The Angry Birds Movie explains how the birds from the popular mobile game came to be so, well, angry, and a vignette called “Angry Words” debuting exclusively on EW.com (watch it, above!) shows members of the voice cast of the action-comedy exclaiming angry phrases, demonstrating the myriad shapes a temper can take.
Case in point, Jason Sudeikis yells, as a play on his character, “Seeing red!”; Bill Hader cries out, “You are getting under my skin!”; Kate McKinnon says, with a vampirish air, “Out for blood”; Peter Dinklage asserts, with a terrifying coolness, “On a warpath.” That’s just to start, as Keegan-Michael Key, Tituss Burgess, Danny McBride, Smosh’s Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, Blake Shelton, Maya Rudolph, Tony Hale, and Josh Gad also bring angry phrases of their own to the video.
Veteran animators Clay Kaytis (Frozen) and Fergal Reilly (Hotel Transylvania) are making their directorial debuts here from a script by Jon Vitti (The Simpsons). The Angry Birds Movie, in theaters May 20, tells the story behind the battle between said angry birds and the pigs who stole their eggs, with grouchy hero Red (Sudeikis) and his fellow, feathery, flightless friends Chuck (Gad) and Bomb (McBride) at the center of it all.
For more, read on for Kaytis and Reilly’s remarks about how anger factors into the film — and how that anger was made to be comedic.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did Sudeikis bring humor to the film through his sarcastic, hot-blooded character, Red?
KAYTIS: There are few actors, I think, who could pull off being that hard edged and still be appealing, and he’s definitely one of them. He has a charm and a way with his voice that he can say some of the harsher things, but you still smile and you laugh and you get it. That also comes down to the characters; you put Red in situations that audiences should identify with. They should feel sympathetic for anyone stuck in those moments and they want to react the way he does, except that most people in the real world don’t have the nerve to do it.
REILLY: Red basically says and does the things that we would love to do. Vitti gave us [tonal] signposts in the script that told us that we can make an angry character really appealing to the audience. The big fear in animated movies is that you can’t have an angry character, and that was like the title of our movie and our main character Red’s problem. That’s always a challenge, but there were signposts [in the script] that, ‘Oh, okay, we can really twist this up and get the audience on Red’s side very quickly.’ The rawness of anger is very funny when you’re not the participant, when you’re not the victim of it. It can be very funny to watch, and we just took that idea and kept running with it. The first question we asked ourselves was, ‘What makes you angry?’ We’d ask each other, ‘What kind of things irritate you?’ The whole title sequence was born out of that idea that Red goes through his day and [things happen] around him that set him off. We used that as a, like Clay was saying, relatable platform so that the audience would immediately get on board with him because they could relate to the situations he was in.
That’s interesting, the idea that you can’t have an angry character in animated movies, but Steve Carell’s character Gru in the Despicable Me films, for example, is an anti-hero with attitude. Do you feel like that perception is changing at all? Or is anger included in animated movies, but is hard to pull off?
KAYTIS: I think it’s a result of modern films maturing. After decades [of] fairy tales and happy stories and romances, as great as those are and as much as we love those, people have seen those. You see films like Inside Out or even Angry Birds where you’re exploring, ‘What are real emotions that people have?’ and ‘How do you deal with those?’ and that was a really fun and challenging part of making this film. In doing so, and approaching those more difficult subjects, it creates a far more emotionally satisfying movie. We’ve shown this film to audiences and they’re really surprised at how much they feel at the end of this film, and that’s part of the process of exploring something like this.
REILLY: The best way to put it is, the last couple of years movies have been getting more and more sophisticated. We wanted to play to adults and kids, but that’s a tricky alchemy to make jokes that adults will totally relate to and have a great chuckle at and have their kids relate to it on a whole different level. That’s kind of the beauty of attacking subjects like, ‘What makes you angry?’ You have that extra material to mine from, and it’s actually a great comedy challenge. Our movie operates on the sophistication of any Judd Apatow comedy, or anything like that. That was the approach and that’s Vitti’s background as well. He wrote on The Simpsons, Arrested Development, [The Office], [Saturday Night Live]. There’s fun in it, but the best laughs come when you place them against something. If you have a character that the audience cares about, then when they laugh, the laughs tend to get bigger. That’s why comedy is kind of born out of tragedy. It’s the juxtaposition of lots of emotion that makes the laughter work.
You spoke about what Sudeikis brought to the role, but how about Gad, McBride, or other standouts? What did they bring comedically or emotionally?
KAYTIS: Josh is Chuck in a funny way. We don’t really speed his voice up in the film. That’s how fast Josh can speak, and it’s really an amazing, comedic talent that he can rattle off. I can barely get words out of my mouth, but he’s making funny sentences and jokes as he’s doing it. Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, they’re all such great improvisers. We get the script and cover the lines and then we say, ‘Ok, let’s have some fun,’ and they bring so much to the character, so many creative ideas, surprises, things that we’d never expect, and so much of that ends up in the film.
REILLY: Every single one of them brings something different. I can’t pick a favorite because I would come out of each recording session and my stomach muscles would be hurting. It was like a workout because you’d be laughing so hard, like Keegan is a comedy genius, so much fun. Maya was hilarious and could push the character in ways that we couldn’t even think of. She would push it in an unexpected direction, then you’d be like, ‘Oh, let’s go with that, let’s latch onto that.’ Every single one of them, even the smaller roles — Ike Barinholtz, Hannibal [Buress], Smosh. We did lots and lots of recording sessions. I think we probably did 90+ full days with our cast. It was always great fun. You would go in very well prepared with your pages, but then it was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be like a Petri dish of comedy. We’re going to try lots of stuff and see what goes and what doesn’t.’”