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The Secret Life of Pets Actors Voice Mel and Chloe

Jul 04, 2016

By: Lynn Barker

The Secret Life of Pets actress Lake Bell, who is also a writer/producer and director, is in love with voicing animated characters, especially animals. In the fun new animated film, Lake voices funny, chubby cat Chloe. Her fave pet memory? Her pit bull Margaret who used to carry her stiletto heels all over the house.

Chloe, Max and MelChloe, Max and MelCourtesy of Universal

Comic actor Bobby Moynihan has delighted TV audiences for years as a regular on “Saturday Night Live”. Bobby has done extensive voice work for animation including the hit movie Inside Out and he’s the voice of Panda on TV’s “We Bare Bears”. His dream would be voicing a part on “Star Wars Rebels”. His fave pet memory? Having two goldfish….for nine years!

Kidzworld: Lake, how would you describe your fat kitty character Chloe?

  • Lake: I think of her as huggable and voluptuous. I love her shape. She actually reminds me of my sweet girl that I had forever, who was a dog actually, Margaret. She was a big, slightly chubby pit bull that I had for fifteen years and she was my right hand lady so when I looked at the picture of Chloe, even though she was a cat, I really connected to that visual. I know they made stuffed animals and if you’re going to get any of the stuffed animals you get Chloe because you can just hug her.

Chloe rejects her boring catfoodChloe rejects her boring catfoodCourtesy of Universal

Kidzworld: Bobby, Mel sounds a little like he’s from Brooklyn. What did you base his accent on?

  • Bobby: They just told me that the dog’s name was Mel. They sent me a picture of him and it was so adorable I said “I’ll do it” then we were thinking that this takes place in New York and Mel’s like a feisty little fighter Pug dog so it reminded me of people who live in my town; rough, scrappy guys so I just went with that. It seemed to fit well. He considers himself a tough little ladies’ man type of dog but he’s really just a silly little idiot. And I went out and bought the Mel stuffed animal already.

Mel tries to look toughMel tries to look toughCourtesy of Universal

Kidzworld: Do you see any of yourselves in Chloe and Mel?  

  • Lake: Well, I used my sarcastic (voice) cadence. I see that.
  • Bobby: They could pretty much just film me when I’m talking normally and use it for the cartoon. I’m pretty much Mel in real life.

Kidzworld: Do either of you have a dog or cat now?

  • Lake: Yes, a black lab mix dog named Texas that my husband had and I adopted in the marriage. She’s very sweet. My mom always rescued dachshunds. There were a lot of wiener dogs running around the house. Then, there was my girl Margaret who was a pit bull rescue. We tend to rescue dogs in our house. My husband grew up in the Bayou in New Orleans with flying squirrels and turtles. He had all kinds of critters.

Lake Bell voices fat cat ChloeLake Bell voices fat cat ChloeCourtesy of Universal

Kidzworld: Did either Margaret or Texas ever move things around or do something while you were gone that let you know they’d been up to something sneaky?

  • Lake: Well Margaret used to have a real panache for stilettos (heels) and she would always pull them all out and they’d be all over the place so I think that she might have been doing a fashion show of her own.
  • Bobby: I lived in an apartment most of my life in the city so we never had a dog. I had a parakeet for a little while. My first day at college at some kind of orientation thing I won two goldfish. I was like “Thank you. These are going to last a week”. I wish I was exaggerating but they lasted nine years. They were huge. I put them in a big aquarium. I named them but I don’t think I’m allowed to say their names (we laugh and he admits that that one was called uh, A-hole. We’re afraid to find out the other one’s name).

Kidzworld: If you don’t have a dog or cat now, would you like to get one?

  • Bobby: I don’t have one now. But after doing this movie, I want to get a dog that looks exactly like Mel and call him Mel and just make him my friend.

Bobby Moynihan voices lovable MeBobby Moynihan voices lovable MelCourtesy of Universal

Kidzworld: Awwww. Both of you make some funny noises as Chloe and Mel. Do you ad-lib those? Does your director say “Now you are stuffing down a whole chicken dinner” or for Mel, “Now you are chasing a squirrel”? Where do those come from?  

  • Lake: It’s super awkward. You are alone in the dark recording booth and you read the script and sometimes on your script sheet there will be a line that just says “efforted grunt” so you do a series of weird sounds absolutely. It’s good. It’s almost therapeutic to grunt and make noises.
  • Bobby: Pretty much a lot of that. He’d say “Mel, you are just chasing a squirrel then you bounce off the wall and you land on a pillow and you’re fine and keep walking. Just do that and improvise some lines” or you do an hour of making silly sounds.

Max is stunned as Katie brings home DukeMax is stunned as Katie brings home DukeCourtesy of Universal

Kidzworld: Lake, you acted the voice of Mona Lisa in Mr. Peabody and Sherman and you’ve done other animated roles and Bobby, you have voiced Panda in “We Bare Bears” and a character in Inside Out among many others. Why do you both love voicing animated characters?

  • Bobby: Even as a kid I wanted to either be on SNL or draw comic books but I was fascinated by animation and early in my career I voiced a couple of cartoons so I had experience then I got into Monster’s University for Pixar and I think that’s when I went “I think this is something I love doing”. I also like recording all of it and then a year later you see these amazing things that these animators have made. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of so I love doing it. I would love to be in “Star Wars Rebels”. I love that kind of world. Like an alien or a monster or something. Some weird little thing.
  • Lake: This is the first time I’ve had a major animated character to sink my teeth into, a real supporting part. It has been a lifelong career goal and I hope so desperately to do it again. It was such a fun experience and like the ultimate acting because you get to realize a character without being judged for what you look like. You don’t have to do hair and make-up. You just get to be anyone or anything.

Kidzworld: Lake, Chloe has quite a typically cat “tude”. She says “You are my friend but I don’t care about you or your problems”. Was it fun playing that?

  • Lake: Yeah. I think the good news about Chloe is that she can have her attitude but she is constantly humbled by her large size, getting stuck in things, so it’s not like she’s a graceful, gorgeous, svelte cat. She’s a larger lady who gets herself into precarious situations on a minute by minute basis. I think that helps her be a little more accessible. She thinks she’s really sophisticated but really, she’s dorky.

Kidzworld: I know there was a script but, other than grunting, was there any ad-libbing allowed on this project?

  • Bobby: Yeah there was. (The phone shorts out for a minute and Bobby comes back with…”Sorry. I’m on a cellphone in a trailer in the middle of a park in Jersey City”, He’s making a feature film). But yeah, I was a big improviser in (the comedy troupe) Upright Citizens Brigade for many years so improvisation is my wheelhouse.

Sweet Mel has nothing in his headSweet Mel has nothing in his headCourtesy of Universal

Kidzworld: Did either of you record everything with any other actors or always alone?

  • Lake: I am pretty openly obsessed with voice over work but it can be awkward because you’re alone in a room but it’s super fun. You get to use your imagination. In this particular instance I did not get to play off of anyone. In fact there’s all these wonderful people in the movie and I didn’t get to meet any of them.
  • Bobby: Not in this one. I was in Inside Out and they brought Paula Poundstone and I in together to Pixar Studios and we got to do it together in the room. It’s a quick stop in the film but a lot of that was improvised together. That was fun.

Kidzworld: What was your favorite animal character in a book, film or TV show when you were growing up?

  • Lake: The book that annihilated me when I was growing up was “The Velveteen Rabbit”. That was ingrained in my head in a way that was pretty profound.
  • Bobby: As a kid I was super into the Disney stuff and Merry Melodies (old cartoons) and Looney Tunes (like Bugs Bunny). But I think Garfield (the cat) was always in there somewhere.

Chloe, Mel and pals are stunnedChloe, Mel and pals are stunnedCourtesy of Universal

Kidzworld: For both of you, pretend you are Chloe and Mel right now. What do you wish the filmmakers would have let you do in the film?

  • Lake: If I was Chloe, I wish I could have eaten that cake probably. That would have been great if I could have gotten just a wee bit. I think Chloe was into the craft service catering quite a bit.
  • Bobby: Maybe not run into so many walls. Maybe just let him save the day rather than just run into walls and chase other animals. Mel is not so much leading the mission as he’s just along for the ride.

Kidzworld: Bobby, I’ve seen you on SNL a lot and you are hilarious. You DO use your face and gestures in your work. Is it harder to act just recording your voice or did they use some of your facial expressions etc.?

  • Bobby: On some jobs, yes, they’ll film you while you are (voice recording) and you’ll watch the movie later and all of a sudden your character is doing some stupid dance that you always do and you’re like “Oh, they took that from me”. Yeah it’s easier when no one else is in the room because sometimes, to make a voice or even a character on SNL, you’ll make some crazy faces and you can’t really hold that when nobody is watching you.

Chloe simply must eat a whole chickenChloe simply must eat a whole chickenCourtesy of Universal

Kidzworld: Lake, you have a young daughter. Since many of the films you act in, write and direct are aimed at an adult audience, did you do this for her?

  • Lake: I did a lot of the recording when I was still pregnant with her so now she is a year and a half and yeah, it’s really exciting to finally have a movie in the world that I will show her eventually because I’m not showing her any TV yet, no screens until she is older but I’m so excited to share this with her when she is of PG movie watching age. I would like to write an animation picture and voice over that.

Kidzworld: Bobby, are you working on developing any new characters for “Saturday Night Live”?

  • Bobby: Always. Every time I go somewhere some idiot says something and I think “I’m gonna write that down and put that on TV some day”. If someone is mean to me like in retail (in a store) I get even by making fun of them on television. There are a lot of UBER drivers I’m waiting to use.

Chloe inhales a chickenChloe inhales a chickenCourtesy of Universal

Kidzworld: What would you both say to tweens and teens as to why they will really enjoy The Secret Life of Pets?

  • Lake: I think people of all ages will enjoy this. There are a few moderately scary things but the film has an emotional arc in the story. It’s a little roller coaster and is an exciting pet adventure film.
  • I have friends who are dying to go to the premiere of this and they are like 30-year-olds. I think it’s because we all secretly know that when we leave our house and leave our pets to their own devices that they do know how to speak English and other languages and they play Bridge and listen to music. They put the Pandora on. They have their own lives. In a way I look at this and I’m like “Finally, here is a movie that exposes the truth about animals”. I would look my dog dead in the eyes and you want to say “Just talk. I won’t tell anyone else”.
  • Bobby: It’s a great fast-paced movie that’s a lot of fun. I think kids will love it. All the shots of New York are stunning and all the characters are wonderful and the voice acting is great. I saw it with an audience full of kids and they seemed to really enjoy it. That was the best.

The Secret Life of Pets PosterThe Secret Life of Pets PosterCourtesy of Universal

The Secret Life of Pets is in theaters now!


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