Chris Wedge, the animator behind the Ice Age franchise, behind Robots and now Epic – which sold $42.8 million in tickets over its opening four-day Memorial Day weekend – wants grownups to see his movies. And so, in Epic, which is about a civilization superimposed on ours (“you know, tiny people living in the woods,” he says), the animation director has his leaf men and his super-diminutive teenage heroine acting like samurai warriors, “riding hummingbirds like jet fighter pilots.” It's an action movie.
“Animation tends to be thought of as entertainment for children, much to my chagrin,” Wedge explains. “And to cross over to broader audiences, most animated films have become comedies, so that the adults will think they’re funny and are getting something that the kids don’t get. But I wanted to try a different crossover technique, and that’s action. Spectacle.”
Per the Hollywood animated formula, Epic boasts a diverse all-star lineup of actors, lending their voices to the cartoon characters and critters. Colin Farrell, Beyonce Knowles, Amanda Seyfried, Chris O’Dowd, Christoph Waltz… it’s a pile-up of talent, corraled into the recording studio. But Wedge says there’s an art to matching the right actor with the right character.
“Each character is designed and written before we go out to cast it,” he says. “Casting happens just before we animate. You try to think of the best voice for the role, and for me, because these animated characters are collaborations with designers, animators and the voice actors, I want it to feel like one whole thing – a complete entity. I don’t want you to look at a character and think of, you know, Will Ferrell’s face or whoever’s voice is very distinct.