Bobs Gannaway was a fun guy to talk to. He talks with his hands so I automatically liked him. Him and Ferrell Barron really explained their answers to us and they were so great to talk to. I never really thought about how much work goes into choosing actors. I kind of thought they already have someone in mind when they sign on to it but that is not true. I always assumed because the characters really seem like they are the actors or the other way around.
Q. Had a question about voice actors. How do you select those? Do you have specific people you're like, “Oh, this person would be perfect for this character,” or do you audition and decide that way?
Bobs Gannaway – Well, um, we cast characters that we feel embody the spirit of the character. And so we'll — we won't say “oh, here's an actor, and we want to work with them, let's create a character for them.” We don't do that. We've created the character, and then we go out and find an actor or actress who we feel like embodies the spirit of that character already. The only — so, there's a couple of times when you do have someone in mind already, when maybe you sort of — you already know you have a character.
Um. Harvey and Winnie, down there on the bottom, who are Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara , right behind you, you know they are the perfect example, basically. So, you have two Winnebagos who are on their 50th wedding anniversary, coming back to Piston Peak to celebrate that. And you want to have instant chemistry between them, and then, from a filmmaking standpoint, it's a plant, because they are gonna be used later. And so from a casting standpoint, we got Jerry and Anne who are a comedy couple who've been married for 50 years, you know, and you didn't have to do anything. It had come preloaded with the chemistry that you'd want to create, so they already embodied the spirit of those characters, and so it was a natural for them to fit into it.
Dale Dye is a veteran, so he's playing the major ex-military aircraft. Wes Studi is obviously American Indian, and so he's playing our American Indian helicopter. Like, we got Ed Harris as a tough guy. So, it's like Julie — we wanted to have Dusty's biggest fan. Someone who's just on the verge of being a little crazy, um, hopeful is a better word, and so Julie was fantastic for that.
And, Curtis, I'd worked with many times, and I know how great of an actor he is. And I need somebody who could yell at you, but you don't take them that seriously. And so Curtis is sort of, you know, the more he shouts, the funnier he gets. So you kind of go in and you figure, who already the spirit of the character? Barry Corbin, plays Old Jammer, and he is like a from the heartland character. So.
They also told us that most voice actors record by themselves so it is hard to get the chemistry they would get if they were in person together. It is hard for them to show that in their voices. Ferrell Barron told us, “They have to be on cue. And most of these are live action actors. Ed Harris, he's used to being in front of a camera with another actor, and like, working a scene, like in theatre, and having another great actor with him. And that's not the case in animation. For some of them it was their first time to do animation, and it was was a big adjust for them, as an actor, to be on, and embody that character, and bring that emotion just to the forefront every time, and they all did a great job.
Q : Can you think of a remarkable ad lib you can remember?
Ferrell Barron – Oh, gosh. I know there was a ton.
Bobs Gannaway – “Yeah, they're real,” was an ad lib from Julie Bowen.
Ferrell Barron – Julie Bowen, when her pontoons go down. “Yeah, they're real.” And that's Julie Bowen. She's such a great comedic actress. And she's great at improv, and, so you know, she was perfect for that role, 'cause she, again, she brought so much more to the table, that — it's one of the funniest lines in the movie, right? So, thank goodness we had her.
Q : Was Windlifter always supposed to be Native American?
Ferrell Barron – That was another part of the research was in that, discovering that American Indians actually have a long history of wild fire air attack. Mostly hotshots and smoke jumpers, which are the ground crews. Smoke jumpers smoke-jump in and parachute in. Hotshots drive in, and then hike up to the fire. Both of them are fighting the fires on the ground, but American Indians make up the vast majority of both hotshots and smoke jumpers for hundreds of years. So we thought it was — you know. We wanted to pay tribute to them as well, and have an American Indian as a character.
Since I have Cherokee on both sides of my family, I loved learning that they wanted to pay tribute to that. It shows another level of their amazing research that went into this movie. They even had Wes Studi, who is Cherokee, do a campfire tale that would be based on an American Indian folktale. They worked really hard on making sure that everyone was using the right lingo as well. They even asked Wes Studi what he would say in Cherokee to start a campfire tale or tell everyone to be quiet and listen.
Bobs Gannaway – “And then with Dale Dyer, we were saying, okay, you've got these, um, you know, what do you call parachuters? He said, “We call 'em gravel crunchers.” Say that, you know? So, you know, “Ya buncha gravel crunchers! Now, then, we also worked with Travis Alexander, who is one of our main Cal Fire consultants, and all of chatter went through him. All of the radio chatter, what they would say, “split load,” and things like that. And then when he saw the footage, he changed it. He goes, “Oh, I didn't realize that those were 110 feet high. That would be different load levels. Let's change it from four to six.” Things like that. So, and, again, nobody really will know that, but there it'll feel right. You know. The details, all of those details, add up to it feeling real, versus — the person playing it, the actor, feels like that that's who they are.
And then what they're saying is accurate. And the flight is accurate. And all those things. All help you, um, nest and kind of settle into the film. Um, and the world and the characters all feel real to you.