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A Penguin’s World

Robin Williams chats with TFK about returning to his penguin characters in Happy Feet Two

November 18, 2011
COURTESY WARNER BROS. PICTURES

Lovelace (Robin Williams) returns to Adélie world wearing a colorful sweater in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow Pictures' animated family comedy adventure, Happy Feet Two.

Bundle up, but don’t forget your dancing shoes! With Happy Feet Two, it’s a return to Antarctica and to the adorable singing and tap-dancing penguins from the Academy Award-winning 2006 animated film Happy Feet. The 3-D sequel finds everyone working together to survive after a powerful force shifts their ice-filled world. Will they succeed? Find out when Happy Feet Two dances into theaters November 18.

Funnyman Robin Williams is also back as the voice of rockhopper penguin Lovelace and Adélie penguin Ramon. This time, Ramon is trying to win the heart of an Adélie beauty, Carmen. After being rescued from an oil slick, Lovelace returns to Adélie land sporting a crazy, colorful sweater. Read our Q&A with Williams to learn more about that sweater, and what it was like to return to penguin world.

TFK:

How does it feel to step back into the world of penguins?

ROBIN WILLIAMS:

It’s quite wonderful. It’s great because it’s pretty much all of [the cast and crew from Happy Feet back together.] We all worked together in the same room—all the penguins [voice actors] do. So it’s like a high school reunion every three years.

TFK:

Once again you play both Lovelace and Ramon. What do you do to channel your characters?

WILLIAMS:

Lovelace is pretty easy. He’s a little bit like Barry White meets [Looney Tunes character] Foghorn Leghorn. [In Lovelace’s voice] “It’s not hard to get into that mood, so beautiful and sexy in his own big way. I’m a big bird and women love that.” Ramon is the opposite in that he’s small but fierce, and an incurable romantic. [In Ramon’s voice] “Where are the ladies? I’m here, why are they not flocking to me? Las chicas love me.” He’s that little guy with big aspirations.

TFK:

What kind of adventures will Lovelace and Ramon find themselves in, in the sequel? I hear Ramon is trying to win over a new love interest named Carmen?

Hopeless romantic Ramon tries to woo the beautiful Carmen (Sofia Vergara).
COURTESY WARNER BROS. PICTURES
Hopeless romantic Ramon (Williams) tries to woo the beautiful Carmen (Sofia Vergara).

WILLIAMS:

Yes, very much so. She’s voiced by one of the great love interests, Sofia Vergara from Modern Family. Oh, she was wonderful, that voice alone. Just to see her as a penguin; the ice is melting early! With Lovelace, he’s been rescued by another penguin called Sven. He’d been rescued by the humans, but then at a certain point they find out something about humans. Humans eat birds—not penguins, but they don’t know that, so they take off, and Lovelace has a revelation on that level.

TFK:

As Ramon, you got to sing “My Way” in the first film. Do you do more singing in this one?

WILLIAMS:

Lovelace has kind of a gospel revivalist song expounding on the virtues of Sven, presenting him to the penguin population as this “Mighty Sven.” I know it sounds like an ABBA song, but it’s pretty gospel-oriented, with a choir, basically touting the powers of Sven, with the idea that he saved me, so he can save you.

TFK:

This is your first animated movie in 3-D. Which character do you think will look better in 3-D?

WILLIAMS:

Lovelace will look kind of great because he is wearing this multicolored Rasta sweater and hat that the humans knitted for him. In Australia, whenever there have been penguins rescued from oil spills, there’s a group of Australian ladies who knit sweaters that they put on the penguins because once they put them in this detergent solution to remove the oil, a lot of times it takes away their insulation until they grow back new feathers. They make sweaters for penguins and Lovelace is wearing one.

TFK:

You’ve done quite a few animated films, such as Aladdin, playing the Genie. What do you enjoy about voice work over live action?

WILLIAMS:

You don’t have to be there! You get recorded and you can do all sorts of wonderful things. Then they create this character around it—and no makeup. You can try a hundred different things, and then in the end, they pick it. And if it doesn’t work, they can go back and try it again. I can do 40 different characters. In live action that would take a year and a half!

TFK:

How does being in a recording booth with other actors affect your performance?

WILLIAMS:

It’s wonderful. It’s very freeing because when you are just alone, especially if you just had to do line-by-line alone, it would be daunting. I think when we’re together, it really does help. The actors and [director] George Miller had such a spirit of, “Try that!” “Oh, can we try this?” “Yeah, yeah, go ahead and try that.” He just lets you go and go to the point where sometimes you go, “I got nothing left!”

TFK:

So the first Happy Feet film is very much about individuality and staying true to yourself…

WILLIAMS:

This one is more about cooperation, about the idea that even the tiniest creature, even the krill—played by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, sexy krill—everything is kind of connected. That whole idea that the smallest can have an affect upon the greatest, as we know even from the food chain. When the krill are not running, everything is affected. It’s the idea of working together to solve problems.

TFK:

Also in the film, Mumble’s son, Erik, is struggling with dancing. How are your dancing skills?

WILLIAMS:

My dancing skills are very limited. I will never be on Dancing with the Stars. You heard it here. It’ll turn into a telethon halfway through to stop me. It’s not that I can’t dance; it’s not sad. It’s just funny, but not necessarily funny for me. It’s funny for those watching.

TFK:

How did you come to realize that your talent was in acting and making people laugh?

WILLIAMS:

Oh, it came early on with my mother. If she laughed, I said, “That’s a good sign.”

Funnyman Robin Williams lends his voice to penguins Ramon (top) and Lovelace in Happy Feet Two.
COURTESY WARNER BROS. PICTURES
Funnyman Robin Williams lends his voice to penguins Ramon (top) and Lovelace in Happy Feet Two.

TFK:

Was she your toughest critic?

WILLIAMS:

Yeah, she was. But also at the same time, I think she gave me the idea that this is a good way to get along with things. My father was just much more dry about stuff. He’s the one who said, when I told him I wanted to be an actor, he said, “Great! Have a backup profession, like welding.” But that was my first audience.

TFK:

Happy Feet also has an environmental theme to it. Do you try to live a green life at home?

WILLIAMS:

I try. I need to do more, but I ride bikes all the time. That’s basically my effort to go, “I’m trying!” I recycle, but I also have to do more of it, I think.

TFK:

Lovelace is a rockhopper penguin and Ramon is an Adélie penguin. Do you have a favorite penguin species?

WILLIAMS:

Of all of them, the emperor penguins are so elegant. They are all social, though. The Adélies are sweet. The weird thing is, they look kind of awkward on land, but the moment they get in the water, it’s amazing. As much as they have trouble moving around on land, the moment they hit the water, it’s like, swish, torpedoes!

TFK:

Have you ever met a penguin?

WILLIAMS:

Yes, they had them at the premiere of the first Happy Feet. The good news is: sweet. The bad news is: if they get hot, not so sweet. They get real snippy, and you can see their eyes start to get red around the outside from the heat. Just stand back! They’ll start snapping at you because they are hot. They are like, “I don’t like this!” That’s why they have to have cold water nearby, just to keep them wet.

TFK:

If there is a Happy Feet 3, would you want to reprise your characters?

WILLIAMS:

Yeah, I think so. It’s a really interesting and fun process, so if it’s the same group of people, great! It’s a pretty great time to hang out with the people who make these movies. And plus, they have new people like Hank Azaria to play Sven, and it’s a pretty interesting mix. It’s a wonderful time. It’s hard work—I’m not going to make it sound like it’s all just fun and games—but it’s been a good time.

 

Holiday Movie Guide: Click here to read and watch TFK Kid Reporter Audrey Hill's report from the DVD release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.


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