An odd assortment of animals from the New York Zoo - including a lion, a giraffe, an anaconda, a koala, and a squirrel - discover what a jungle the city can be when one of their own is mistakenly shipped to the wild and they embark on a dangerous mission to rescue him in "The Wild," presented by Walt Disney Pictures. This wild and outrageous computer-animated comedy-adventure boasts an impressive vocal ensemble - Kiefer Sutherland (as the respected lion leader, Samson), Greg Cipes (as Samson's son, Ryan), Jim Belushi (as Benny, the street savvy squirrel and Samson's best friend), Janeane Garofalo (as a quick-witted giraffe), Richard Kind (as a dim-witted anaconda), William Shatner (as a wicked wildebeest), and Eddie Izzard (as Nigel, an acerbic koala) - along with cutting edge animation, and a story filled with hilarious situations.
"The Wild" is directed by Steve "Spaz" Williams, an Oscar®-nominated visual effects veteran ("The Mask"), who helped to pioneer CG character animation through his work at ILM on such films as "The Abyss," "Jurassic Park," and "Terminator 2: Judgement Day." He also directed the popular series of Blockbuster commercials featuring the computer-animated characters Carl the rabbit and Ray the guinea pig. Serving as the film's producer was Clint Goldman, a seven-year ILM veteran and Williams' executive producer partner in the duo's San Francisco-based-production company, Hoytyboy Pictures. Goldman was the animation and visual effects producer on "The Mask," and his credits also include a producing role on the 1997 feature, "Spawn" as well as on the Blockbuster commercials. Beau Flynn, a principal partner in the New Line Cinema-based production company, Contrafilm, also served as producer. Flynn was responsible for bringing "The Wild" to Disney as a pitch over nine years ago with writers Mark Gibson and Philip Halperin. To complete the creative team, he brought both Goldman and Williams on to collaborate as he had been impressed with their sense of humor and visual style on the Blockbuster commercials.
Adding to the film's fun and entertainment is a spectacular score by multi- Oscar®-nominated composer Alan Silvestri ("Back to the Future," "Polar Express"), and a soundtrack filled with new and familiar tunes by such popular recording artists as Coldplay, Everlife, Lifehouse, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Former "Monty Python" member Eric Idle and fellow songwriter John Du Prez, the team responsible for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, "Spamalot," wrote and performed the song, "Really Nice Day" for the film.
"The Wild" was animated in Canada at Toronto-based C.O.R.E. Feature Animation, a new studio facility created under the guidance of C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures to make the film. An international team of 350 artists and technicians, including more than 50 animators, gathered from Canada and countries all over the world to lend their talents to this project. The film's opening sequence, featuring 3D computer-animated characters combined with planes of 2D-stylized environments, was produced in Dallas, Texas by Reel FX Creative Studios.
According to Goldman, "We wanted our film to have a different look from the other CG films that are out there. We wanted it to have a pseudo-realistic quality, but still be able to have the poetic license to break the boundaries and add lots of fantasy. In our film, characters' eyes bug out and there's a lot of squash and stretch. They get compressed and they can expand. Our animals can drive boats and do other things that animals wouldn't normally be able to do. And we do all this in a world that seems real. It allows us as filmmakers to come up with funny situations to immerse our characters in and to make a film that's fun to watch."
The screenplay for "The Wild" is by Ed Decter & John Strauss ("The Santa Clause," parts 2 and 3") and Mark Gibson & Philip Halprin. Kevin Lima, Will Vinton, and Stefan Simchowitz were the executive producers. Chris Farmer was the film's production designer and art director. "The Wild" is a Hoytyboy Pictures & Sir Zip Studios Production of a Contra Films Picture.
THE CHARACTERS/ VOCAL TALENTS:
SAMSON - This legendary lion and turtle-curling champion is the "mane attraction" at the New York Zoo and loves to regale his zoo-mates, and teenage son, Ryan, with hair-raising stories about his days in the wild. But beneath these tales of magnificent bravery lies the real truth that Samson has never set a paw inside a real jungle in his entire life. With a heart of gold, and a genuine love for his son, Samson lives up to his roaring reputation when he ventures beyond his familiar territory and leads his friends on the journey of a lifetime to rescue Ryan. Kiefer Sutherland, the superstar of TV's hit series "24," adds humor, emotion, and entertainment to the voice of this parent whose pride is showing.
BENNY - Samson's best friend and moral sounding board is a street savvy New York squirrel. Despite his puny size, Benny is a big thinker when it comes to love, and he certainly has a tall order when he sets his sights on a twelve-foot giraffe named Bridget. Benny is a loyal friend, and remains steadfastly by Samson's side no matter how tough the situation. Comedian/actor Jim Belushi, star of the popular sitcom "According to Jim," lends his comic timing to this nutty character.
RYAN - Samson's rebellious teenage son is bored with zoo life and living in the shadow of his famous father. Longing for the excitement of the untamed jungle that Samson is always boasting about, and looking to find his roar, Ryan sets out to experience wild life for himself. When he escapes from the zoo, he sets into motion a wild adventure that turns the animal kingdom on its ear. Greg Cipes, a popular stage, screen, and television performer, is heard as the voice of this antsy adolescent who decides to take a walk on the wild side.
NIGEL - Beneath the cute and cuddly exterior of the Zoo's merchandise megastar is a tormented fellow with an acerbic wit. Tired of his reputation and the abuse he gets from his zoo-mates, Nigel longs to escape his cute image encouraged by his teddy bear likeness. A whole new life awaits this unsuspecting bear when he discovers that he has been chosen to lead the wildebeests as "The Great Him." Acclaimed British comedian/actor Eddie Izzard cracks wise as this reluctant ruler.
BRIDGET - Quick-witted, and fiercely independent, this graceful giraffe lends invaluable help to Samson and the rest of the animal rescue team with her towering height and persistent pragmatism. Not only does she have to cope with the physical demands of the concrete jungle, but she also has to fend off the advances of her amorous eight-inch tall squirrel suitor, Benny. Actress/comedienne Janeane Garofalo reaches for the heights with her delightful vocal performance as Bridget.
KAZAR - The fanatic leader of a cult of wildebeests who want to be the hunters rather than the hunted, Kazar finds himself dancing to the beat of a different drummer as he makes his move to the top of the food chain. A darn good choreographer in his own right, this beastly character rules with an iron hoof, and pins all his hopes on the arrival of "The Great Him." Popular actor William Shatner lends his vocal talents to this hilarious character.
LARRY - This twenty-one foot long anaconda lays claim to having the greatest length of any animal in the zoo, but he's a bit short when it comes to common sense. Always flexible and willing to pitch in, Larry comes in handy throughout the adventure as a pulley, a pole, a steering wheel, and a slingshot capable of firing a lion a considerable distance. Versatile actor/stage performer Richard Kind ("The Producers") hits all the right notes as the voice of this agreeable anaconda.
BLAG - Kazar's clumsy wildebeest aide-de-camp is a gigantic brute who secretly harbors resentment for his boss. Patrick Warburton ("The Emperor's New Groove," "Seinfeld") lends his distinctive comic tone to this colorful character.
WILD TRACKS: VOCAL TALENTS
The filmmakers assembled a talented team of actors and comedic talents to give voice to their colorful menagerie of animals. With its central relationship between a father and son, those roles were key to the emotional core of the film.
Kiefer Sutherland, the voice of Samson, observes, "One of the really beautiful things about this character is that he's a dad. Everything to do with the character had to do with his love for his son, so that's a very straight forward and easy place to come from, and it's been a real pleasure to do the voice for him. I have wonderful children of my own, and you just imagine the situation you're in and how you would react with your own child.
"On so many levels, I think 'The Wild' is incredibly funny and touching," concludes Sutherland. "It's one of those few opportunities that I have as an actor to be able to take a young person to a movie and show them what I do. It's also a fantastic opportunity for a parent and child to have a really wonderful time together. It's meaningful in a way that will have you talking after the film."
"The Samson character has so many different through lines," he adds. "There are aspects of him that are heroic, and there are aspects of him that are like a straight man reacting to the comedy of the others. There's also this fantastic conflict in that he hasn't been honest about his past. There's a very nice arc that the character has to go through. It's very interesting too that the characters all want to be something that they're not. And then at the end you get this sense that they've all made peace with who they are because they've been accepted. The film is absolutely about having faith in yourself and being able to accept others for who they are.
Greg Cipes, who voices Samson's son, notes, "Playing Ryan was a lot of fun because it really allowed me to draw on my own experiences when I was that age. With an animated voice, I felt like I could close my eyes and go to another world. It's such a blessing to be able to go and play in that world. Kids are going to connect with this story in a big way, and they'll be running around singing the songs and talking about it with their friends. It's got a great message about forgiving yourself and forgiving other people. You've got to forgive to grow."
William Shatner, who is heard as the villainous wildebeest leader, Kazar, says, "There's a number of ways of approaching a character, and in this case, I tried to use the lower register of my voice and get it down as low as I could. With an animated performance, you need an energy that's not quite the same as if you were doing it live. You also need to match the vigor of the other performances."
"Kazar is not all bad; he has ambitions and as a result is forced to do things he wouldn't ordinarily do," adds the actor. "He wants to be a carnivore and he's an herbivore so he's trying to be something he's not. The story is about trying to do something beyond themselves, and the question is should you or shouldn't you? It's an interesting story and I had a good time doing it. The script is really fun, and the project has wonderful characters, great actors, and some fine animation that is new and different."
For the character of Nigel, the cuddly koala with the slightly acerbic center, Williams turned to the inventive British comic actor Eddie Izzard.
"Originally, the character of Nigel was more of a sad sack," recalls Williams. "Eddie told us he was the wrong guy to play this role because he's more of a proactive character. We thought that was a good suggestion and that we could work with that. We spent two hours talking with him before we started recording and what we ended up with was brilliance. Some of those original lines from the audition ended up in the movie. Working with Eddie was fantastic. His performance is 85% improvised and invented on the fly."
SONGS OF THE WILD: THE MUSIC:
Music plays an important role in "The Wild" and adds to the fun and emotional impact of the story. Composer Alan Silvestri became an important collaborator in helping the filmmakers tell their story and accent the various moods and textures of the film.
"Alan is a great artist and his contribution was unbelievable," observes Williams. "I was amazed by what he was able to bring to the film. We tried to put as much visual depth and richness into the imagery as we could, and he would get hold of that and make it even deeper and richer. George Lucas always used to say that sound is 50% of the experience, and he's right. Alan would go in with a 94-piece orchestra and it was fantastic to see him in action."
Goldman adds, "Alan's score breathed life into the film, and added textures to the characters. He was there from the very beginning of the production right through to the end, and he delivered a score that enriched the comedy and emotion of the film."
in addition to a rich score, the filmmakers enlisted the talents of some top songwriters and performers. Eric Idle (of "Monty Python" fame) and his writing partner, John Du Prez, have been writing together since the late 1970s ("Always Look on the Bright Side of Life") and collected several Tony Award nominations in 2005 for their songs for the smash Broadway show, "Spamalot." They add to the entertainment of "The Wild" with a lively entry called "Really Nice Day." The duo performs the song in the film as well.
Idle explains, "When the filmmakers came to us they didn't really know exactly what the song should be saying, so we developed this idea that it should be saying the words from a pull toy. We couldn't go completely Australian, because Eddie (Izzard) is an English koala bear. 'Good day mate' seemed like an obvious sort of thing an Australian toy might say. We came up with 'I'm having a really nice day' and 'Can I tickle you' and things like that. Once we got that idea, it was clearly what the song was going to be about."
The film's soundtrack also boasts a new song called "Good Enough" from the popular musical trio Lifehouse. The song follows a dramatic confrontation between Samson and Ryan, after which the son runs away in disgust. Samson's pal, Benny, tells him he needs to level with Ryan and tell him the truth about his past. Earlier this year, Lifehouse topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart with their hit, "You and Me."
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy sings a new rockabilly composition, "Big Time Boppin'" to accompany the after-hours activities at the zoo when the animals come out of their pens for the big turtle curling event.
Coldplay, one of the most popular groups of the day, contributes their Grammy-winning hit song "Clocks" (from their 2002 album, A Rush of Blood to the Head) to the soundtrack. The song accompanies the action as the zoo animals come through the tunnel and see New York City for the first time. From the vantage point of the garbage truck they are riding in, they marvel at the big city as they come to an abrupt halt in the alley off Times Square.
Another top group, Everlife, put their own stamp on the song "Real Wild Child (Wild One)." The popular trio recently signed a recording deal with Hollywood Records, and is featured on a new compilation record from Disney Records (that's SO raven too!) singing "I Can See Clearly Now." Their music video of "Real Wild Child" debuted in March on The Disney Channel, and will be shown in theatres as well.
· Samson the lion has more than six million hairs that have to be individually created, or "rendered," by a computer. And Samson's not even the hairiest animal in the movie. That distinction belongs to a relatively minor character, a poodle, who boasts over fourteen million hairs!
· Bridget the giraffe may be tall, but did you know she has the same number of neck bones as all the other mammals at the New York Zoo, even Benny the squirrel? It's just that each of Bridget's neck bones is over a foot long.
· The flamingos in the New York Zoo are Scottish because the director, Spaz Williams, thought they looked like bagpipes. Spaz also plays the bagpipes in his spare time, but to our knowledge he's never tried to play a flamingo.
· Richard Kind, who voices Larry the snake, had to save all his screaming until he wrapped up his singing role as Max Bialystock in "The Producers" on Broadway. Until then, Larry's screams were provided by the director, Spaz, doing his best impersonation of Kind.
· Eddie Izzard actually wore a waste basket over his head for the scene where Nigel the koala had a paint can stuck to his head.
· With a staff of 418, it took 1.5 million work hours to bring "The Wild" to the screen!
· On TV, Kiefer Sutherland plays a hard-edged CTU agent who fights terrorists. In "The Wild," Kiefer plays a lighthearted lion who sings like a pirate and gets jiggy with dancing wildebeests. To get into character, Kiefer practiced his roar on the freeway while driving to the studio recording session.
· Nearly two million individual feathers were animated for all the birds that appear in "The Wild." CGI has certainly come a long way since "Forrest Gump," which won the Visual Effects Oscar for just one animated feather!
· When koalas are born, they are only about the size of a large jellybean. Koalas actually have two thumbs on both paws. In a funny improvisation that didn't make the final cut of the movie, Eddie Izzard sings a song about a koala who is horrified to suddenly learn that he has four thumbs.
· William Shatner insisted that he provide the animalistic grunts for the character he plays, the villainous wildebeest Kazar. He snorted, brayed and bellowed every way imaginable for nearly ten straight minutes so the editors would have plenty to choose from.
· This is not the first time Jim Belushi played a rodent for Spaz Williams. Before Benny the Squirrel, the actor previously voiced the guinea pig for the "Carl & Ray" Blockbuster commercials, which Williams also directed. Small rodents with big personalities seem to be a Spaz and Jim specialty.
· In the movie, the characters play an animal version of curling, which is a popular sport in Canada. There are also Canadian geese who joke about Canadian border crossing, and one of the zoo's penguins (the MC) is voiced by famous Canadian sports announcer Don Cherry. In case you hadn't noticed, the director Spaz is a native Canadian.
· Janeane Garofalo plays the role of Bridget the giraffe, but she herself is actually quite small at just over five feet. She speaks in a higher register to make her voice sound taller.
· The memorable voice of the angry rock hyrax was temporarily provided by one of the digital artists in Toronto (Colin Cunningham). But it turned out he was so good that the producers decided to keep him as the real thing!
Contrary to the way Hollywood normally portrays giant anacondas, they are actually quite slow and lumbering. The director wanted to remain truthful to their nature, but that made it impossible for Larry the snake to keep up with his friends. To solve the problem, Larry rides on Bridget the giraffe's back for most of the movie!