, I don't think there's much of a connection but I'm sure you could put a connection into that if you'd like.”

Williams: “Big feet.”

Wood: “Yeah.”

Williams: “Fluffy feet.”

Wood: “Fluffy feet.”

Williams (in Aussie accent): “That was the original - the Australian title of the movie was Fluffy Feet (Elijah laughs). People went with that. Webbed always offends people, you can't say ‘webbed.’ No, no, sorry. The Lord of the Rings connection is really stretching it, but thank you. ... I have too much free time.

(Switching to a Latino accent) “For me to be this tiny but very powerful penguin is to know the Argentinian male and to say mas huevos, which is a word in Spanish meaning eggs. Also means something else for those who speak Spanish. But I have to give him some machismo - small but powerful. With penguins, as I say, size does not make a difference. It's very important to have that type of joke this early in the morning [it’s 9:30amish]. But I want to play this man to give hem the power. Once again come closer, I want to talk to ‘ju’ and you know this . . . And if I say ‘ju’ I don't mean it like in a Mel Gibson way (laughter). I mean it in a - let me talk to YOU. …For me, I love to do this very much. Thank you. With a room full of Hispanic comedians it's very important.”

George, what made you decide to do family films and how can you still keep the George Miller sensibility in there?

Miller: “I think basically it's all driven by story. The thing that gets me hooked on any project is story, and this was a good story. You know, at the time we were doing this, we were also preparing to do the fourth Mad Max movie. Maybe I'm a little kind of dissonance in my brain, but I don't see a lot of difference between those two films. really. They're basically - I'm trying to tell good stories. The fact is, it doesn't really matter what medium there is.

I think probably I'm also getting a little wiser somehow. I've got kids, the only movies I see these days at home are basically kids movies, so you kind of get into that mold as well. Also, I love to tell stories that you can see. I like to go to the movies with kids and my teenage daughter and my mother. I like it to be a family outing. But mainly it's the story. That's the main thing that gets me hooked on a film.”

Is Mad Max over?

Miller: “No, we were about to start doing that when George Bush and Tony Blair decided to go into Iraq and the American dollar collapsed against the Australian dollar. We lost 25% of our budget, but that's not a reason to lament. Warner Brothers had the script to Happy Feet. They said, ‘Come on, we can't wait too much longer.’ So we started on this and I'm happy to have done it. It meant that I spent time in my home city and was able to take my kids to school and stuff like that, and had an incredible learning experience. There's not been a film I learned so much on. I had no idea there were so many mysteries to unravel about story telling, particularly working in the digital realm. I got a taste of it on the Babe films, but I never realized just how much there was to learn about filmmaking when you take on a film like this.”

Continued on Page 2

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