Free Birds Cast Talks Turkey
By: Lynn Barker
The upcoming animated film Free Birds is a total hoot… uh gobble? Even the story alone is funny. Two misfit turkeys travel in a time machine back to the first Thanksgiving in the hope of taking turkey off the menu. Of course one falls in love, one has to mess up and prove himself afterwards but they do become the best of odd buddies in the process.
You have no doubt seen the talented voice cast of Free Birds in their many films and T.V. appearances. Woody Harrelson, who plays brave yet kinda clueless turkey Jake, is Katniss Everdeen’s mentor Haymitch in the Hunger Games films. Amy Poehler who plays feisty leader turkey Jenny, has cracked us up for years on “Saturday Night Live” and her current TV show “Parks and Recreation” and has recorded voices for the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies and Horton Hears a Who. Owen Wilson plays lead free-range turkey Reggie and was the voice of Lightning McQueen in the Cars films. You might have seen him in Marley and Me or Night at the Museum.
These actors love animation and can be pretty silly and fun in an interview. Check out their Thanksgiving memories, comments on feeling like an outcast as a kid, choices on where they would go in a time machine and more!
Kidzworld: How important was it to do a movie that you can share with your family versus other things you’ve done that are not so age-appropriate for them?
- Amy: It’s good to be able to work on something that you share (with your kids). I got to show them some of the art from the film and they were really into it, which is really cool. They like the idea of a buddy adventure. I’ve got two young boys. They really like the idea of these guys traveling together. It speaks to them, certainly. Most of the time, they’re really disinterested in what you do, like most kids. (She laughs.)
- Woody: I asked Makani, my little 7-year-old rascal the other day, what her favorite movie was, not trying to lead her toward anything. I really just wanted to know what her favorite movie was. And she goes, “Free Birds.” “You know the way to my heart, kid! You’re going to get dessert.”
- Amy: You should also point out she’s also your publicist.
- Woody: Keepin’ it in-house.
Kidzworld: Woody and Owen, you are friends in real life and accomplished a great buddy vibe as Jake and Reggie but didn’t you have to record your voices separately?
- Woody: We recorded the first session together but then it was like, we’re not in the same place at the same time. It wasn’t hard. He’d do something funny (they would play it back to me) and then I’d try to respond.
- Owen: We did have a couple of sessions together. I don’t know if there was any more magic in those sessions when we were together than the ones where we were apart. Woody likes to have the last word so sometimes it’s best not to have him there in the room with me. I can get my bits in.
- Woody: (smiling) I don’t know what you mean by that. You can have the last word anytime.
Kidzworld: Was there something that surprised you about each other when you met to record that first session?
- Woody: I was surprised that Owen takes this stuff very seriously. The first session he came in and was all in feathers (he is so kidding). He had that thing (pointing to his chin.). What do you call it.
- Owen: The wattle.
- Woody: Yeah, that was weird. The wattle. He takes it seriously, very very seriously (Owen is cracking up).
Kidzworld: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory?
- Owen: Lots of Thanksgiving memories. We would always have a football game going on during Thanksgiving that would lead to a lot of arguments. The (Dallas) Cowboys game was always on during Thanksgiving. My favorite (food) was my mom’s stuffing, the turkey—that’s pretty good—the cranberry sauce, apple pie. Do you guys want to chime in? Were you orphans?
- Amy: I started a new thing with my kids where we watch a movie on Thanksgiving that we’ve never seen before. That’s always fun to show your kids movies…
- Owen: Like, one of yours?
- Amy: Yeah, only mine. (She laughs.)
Kidzworld: What was on last Thanksgiving?
- Amy: Last year we watched the original “Willy Wonka” on Thanksgiving, which was great. So maybe this year, we’ll watch Free Birds.
- Woody: The thing I remember most about Thanksgiving was after I’d moved to New York, I would come back for Thanksgiving to where (my family was) living in Lebanon, Ohio, where my mom still lives. We would just have the best time… Nah, I don’t remember much. I can’t fake this.
Kidzworld: Whether it means to or not, this movie kind of encourages people to not eat turkey for Thanksgiving. Anybody have thoughts about that?
- Owen: I wasn’t thinking that when I wanted to play a turkey, a jive turkey, that it was vegan ideology. I think it was more a funny idea for these guys to be traveling back in time. We could just as easily been playing soybeans traveling to Japan to get tofu out of miso. We just thought turkeys were funnier than soybeans.
Kidzworld: Makes sense. They usually video record you when you recording your voice. Did you see anything of yourselves in the turkeys we see on screen?
- Owen: I did see some of myself. It was uncomfortable.
Kidzworld: The macho gluts and the pecs on Jake are Woody’s for sure, right?
- Woody: (grins) I didn’t want to say it, but I’m glad you brought it up.
Kidzworld: Amy, how did you approach playing feisty turkey Jenny?
- Amy: It was fun to play someone who’s part of a flock, which is what my character kind of focuses on; the idea that you can’t do it alone. It’s important to stick together. Those are universal themes that I feel I can understand, so that was fun to play. The character of Jenny is not dumb at all. She’s really quite smart. She is a leader and yes, she gets a speech (near the end).
Kidzworld: Owen, in the film, Reggie’s kind of an outcast. Have you ever felt like that?
- Owen: Yeah, (because of) my name. As a kid, you want to fit in, and there weren’t too many kids named Owen. That was always the first rule I’d have in the neighborhood when we played a game, you’d have to have a new name for the game, and mine was always Jim Johnson. So I think every kid can kind of relate to that.
- Amy: It’s never too late to switch names.
- Woody: J.J.! Buddy!
Kidzworld: If you could travel back in time, where would you go?
- Amy: I would just go back to last night and get more sleep. Is that short-sighted? I should probably think bigger.
- Woody: That’s not very ambitious. I think you’d feel later like you wasted your shot. I kind of like the period Owen went back to in (the movie) Midnight in Paris. That was a good era. It would be nice to run into (writer) Henry Miller and some other fun people.
- Owen: Yeah, that would be a good one. This is probably my inner 12-year-old speaking: I think about seeing dinosaurs or Custer’s Last Stand. I’d like to see some action. I mean safely watching what’s happening from a dugout.
Kidzworld: What about a personal moment. If you could travel back to a moment in your life what would you want to re-live?
- Woody: Birth.
- Owen: Taking it totally back to the genesis for this guy!
- Woody: Yeah, but talking like I talk now. “Hi, mom!” Yeah, that would be wild.
- Amy: I was in a dog run once and I threw two tennis balls in the air and my lab caught them both in his mouth and everybody clapped. I’d like to see that again.
- Woody: Amy, you have the most unexpected trips back. Last night for sleep and then the time your dog caught two tennis balls. You get two big opportunities here.
- Amy: Maybe I’m shooting too small.
Kidzworld: How did you all come to be part of this film?
- Woody: Our good buddy Tom Kartsotis is the guy who owns (the animation studio) Real FX who did the film so we were in this from the beginning.
- Owen: I remember being excited when Amy signed on. That seemed like, “Wow!” That elevated us.
- Amy: I’d never gotten a chance to work with either of these guys before but I’d worked with Jimmy (Hayward, the director) on Horton Hears a Who and we had a great time so I was really excited about the chance to do it again for sure.
See Free Birds (PG) starting in theaters November 1st.