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How Its Directors Made ‘The Angry Birds Movie’ Fly As A Buddy Comedy

How Its Directors Made 'The Angry Birds Movie' Fly As A Buddy Comedy

Call them the ego, id and super-ego of  “The Angry Birds Movie,” because that’s how curmudgeonly Red (Jason Sudeikis), hyper Chuck (Josh Gad) and quiet but deadly Bomb (Danny McBride) function in Sony’s animated adaptation of the popular Finnish game app.

Fortunately, first-time directors Fergal Reilly (storyboard artist on Sony’s “Hotel Transylvania” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) and Clay Kaytis (head of animation on Disney’s “Frozen,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Tangled”) discovered this just in time to adjust their story to emphasize the chemistry of their voice cast. But then again, that’s why you hire Sudeikis, Gad and McBride in the first place.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Animated Films of the Last 20 Years

The three of them have unique anger issues and Red’s the isolationist who becomes the hero of the tribe when the sneaky green pigs steal their eggs.

“Two things happened that unlocked the movie for us in terms of a funny movie,” Reilly recalled. “We boarded a scene with Red where we see him go through his daily life and he gets angry. So we knew with Jason’s help we could make anger a really appealing comedy trait for Red. And then when we put Red, Chuck and Bomb together, there was a comedic electricity that formed. Early on they were on separate paths, but we figured out from the anger management class scene that we needed to keep them together. And then it t really clicked when they make the journey up to Mighty Eagle’s Mountain.”

The simplicity of the game offered a clean slate as well as a challenge, and Rovio left it up to the directors to craft a feature. The animation was done at Sony Pictures Imageworks’ new Vancouver studio with the art department and editorial done in Sherman Oaks. 

Kaytis’ approach was to ground it in believable acting and realistic characters, which is what he learned at Disney, combined with the ability to go cartoony when appropriate. And if there’s a Muppets-like vibe, that’s because it was inherent in the character designs of Francesca Natale.

“This whole movie was a contrast in dynamics, and the animation [supervised by Pete Nash] was a part of that,” Kaytis added. “We didn’t want to make realistic birds but bird-like creatures. They worked for months at SPI just on feathers.”

The transition to anthropomorphic characters was all part of making them more relatable, especially Red. They actually have arms that function as wings. And while the pigs have very smooth forms and clean shapes, the complicated models underneath allowed for more squash-and-stretch antics.

At the same time, the two contrasting environments – Bird Island and Pig Island – were very detailed as well as whimsical and designed by Pete Oswald. “We knew at some point the story was going to lead to this epic battle with the slingshot and the birds and the Pig City. It was a matter of how we got there,” Kaytis recalled.

READ MORE: Watch: It’s Time To Rage In New Trailer For ‘The Angry Birds Movie’

“We wanted the knocking down of the buildings in Pig City to be very organic,” added Reilly. They just want to get their kids back. So the process of firing themselves into the city and knocking down the buildings is just collateral damage. But, originally in the script, that was not the intent. We redesigned the entire battle sequence from scratch.”

The question now is: Will “Angry Birds” fly as a movie despite the waning popularity of the game?

Given the raucous state of the Presidential election, “It’s a good venting situation for people,” Kaytis offered.

“The Angry Birds Movie” is in theaters this Friday, May 20.

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