Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie!

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 11.16.46 AMWell, if your main desire is to fly around wearing nothing but your tighty whities and a red cape with black polka-dots and singing TRA-LA-LAAA, then Captain Underpants is most definitely the superhero for you!

Based on the hugely popular children’s novel series of the same name by Dav Pilkey, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is the hilarious and utterly delightful 3D computer-animated superhero comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and Scholastic Entertainment that’s hitting theaters around the world on June 2nd. The film features some outstanding voice over work from some of your favorite comedians, including Kevin Hart (Get Hard), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Ed Helms (The Hangover), Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), Nick Kroll (Kroll Show), and Kristen Schaal (Bob’s Burgers), with animation production provided by Mikros Image.

Cast It Talent’s Jeff Locker recently caught up with Hart, Middleditch, and Helms, as well as Dav Pilkey and director David Soren, at the film’s first press conference in Los Angeles. And between the slew of witty banter and jokes, the actors had some particularly insightful and potent nuggets of advice for artists everywhere.

How did you go about recording your characters?

Helms: We actually were really lucky to get into the studio together – that almost never happens in animated movies. David was like, “I want these guys in the room. I want their chemistry, and improvising, and riffing.” That was a special treat, even though Kevin doesn’t wear deodorant.

Hart: I also do it with my shirt off, all voice over, in the booth, with my shirt off.

Middleditch: He’s actually promoting Kevin Kart deodorant.

Hart: But really, we were very lucky. David is amazing at what he does and we had great material. And when you’re looking at a book that has this type of following, you just want to make sure you do your job and bring justice to an enormously successful franchise. And having Ed and Thomas to play off of, it made it easier when you saw what people were doing with their characters.

Soren: Because the actors were involved super early in table reads, and bringing so much improvisation and character development to each of these recordings, we brought you guys in to see an early cut of the movie – it was hardly polished at that point, and a bit brutal – to go and retwerk it.

Middleditch: We eviscerated EVERYTHING we saw.

Hart: I don’t know that anyone’s ever been harder on animation that we were.

David: They did not hold back.

Helms: Thank god you screened it for us because I think we saved it. We improv’d this movie into genius.

Hart: That is 100% correct, we definitely saved this movie. I remember watching it and I said, “More Kevin. There’s not enough Kevin.” And we fixed that.

Helms: Well you actually wanted to change the name to just —

Hart: Kevin Underpants.

 

How much were each of you like your characters in the fourth grade?

Hart: You want to make sure you’re grounding the performance to a certain level of believability within all the fun that you’re doing, and pulling from the things you do in life. And as a kid, I was very much a prankster, very much always in trouble because I didn’t want to stop laughing. I loved laughing in school, and I loved making other people laugh. And in school, that’s the worst thing you can do in the class is be the funny guy because nobody’s focusing, everybody’s being funny. I really was very much like my character and that’s what was cool about the movie, and I loved the relationship that Thomas and I – and those characters – had, because in school, that best friend is very important, who you’re confiding in at a young age. That’s dope to me. I think that’s something that kids can relate to.

Helms: I was also very heroic as a child.

Middleditch: I sorta later become a jokester in class. I just realized this the other day, but I had curly hair, I drew comic books, and I liked to giggle and laugh. I probably needed a George but I never got one, so that was more of a solitary effort. But I was a weird kid who liked to draw comic books so that’s pretty strange. Just picture a sadder, more lonely Harold.

 

Have you kept in touch with your childhood friends?

Hart: No. I’m the guy who makes it and I stop talking to people. No, ha, I had a friend when I was coming up and you couldn’t separate us. He was my right hand guy – in school, I wasn’t in trouble without him, he wasn’t in trouble without me. It’s amazing when you get in trouble with somebody all the time because it’s hard to punish two people on the same level – you start to give them credit because you’re like, “They’re really good kids, they just like to have fun.”

 

Ed, you did two characters. Was it hard to switch back and forth?

Helms: It wasn’t terribly difficult – they were both super fun and it was a blast to get into both. Principal Krupp was maybe harder because he’s more gruff and it was physically harder on my voice – my voice would get tired faster doing that. But on the other hand, Captain Underpants is always so LOOOUUDDD and always shouting was kind of taxing on my voice, but always just a ton of fun, a ridiculous amount of fun.

Hart: Mine was tough – I’ve been doing action comedies for such a long time, so to go to a dark place…

Helms: Yeah it’s like asking Barry White to sing soprano.

Middleditch: And I normally have a thick Icelandic accent.

 

Are there going to be more Captain Underpants movies?

Helms: I’ve signed on for thirty, so…

Hart: But we would love for this to go on. I think it’s an actor’s dream to be part of any type of animation franchise that can live on. But I actually was very uncomfortable with the singing. I was like, “Um, are you sure? I just don’t do it. You don’t understand – this is where the character falls apart.” (points to Middleditch) You sounded great, though.

Middleditch: I’m an angel. You get these pipes warmed up, I will bring all of you guys to tears. I’ll make you cry, followed by “PLEASE STOP.”

 

Could you talk about points in your careers where you almost said yes to the nos you often hear? And could you give some advice to all the struggling artists out there who are just looking for a little faith and courage while they’re chasing their dreams?

Helms: I started out doing standup in New York – Kevin and I overlapped and have known each other twenty years almost – and Kevin can probably tell you I had some rough sets. When you start out in comedy, you just objectively don’t know what you’re doing. You’re not funny and you’re trying to make it work, and night after night these audiences are saying, “Don’t keep doing this! Stop! Because you’re bad at it!” Thank god for the community of comedians who reinforce that it does take effort, just hang in there, the work is going to pay off. Comedy is kind of entrepreneurial – you can work at this thing and get better at it. I always tell people, when you’re feeling isolated and terrified about your creative process, or you’re feeling scared about your dreams, to just find people who share those dreams and reinforce it. Being around people who share that passion and who also are stumbling along the way, it makes it feel possible.

Hart: When you look at success and people who get to a “successful” position in life, those are the people who became comfortable with the word “no”. People who are uncomfortable with the word “no” and allow themselves to turn around and backpedal from whatever their dreams or goals were just because the word “no” gets thrown at you – those are the people who, nine times out of ten, don’t make it. The people that do survive are the ones who can shrug it off because they understand that eventually that word “yes” is going to come, and when it does come, you got to be prepared because there is going to be a mountain of yeses to make up for the mountain of nos that you got in the past. So my advice is simply stay true to your dreams regardless of what you’re told. Nobody knows you better than you – be the best version of yourself.

 

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Cast It Talent All Cast It Talent blog articles are written by freelance writers that are currently working in the entertainment industry. Our writers come from a variety of professional backgrounds, and are comprised of talent agents, managers, casting directors, and actors, to name a few.

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