Kodi Smit-McPhee is ParaNorman
By: Lynn Barker
16-year-old Aussie actor Kodi Smit-McPhee has done some really serious films; the teen vampire epic Let Me In has his character in young love with a female vamp and in The Road, it was Kodi and actor Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings movies) as a dad and son struggling to survive in a totally destroyed world.
This week, Kodi gets to lighten up.. well sort of, as he voices Norman Babcock, a tween who is shunned and bullied, until his town needs him, because he can see and talk to ghosts. Kodi called us from the set of his next movie A Birder’s Guide to Everything in which he plays a teen who runs away with his friends right before his dad is supposed to get married.
We learned that Kodi loves street Rap-Stepping and hey, if you and your buds are out having a blast without him, don’t call and tease him about it!
Kidzworld: Is this your first voice role and why did you decide to take it on?
- Kodi: Well, I did do one animation voice a long while before but it was really different because ParaNorman is stop motion animated and took two years to do whereas the other one was only a few weeks.
When I got the audition for ParaNorman I was in Australia and they didn’t really give me any information about it. I had six pages of sides (from the script). So I (recorded) that and a few months later, I found out I got the job so I went to America and they blasted me with the whole script and all this information that they’d done Coraline and it was stop-motion animation so I was really excited to get started on it.
Kidzworld: They took us on a set visit day to Laika where they made the movie up in Portland, Oregon. Did you go there?
Kodi at the ParaNorman premiere
Kodi: Right toward the end of recording, we went to Laika and it was crazy! I didn’t know how much work went into it. They all have a passion for what they do so it’s like a big family.
Kidzworld: How old were you when you started the project? Your voice started changing before the movie was finished so did they just incorporate that or did they want you to still try to talk “younger”?
- Kodi: I was 14. I had my 15th birthday up in Portland when I went there. I had made Norman’s voice higher (intentionally), then, as we went through it, my voice kept dropping lower, then by the very end it was totally dropped. But, that was fine. We just let it do that in the movie because Norman becomes braver and a bigger guy so it kind of makes sense.
Kidzworld: Did they show you either the puppet or a final drawing before you did the voice?
- Kodi: When we first started, we didn’t have anything but the cardboard cutouts of ParaNorman. As we progressed, they’d make more stuff and came in eventually with all the puppets and sets and it was really cool.
Kidzworld: Stop motion animation is very different from all computer-generated or hand drawn animation. Was there anything about it that particularly fascinated you?
- Kodi: I think everything about it fascinated me. I knew about stop motion. I’d seen Coraline, one of my favorite stop motion movies, but when we went to Portland and I saw the sets and couldn’t believe all the detail. It’s not all computer-generated where they make the sets on a screen, it’s all these big miniature town and woods sets. The little props were great. When you look inside a shop set, there are signs on the wall with all these tiny details. Amazing.
Kidzworld: Did you see any of yourself in Norman’s expressions or gestures?
- Kodi: They did shoot us while we were recording and took my physicality and put them into Norman so I did see some little things of me in it. Pretty cool.
Kodi (age 14) checks out Norman's head
Kidzworld: What is the movie do you wish was in the real world; the van, something in the town?
- Kodi: I just wish Norman and his friends were real people. I really loved the characters in it and wish I could meet them.
Kidzworld: Were you into scary films, monsters and the like when you were Norman’s age (10-ish?)
- Kodi: I loved scary movies but I think I love a variety of everything, really deep movies and comedy. I would want my career to be like that; a little of everything.
Kidzworld: If kids and teens take home a lesson from the film (as well as a laugh or a scare) what do you think that is?
- Kodi: It’s a really layered film and the coolest thing is you can just look at it as a normal adventure film but the other side to it is it’s got messages about bullying in it and staying true to who you are and standing up to your fears. Adults will have fun taking that away from it and for kids, it’s funny and scary and sad. It’s a little of everything.
Kidzworld: Are you always home-schooled or did you go to a school where you might have been bullied? Did that ever happen to you?
Kodi: When I’m in L.A. I go to school and also when I’m in Australia but when I’m traveling or on a set, I do home school. I wasn’t bullied necessarily but I think everyone has been treated differently at a certain age because everyone is different. I think bullying is maybe an act of jealousy. We all strive to be different so just stay true to who you are and you’ll become that person, like Norman did.
Kodi takes a pic of himself with "Norman"
Kidzworld: Other than Coraline, do you have a favorite animated film or show whether it’s hand drawn, computer generated or stop motion?
- Kodi: (laughs) I actually love the show “Adventure Time” (with Finn and Jake) on the Cartoon Network.
Kidzworld: That is sooo sick/cute! What was the hardest scene for you either because it was complicated to record or hard to really get into?
- Kodi: The hardest one was where Norman is climbing the town hall and yelling at the witch in the clouds because it was hard to not only physically keep his voice up high, because my voice was changing, but also to just get that much emotion out through my voice. There wasn’t that much to do with gestures to be that angry. It was hard but we got it.
Kidzworld: Chris Mintz-Plasse says you guys did a couple of recording sessions together and he really enjoyed it.
- Kodi: Yeah, I did some with Anna Kendrick who plays Courtney, Tucker (Albrizzi) who plays Neil and obviously Chris who plays Alvin. When I recorded with somebody else physically, it was much better because you can actually interact with someone then the conversations you see on screen are actual conversations so it’s pretty natural.
Kidzworld: What is your pet peeve as far as girls go? What do girls sometimes do that you just can’t understand?
- Kodi: The phone thing. I mean, when they call you to say they’re out with some friends but then you’re not there are you? So why did they call (to rub it in?) I just have to ignore it.
Kidzworld: What kinds of music are you really into now?
- Kodi: I love everything but my most favorite thing is Rap-Step (freestyle street dancing) and indie music.
ParaNorman - Official Trailer