Just because Epic — Blue Sky’s newest animated film, out May 24 — follows tiny forest creatures who fight corruption doesn’t mean that it’s not relatable. Many viewers will find one of the main characters, voiced by Josh Hutcherson’s, recognizable as the kind of lovable rebel with whom we’ve all become familiar. “[Nod] goes to the beat of his own drum. He’s not one for listening to authority, not one for doing what others want him to do,” Hutcherson says. “But it doesn’t come from a negative place. It comes from a very free-spirited kind of place.”
Hutcherson’s Nod is a warrior for the diminutive but brave Leaf Men who fight to protect mother nature from the Boggans, who represent the forces of rot and decay. Their order is thrown in a new direction with the arrival of a human girl (named M.K. and voiced by Amanda Seyfried) who is shrunk down to their size — a development that also causes some sparks. “There’s definitely a bit of a love story there [between Nod and MK]. I mean I think that they’re both odd to one another. Nod’s never met a real human before and she’s never met a tiny Leaf Man guy. Then throughout the story we kind of learn about each other and grow together and that definitely leads to a bit of a romance.”
Hutcherson didn’t meet Seyfried for the first time until he was finished working on the film, which isn’t unusual since animated movie costars rarely record in studio together. That’s the thing about animation, Hutcherson says: “You don’t have as much control because you don’t control the body of the character at all but you in a sense you have more control where you get to redo the scene over and over again.” He’s familiar with the animation world having done the English dubbing for Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle and some motion-capture work in Polar Express, but Epic was different. “This is really my first time being part of an animated movie from the ground up, and it’s a really different, very cool experience,” he says. Having his mannerisms and facial expressions incorporated into the character because his face was filmed as he recorded his lines, helped inform the end result and had Nod realistically mixing it up onscreen with the likes of Seyfried’s M.K. as well as Colin Farrell’s Ronin, the Leaf Men leader, and a slug voiced by Aziz Ansari.
There is also moral center to the film and it has a lot to do with nature. “I think you can definitely read into it politically. I don’t think that’s at all the goal of the film, but I think that it says a lot about protecting the wilderness,” Hutcherson says. And it’s as full of wonder as it is ecological. “It’s fantastical, and the whole idea is to spark kids’ imaginations. That if you look close enough in your backyard, maybe you can see these little guys working together.”
(With reporting by Lindsey Bahr)