Among today's animated films, "Storks" offers a very special delivery: rather than being isolated in recording booths on their own, the razor sharp voices behind the film's characters frequently gathered together to riff off one another, and as Andy Samberg and Katie Crown make evident -- they quickly began finishing each other's sentences and building on every new punchline.
Samberg -- already a well-established comedy star with his digital shorts-launching tenure on "Saturday Night Live," his sitcom "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and his surrealistic mock-doc "7 Days in Hell" -- plays Junior, the ambitious, top-performing stork at Cornerstone, which has replaces baby delivery with online shopping fulfillment.
Crown -- a prolific voice actress and animation writer known for her roles on "Total Drama," "Stoked," and "Bob's Burgers" -- is Tulip, a human teenager raised by the storks after a delivery mishap and, given her inherent klutziness, a calamitous fit within the hyper-efficient company. Together, they take on the task of delivering one unexpected infant to his proper parents before word of the baby's accidental arrival unleashes all kinds of chaos.
When the two actors joined Moviefone, it was easy to imagine the bubbling back-and-forth the two shared in the recording booth, especially when they reveal just how deep their animation love runs.
Moviefone: One of the things I loved learning about this movie was that you guys actually weren't stuck in booths by yourselves all the time.What was the freeing part about that, to be able to kind of bring your improv skills to play off of each other?
Andy Samberg: Yeah I mean, the fact that that was really the process really shows when you watch the movie because there's very human rhythms to it, even though I'm a stork.
Katie Crown: Yeah, conversational.
Samberg: Yeah. It feels a lot looser and a lot more real.
Crown: It's authentic. Like you get way more of an authentic feel when you watch it when you have that sort of freedom, you're not stuck in some sort of booth by yourself.
Samberg: And it's different kind of comedy as well. There's big set piece visual gags and hard punchline type stuff, but there's also --
Crown: -- just us talking back and forth. When we're like talking over each other, those are the single takes. There's no editing in there because they can't, because we're overlapping so much. They can just use all those.
Samberg: Yeah. It allows for our performance-based comedy as well.
Crown: That's the stuff! Yeah.
But I felt that with you, Andy.And Katie, you felt really in the moment -- all of your stuff felt really spontaneous.
Samberg: If you knew Katie before, it's spot-on Katie.
Crown: It's basically just me.
When you come at a project like this and you're doing a voice, what goes through your head as you're getting ready to go in and do it? "Am I supposed to do a version of myself? Am I supposed to put a spin on it?" How do you approach something like this?
Samberg: For me, just the first session with [director] Nick [Stoller] I kind of like played around with it until he said, 'Yeah, that sounds good -- do it that way," and then I stuck with that. But, you know, there are still times that you step away from it for a while because they do all the animation, you come back to do more. I would forget what choices I'd even made, so they'd be very nice and play you some scenes and that sort of thing to sort of lock you back into the character.
Crown: Yeah, playback is very handy for that if you're away from it, because as a voice actor, you're not there as much as the animators working on it. Your role is a little smaller -- quite smaller in that sense. So when you're away from recordings, you come back like maybe sometimes weeks later, and you're like, "Oh, wait, how was I? How did that go? How was I sounding? What was my character?"
Did you ever share the booth with other people, besides just the two of you?
Crown: Yeah, I was there for Key and Peele, but I never actually recorded with Kelsey.
Samberg: Oh, were you not there that day?
Crown: No, I was there after, so I said hi.
Samberg: Got it. That's why I thought you were there.
Crown: Yeah, because I was there?
How was the Key and Peele session? Because those guys are like a well-oiled comedy machine.
Samberg: They are. It was super fun.
Crown: Yeah, it was really great. Andy had put it, "this is what it must feel like to be in a Key and Peele skit. Those guys are on top of it. They are fast! So it was very exciting and really funny.
Was there anything different about this experience? Katie, you've done a lot of voice work. Was there anything specifically different about this?
Crown: It felt very collaborative. Like, we had the scripts and stuff, but Nick gave us a lot of room to play and was open to our ideas or ways of saying certain things, and it was like, so it felt that we were all able to contribute. And it was nice. That made you feel good.
Andy, what was the thing about Junior that you kinda said, "I can do this guy? I'm going to like being this guy for a while."
Samberg: That's a good question. I think, just, I keyed into the jokes. That's for me always what I focus on the most, where I'm like, if the joke writing feels in my wheelhouse.
You know, Junior has got a little bit of a Jake Peralta vibe, actually -- my "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" character -- so it was kind of easy to just amp it up a tiny bit from that really, and then play to the story. But the writing was really great. That makes it easier.
You got to hit some really good emotional beats, too, I thought. Was that a little different from some of the voice work that you've done?
Crown: Yeah, I think so. I mean, the other shows are a lot -- well, I'm not gonna say "not as good," but I definitely had to hit some emotional notes. But it was in a very comfortable setting, so I didn't feel self-conscious or weird about it. It was nice. But it was the first time really getting into something very deeply, like her character.
A movie is so much different than doing an 11-minute-episode for an animated series. It goes so much deep and you really develop your character and get to know them very well.
What was the first big animated movie that you got obsessed with as a kids?
Samberg: Oh man! I like so many of them!
Crown: I really like "Secret of NIMH" -- that was one that I saw a lot.
Samberg: "Secret of NIMH" is great.
Crown: We'd get it on laser disc. We would rent a laser disc player. Anyway ...
Samberg: We would watch that. We would watch "Watership Down." I used to watch the original "Hobbit" with my father, and we'd watch the Ralph Bakshi "Lord of the Rings." I was super into "The Sword in the Stone."
Crown: I never saw "The Sword in the Stone." I had the book, though. You know when Disney had those bigger picture books ...
Samberg: "The Fox and the Hound".
Crown: Yeah! "Lady and the Tramp" I think was the first animated movie I went and saw and I cried when she got, when she was running away from those dogs, she had a muzzle on.
How about the ones where you saw as an adult and said, "Wow, this is not just for ten and under?"
Samberg: I love "WALL-E."
Crown: Yeah, that's a really sweet one.
Samberg: "The LEGO Movie," honestly, really blew my mind, just how much they were able to cram into that, and the sort of the look of it and the scope of it, and how fast and crazy it got.
Crown: We just saw "Kubo and the Two Strings" a couple of nights ago. That is insane. Oh my gosh, I'm very emotional. Have you seen it? It's really good.
Samberg: Hopefully it will be out of theaters by the time we come out, right? [Laughs] I do want to see it.
Crown: I did enjoy it a lot, I've got to say. Yeah, not as good as "Storks."
Andy, when we left you on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," Jake was in a really interesting place where we left him off last season.
Samberg: Yes. Give us just one second, Katie...
Crown: I'm going to go catch up on that!
But that was such a great cliffhanger. What can you tell me about where we're coming back?
Samberg: So [when] we pick up, Jake and Holt are in Coral Palms, Florida, and they're in the witness protection, and they're sort of trying to acclimate to their new lives. Jake has frosted tips. He's really taking on the culture. Yeah, it's fun. It's fun. There's a multiple episode arc of them in witness protection.
What have you loved about having this show run as long as it has and to be able to kind of keep developing Jake and moving forward -- or backward?
Samberg: I've loved a million things about it. It's been really, really fun to make, and it's such, such a pleasant show, and that goes for the making of it as well. The tone of it speaks to the energy on set and the people who work on it. And the fanbase -- honestly, like it really is a magnet for happy people.
And you know in terms of the character, it's been nice. It's definitely right in my wheelhouse comedically, but the writers are so good that they find ways every year to sort of allow him to grow and mature a little bit, and face things in his past. It's all the hallmarks of a good, solid show.
And Katie, you've got a lot of projects going on, always. What's front and center for you?
Crown: I'm developing a series on Nickelodeon. So that's kind of been in the works for a few years, but it hopefully gets some more answers in the next few months. It's called "Francine." They have a shorts program that you can pitch to, so my manager was like 'You should pitch this thing." So I did, and I got in! They choose about ten to make each year, and they liked my idea.
So we made it with the studio and it did very well, and they want to develop it now for a series. But we've changed the look completely and re-cast some folks -- I would voice the main character. But yeah, so we've just been making animatics and working through deadlines. It's just like a very slow process, you know? But it's been great. It is my favorite thing. I love seeing all of this stuff come together. And we have such a great team. So that's most of the stuff I'm working on. And some voice stuff here and there.
You both have had a lot of collaboration in your careers. It's not like you're off on your own doing your own thing all the time. So tell me, what do you love about finding somebody, especially comedically, that you collaborate well with?
Samberg: For me, growing up with siblings and sort of the happiest feelings I ever had were like slumber parties and hanging out with my siblings and friends and giggling, and watching comedy and memorizing it and reciting it. Kind of just chased that feeling, and doing comedy collaboration is like a way to do that and also get paid for it. Which is a wonderful way to spend your time.
Crown: It's the dream, isn't it? Being able to make stuff with your friends, and people that you relate to best who are all like-minded that you can like play off from each other. And get paid for it. Make a living out of hanging out with pals.
How quickly did you guys know that you were going to work well as a team when you met to do this movie?
Samberg: It was day one. As soon as it started, we were like, "Oh yeah." Like, the chemistry was there.
Crown: Oh yes. Very lucky thing. It was like instant, once we started speaking – like, the first record.
Samberg: I think, if I may, I think Katie has a super specific voice, and she's also a really good writer, and that is really helpful when you're improvising, because you're basically just writing on the fly. And it was so clear and funny to me that it was really easy to fall in step with her. I have said before, and I do believe you kind of set the pace for sort of the tone of all of our scenes. And it was easy for me. I just kind of like slipped in.
Crown: Come on! Thanks!
What haven't you gotten to do in entertainment that's still a genuine goal, one that you know why you want to do it?
Crown: I want to make a horror movie so bad. I love horror so much and I can't wait. I hope that some day I get to do that.
Like, straight-up horror or with a little comedy twist?
Crown: Yes. With comedy in it, too, but like super dark and gross. Yeah, I think that would be so fun.
And obviously the same for you, Andy?
Samberg: No, I'm terrified of horror movies. I've always said that I'd love to be like the comic relief in like a disaster film -- like, no one ever asks! Or like the buddy of the superhero, who cracks wise a lot.
Crown: "San Andreas 2."
Samberg: Oh my gosh, I would do "San Andreas 2"!
Crown: "That building fell!"
Samberg: "Hey Dwayne, you might want to look up."
Crown: "Rebuild all this? Yeah, you're on your own."
Samberg: I want to do like, yeah, a lot of snaps in front of a giant green screen.
When did you guys know whether this was the path you wanted to follow? Did you know it when you were little kids, or did you figure it out along the way?
Crown: I really liked doing voice stuff. I used to make radio plays all the time. My mom would bring home blank tapes.
Samberg: I would do that, too.
Crown: Yeah, and just like make dumb shows and have your sibling come in and talk to them and be different characters, and just dumb stuff. I think you're naturally directed to do.
Samberg: I feel like eight or nine years old for me, that was pretty much it. I just knew. And I had stumbled upon "SNL" and honestly, specifically, that was my main goal. For whatever reason, I was like, "I want to do that."
That must have been crazy when you got the call from "SNL," then.
Samberg: Oh, it made no sense. It was too perfect and crazy, like it blew my mind wide open. But, honestly, animation and animated movies were a huge part of my childhood. There was a long time I wanted to be a cartoonist. There was a long time I wanted to be an animator. As true for you as well, right?
So, like, through comedy now getting to do this kind of stuff is like a secret dream come true, on top of the overt one of "SNL."
Why do you think you fell in love with in animation? Because you both obviously have a passion for it.
Crown: I don't know. I just love the classical stuff. I love watching people sketch. I love rough stuff, like looking at rough drawings and seeing the pages and like, yeah. I like the bare bones about it. Yeah, I think it's just seeing there's so many departments that have to come together and work together ... It's such a huge, complicated process. It's very exciting.
Samberg: I feel like the fact that there aren't any actual rules -- you can do whatever you want. It's like, if you can think of it, you can just do it. The freedom of that, especially because all of my favorite entertainment in general, whether it be comedy or sci-fi or whatever, is sort of big imaginative stuff that's fantastical and sort of breaks out of what we are stuck in in the reality of life. That's always the most appealing thing to me.
That's why I like surrealist comedy so much. That's why I like Monty Python, and Mel Brooks's stuff was really important for me when I was younger. And animation has that same kernel in it, which is it can just be whatever you want it to be. Which is wonderful.
There is a cool timeless quality and a generational quality to animation, too. In 50 years, someone's going to watch this cartoon and they're going to hear your voice and hear your performance. That's got to be kind of a cool thing to think about.
Crown: Yeah. I didn't think of that until just now!
Samberg: That's awesome. And we'll still look just as good.
"Storks" opens nationwide Friday, September 3rd.