Aaron Augenblick’s newest project will put a cartoon character in a very undesirable situation: stuck in a fight between God and the Devil.
The director (Ugly Americans) leads up The Adventures of Drunky, an R-rated animated film focusing on the lowly titular character going through the biggest down of his life. The first feature film from Augenblick Studios not only boasts high stakes — just whether God or the Devil will control Earth — but a top-notch cast to match, too.
Sam Rockwell stars as the down-and-out Drunky, while Jeffrey Tambor and Steve Coogan are the respective good and bad forces toying with his life. Nina Arianda, Dave Attell, and Jay Pharoah also appear as well as an unexpected person in an unexpected role: Tyler the Creator as Drunky’s alley cat, Oscar.
Augenblick chatted with EW ahead of the the film’s Indiegogo campaign launch. See an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from the Drunky‘s recording sessions, and a portion of Augenblick’s interview below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you come up with the idea for Drunky?
AARON AUGENBLICK: This is a movie I’ve been trying to make since I started my studio back in 1999. I opened my studio, because I wanted to make a feature film, and specifically an R-rated, underground, animated feature film. I always liked the story of the Book of Job in the Old Testament. I’m not religious whatsoever, but I just always thought the idea of God and the Devil making a bet and ruining some guy’s life was just really hilarious [laughs]. Maybe it’s because I’m not religious find it so funny. It’s such a strange, surreal, weirdo story that I always thought it would be great comedy.
The other big inspiration was I’m a big cartoon fan. I always loved Daffy Duck. What I liked about Daffy was that I always thought he was the most human of the characters in that he was constantly getting beaten up. Almost every Daffy cartoon is Daffy getting shot in the face, punched in the stomach, knocked off a tree. I always loved the idea that he never gave up. He had that weird endurance and spirit that just powered him through, basically, his terrible life. I thought if you could make a movie about the Book of Job and have a main character that felt a little like Daffy Duck, it would be a pretty funny movie. If God and the Devil are going to ruin someone’s life, you got to have a character that can really take a punch. With cartoons, hilarious punishment is such an essential theme that I just knew it would work.
How would you describe the protagonist?
Drunky is a f—-up. I love f—-ups. I think there’s a big difference between a f—-up and a loser. A loser is someone [where] bad things happen to them, they feel bad about it, they’re depressed, and generally a negative person. What I find really funny is a f—-up, because they are their own worst enemy, and they’re always going to try to make things happen for themselves and fail miserably, and never quit understand what they’re doing wrong. Drunky, to me, was a perfect f—-up for this movie.
But what makes him likable and fascinating as a character is that he never gives up. He never gives up, no matter what ridiculous things happen. It’s the joke of the movie he’s such a loser, he has such terrible bad luck that of course if God and the Devil decide to make a bet and decide to ruin someone’s life, and they pull out a giant heavenly slot machine and choose one guy at random on the entire Earth, of course it’s Drunky, because he has that kind of luck.
What gets really exciting and really funny is seeing a guy with the worst luck in the world face even more hardships, and then overcome them. That’s what I want see. I want to see the hero’s journey of this guy who’s had every bad scrape in life overcome and become a hero for the very first time in his life.
This is the highest-caliber cast you’ve worked with so far. What was that like?
Sam Rockwell is my favorite actor. When we were casting, we wrote our wish list for who would be the greatest possible people we could get for this cartoon, and we got lucky enough to get those people. So that was unbelievable. I think there’s a certain kind of actor is working on this film. They’re very creative, exciting, risk-taking actors. They responded to this kind of project, which is something that hasn’t been made before. It’s an R-rated, animated, supernatural cartoon, and those kind of movies don’t get made everyday — in fact, they rarely get made ever in the history of animation.
The dirty secret of animation is the actors rarely ever meet each other. Most animated films, they record them solo, because it’s cheaper and it’s easier to schedule and it’s easier to fine-tune and micro-manage the reads. For a film like this, we started locking in our talent, and we realized that I’ve got a movie where I’ve got a drunk played by Sam Rockwell; I’ve got the Devil, Steve Coogan; and God, Jeffrey Tambor, all talking to each other. It would be a crime not to have those actors in the same room together. We scheduled them so that all the actors recorded together. It was two weeks in January. We all met up in this old audio facility in Hell’s Kitchen [Avatar Studios], and everybody recorded all the scenes together. We encouraged everyone to improvise and have fun with the script.
The performances we got are unbelievable; I’ve never heard anything like it. it’s so funny. To hear God and The Devil arguing, and it’s Jeffrey Tambor and Steve Coogan, is one of the high points of my life.