The last bug hurrah on my trip to LA for the Maleficent and Planes: Fire and Rescue press junkets was an interview with Julie Bowen who did the voice of Dipper in Planes: Fire and Rescue. Many of you many know her for her role as Claire in Modern Family (though she has been in TV and movies since the early 90’s).
As we sat down the the interview (picture 25 ‘mom’ bloggers sitting in front of one cute tiny Julie Bowen) we started talking about kids and FROZEN and then got into how we were able to do a voice over in the Disney recording booth of Julie Bowen’s character Dipper in the movie – and then she started talking about her experience. This is what she had to say:
JULIE : It’s kind of nerve-wracking. ‘Cause you- there’s nothing there. Also my big fear is like you’re in the booth, and then there’s a glass thing. And this is what I’m analyzing, like. It’s really bad. Is it too late to re-cast this? But once we got that out of the way then I could relax a little, because it’s just that silent alone in a room thing. And, you know, just please, please validate me. Makes me feel very uncomfortable.
I didn’t have quite the same experience – since there were several of us doing the same thing. I can only imagine how it would have been for her. lol.
Q: How was it to do animated versus Modern Family?
JULIE : Oh. Oh. So different. So different. I am not a trained voice actor. I’m keenly aware of my weaknesses and that may be because there’s something that obscure or high, there’s no like, no, I think we might have seen your boob there. You know what I mean? It’s just your voice, and if you aren’t getting across clearly, the humor, the message, the- the real sentiment, you can’t deny it. You can’t go like, yeah, but she looks really big in that shot. Or your hair looks nice, so maybe no one will notice.
So I was keenly aware of it. Luckily they are perfectionists and they are so pro that they very quickly figured out that the best way to work with me was just let me go. And then some poor editor had to sit somewhere going, oh my god. I mean I was leaping around, swearing. The original Dipper had quite a mouth on her. But that- but to get to the like sassiness of- of the way that she thinks, I kind of needed to spout some garbage.
Q : There are gonna be girls watching this film that are gonna come away going, yeah, I totally wanna fly planes or do something?
JULIE : I was shocked to see how specific they made the plane. I mean a plane doesn’t have a front grill like Cars did. Like they didn’t have even a bumper to do mouths and stuff with, or hands. Like they were really limited. And they made it look really human and kind of like me. And that, I think it’s all in the mouth, but no I didn’t meet anybody about it. About that kind of a job and I only recently discovered what I’m called. ‘Cause I didn’t realize I had to be a real thing, you know. I underestimated the level of research that they had done. And I thought I was just one of those planes that picks up water. Like, noooo. You know, it’s much more than that.
Q : Do you watch the film first and then voice it?
JULIE : They draw- it- it’s kind of like what you would imagine as far as there’s like a rough sketch copy. Like pencil drawing, and then sometimes it’s more, it’s- it’s more than that. It’s the pencil drawing against the backdrop because I guess the backdrops are more static, or they- those are painted in- in total, and then they…I’m not exactly sure how that happens. But what I see is just mostly some loose drawings in the very beginning.
Moving around and kind of marking the major things. Then I come back like six months later and they’re drawn more. And the cool thing is, six months or eight months later, they’ve taken all that spouting that I did in the booth, and running around and sweating, and they incorporate it into the character. And now they’ve started to draw her movement and her mouth and everything to fit that. And that was very cool to see. Somebody had to work very hard.
But then it was not until I saw this in the final film, but the last things I’ve seen have been, to my eye look finished. I’m sure a professional will have tweaking to do or something.
Q : Are you ever with other actors in the booth or always by yourself?
JULIE : No. I was always by myself. Like when I did Scooby-Doo it was in a room with a bunch of people. But, but those are serialized. You know, it’s weekly or however they do it. So they’ve got a much faster production piece. I don’t think you can afford to bring one person in at a time. No, I was completely alone. But luckily Dane Cook, I mean all theirs was done. It was completely done. So I could hear him, I could hear Ed Harris, I could hear everybody else.
Q : At the end of the day did you walk away feeling different?
JULIE : You know, I think when I actually get to see the whole movie it’s gonna be really exciting. I’m not very good at watching myself, but I’m okay at listening to myself. Like I’m very excited about this. It also feels so collaborative, it doesn’t feel like I’m raising the ‘I am awesome’ flag, which always makes me cringe a little. I can look at this and go, wow, I was part of something that was so awesome so it’s easy when you’re done to embrace the whole thing.
Q : Did you get to have like a romance all on your own?
JULIE : On my own. That’s right. That was fun.
Q : Did you get to do any adlibbing with that?
JULIE : Yeah, like a lot of adlibbing. I’m not super great at joke telling or reading a line. Usually I have to lay the pipe a bit. That’s the person who gives you the story. Sometimes it’s not the exciting stuff, it’s not the jokes, but they’re laying it out. They’re like, you know, Luke has the flu and Alex is here, and then Phil gets to go, oh…and my butt is frozen. Or whatever the funny line is.
And this was, everybody else for the most part, were laying pipe and I had to come in with exactly this romance in my head. So really the possibilities were endless because they weren’t necessarily a hundred percent connected to what was going on. Like one thing, you know, we’re gonna go here and then I would take that to, well what do you want me to tell him? It’s a date, it’s our third date? Our second date? I don’t know anything. I still am not sure a hundred percent what’s in there. But I’m sure it’s very, very perfect for children.
There was one thing where like it was describing the planes and the pontoons and I was like, I’m on it. [LAUGHTER] I’m on it. I’m not gonna leave that one alone. I’m so excited they put that in there.
Q : How intensive was the process for the animators compared to your work on Modern Family?
JULIE : I mean this was so great and short, and, even though I sweat a lot and get really anxious whenever I had to go in, I didn’t have to go in that many times. I think because Bob was so great and they just let me go, instead of trying to get…let’s get the line. Stop. Let’s get the line. They just were like, just do whatever you want and we’ll tell you if we need something else. So they had a lot more material probably than they needed.
And so I just went in to like polish up bits, or change it for legal reasons or whatever. So it’s kind of hard to believe it’s actually coming out as a movie. It seemed like a fun place to go where I didn’t have to wear makeup. [LAUGHTER] So yeah, Modern Family is you get there- it’s a process, but I’ve been doing TV for a long time so you’re getting there six a.m. and somebody makes you look like, you know, a much better version of you.
And, you know, by the time you get to the stage at seven thirty in the morning it’s been hours and it’s like go team. This was very different.
Q : Did you get to name your character?
JULIE : No. I didn’t get- I got offered the role after she had been named. So when they sent me a three ring binder with like the story, and the script and some drawings. So that was it. I didn’t come in and was like I’m thinking Doris, and they were like, we’re thinking of Dipper. I did not have any say. I was just so excited and was like do I get to be a toy? [LAUGHTER] I want to be a toy so badly.
I don’t know. I…there’s so many toys in my house, and one of them will be something when I step on it I will be happy. One trips me in the middle of the night and I will want to kill it ‘cause it’s actually… It’s me.
Q : Did you audition or did they just send this?
JULIE : No. They contacted the people that represent me and asked me if I would do it. And I was like, oh yeah, yes I will. Especially given that Plane time… Plane time is just coming out soon, preview- soon after I got the offer. But I was deeply familiar with the land of Cars. Deeply, deeply. Like intimately. So I knew…I knew what the world was. It wasn’t like, there’s a lot of worlds I don’t know that are older than my boys or something, you know, that I would, I’m not sure what that world is yet. But I knew what the Planes world was gonna be kind of like. So I embraced it wholeheartedly.
Q : How did you get into character?
JULIE : I mainly needed to leap around. Which was great, because you can’t do that on camera. I actually took my shoes off and would definitely do a lot of jumping around. It’s funny, because Ty Burrell, who just came off of two big animated films back to back, he needs to sit in a chair – I don’t think he’ll mind me telling this. He goes, but he sits like this and has the microphone here and doesn’t, and hands like this, and doesn’t move.
And like, and it works for him. He gets all, everything he wants comes through his voice. And I kinda can’t. I can’t. Which is just different. I can’t even sit still right now. So it was great … I had to come back to the microphone. But like I would run around and like scream and yell, and then do whatever it is I needed to do. Especially in scenes where like, you know, we’re flying over fires and we’re putting them out and you’re like yelling. And it’s weird when you’re alone in a quiet room in a beautiful building.
Julie Bowen is so funny and it was such a great opportunity to interview her. I love her energy and her honesty. After the interview we were talking about kids and she asked me how many I have – when I replied four – I wish I had taken a picture of her face.
Be sure to check out PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE at theaters on July 18, 2014
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For more information, check out Disney.com/Planes
Disclosure: The trip was sponsored by Disney and all posts I do on behalf of the trip are part of that sponsorship. However, all opinions are my own and they are not affected by that. I will only share information that I believe will be beneficial to my readers.