The time is the too-near Future. Powered and enabled by the invention known as the Great Machine, the world’s machines have turned on Mankind and sparked unrest, decimating the Human population before being largely shut down.
But as the world fell to pieces, a mission began to salvage the legacy of civilization; a group of small creatures was given the spark of life by a scientist in the final days of Humanity, and they continue to exist in the post-apocalypse. One of the creatures, #9, emerges and displays leadership qualities that may help them survive and possibly even thrive.
No stranger to animation, Elijah Wood, who voices #9, was the lead voice in Happy Feet which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. At the press junket for the movie, I asked him about playing #9 in this unique and stunningly visual movie.
Shane Acker, who wrote and directed the movie, said he wanted you to use our own voice in this – was that off-putting for you as an actor, just playing yourself?
Not really. I guess I could say the same thing for any role I’ve ever taken because it’s all my own voice. As an actor, I think what’s interesting is just the arc of the character, who the character is and really imbuing the character with a sense of themselves, informing who he is, and ultimately informing his journey vocally. But, no, it’s never a bummer to have to do your own voice. There was plenty in the character for me to work with.
You’ve done voice work before, was it easier this time around?
It was fun. I was just so excited to be working on the film being a real fan of the short film. So getting a chance to flesh out the characters and flesh out the story and give context to the world that Shane had created was just a blast. I don’t know how, in comparing it I guess to something like Happy Feet it was very different, because it was very comedic. This one the action sequences were intense and what they’re up against is a lot darker. Not necessarily harder or easier or better but just different and certainly a lot of fun.
What is it that attracts you to voice roles?
I just love animation, I think. With this in particular I was approached with a package on the film that included the short film and it included concept art and the script and I just fell in love with the short. I thought that it was so unique. I’ve never seen characters like that before. I’d never seen that kind of post apocalyptic war torn world from that perspective before. I loved the ingenuity of the characters, the fact that the characters utilize pieces of the old world and reattribute to themselves in different ways, like taking a light bulb and making a torch out of that and various other things. I loved all that. I thought it was so unique and so beautiful. So for me deciding to do this kind of role in an animated movie, I just happened to love the story and the animation style and wanted to be a part of it.
Does the physicality of the character in the concept drawings affect the way you approach the voice?
I don’t know that I necessarily looked at the physicality, the way that the characters moved in the short and thought about how my voice would go over the top of it, but in terms of what the character is capable of in terms of motion that starts to affect your voice because you’re having to fit your voice over a character that’s moving in a sequence, that can be quite intense, some of these acting sequences and that’s probably the most challenging element. It’s to be in a stationary room applying a voice to something that’s moving and going through some pretty intense things, to try and do that in a way that sounds like you’re moving is not easy but it’s fun.
What’s going on with Happy Feet 2?
I have read a script. I don’t know if it’s all setup yet or when it’s going to go. But it’s great, a nice continuation. They’ve done something that feels appropriate. Sequels are always funny. You just want there to be a reason for it and for it to feel natural and I feel that they have a real story that is worth telling. So it should be good.