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'The Angry Birds Movie': Translating the game's action to the big screen

‘Everyone’s played the game…but no one’s been in the game,’ director Clay Kaytis teases.

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The Angry Birds Movie tells the origin story behind the smash-hit mobile game, revealing the lead up to the battle between the famed, flightless birds and the porcine enemies who stole their eggs. While the feathery flick (due May 20) focuses on the preliminary action, it does realize the game for the screen, with the avian army — including ornery hero Red (Jason Sudeikis) and friends, Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride) — slingshotting themselves into the fight, and causing mayhem all around.

Here, veteran animators and directors Clay Kaytis (Frozen) and Fergal Reilly (Hotel Transylvania) tell EW how they translated the game’s high-flying action to the big screen. “In our very first meeting, myself and Clay talked about the immersive experience of bringing the game to life,” Reilly says. “The third act was where we were going to do that, and it was where we wanted to really blow the audience away.” Read on for how an immediate perspective, a humorous edge to action, and 3-D played a part in that.

OFFERING A FIRST-HAND PERSPECTIVE

The pair sought to offer a fresh take by bringing audiences into the game. “We were so excited to get to this point of making the movie, in terms of the third act with the action, because everyone’s played the game, everyone knows what should happen, but no one’s been in the game, no one’s experienced this from a first-hand point of view,” Kaytis explains. “Pulling back the slingshot and firing into the buildings and crashing through the buildings, we’ve never seen that point of view.” Get a glimpse of that in the recently released trailer below, with Chuck, Matilda (Maya Rudolph), and others getting sky high.

BRINGING COMEDY TO ACTION

Beyond being immersive, Kaytis and Reilly wanted the battle to incorporate humor. “We spend a lot of setup time in this film with the characters, learning to love and care about [them],” Kaytis continues. “Once they get into this action scene you are so with them and so rooting for them and hoping they succeed, but at the same time we never lose that side of having comedy.” We’d want nothing less, with Sudeikis, Gad, McBride, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale, Tituss Burgess, and more amongst its cast. “Every time we see something happen, there’s a laugh on screen.”

Keeping things funny had its challenges, but Kaytis and Reilly found their way, through, as an example, working from a script by Jon Vitti (The Simpsons). “It’s always really tricky to combine comedy and action, but we knew with the characters that we’d built up to this point that we were doing the audience a disservice if we didn’t try and push it to a new level and twist it in a new direction,” Reilly says, and adds to expect the unexpected. “If you think you know what’s going to happen when they get in the slingshot, you’re going to be in for a big laugh, a big surprise.”

TYING IT TOGETHER WITH 3-D

3-D played a key role as well. “We talked about how this movie would feel in 3-D and we brought [that] on way early on in the process, way before we finished photography on it, way before we finished just so [our guy] would be designing and helping us build the moments and consulting with us on shots,” Reilly says, to which Kaytis adds that once not an enthusiast, he’s now a convert. “I haven’t been a giant fan of movies where you had to wear glasses. This one, it is so freaking amazing… especially going into that battle.”

To read more of our Summer Movie Preview, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, or buy your choice of four collectible covers here – and subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.