We sit down with The Angry Birds Movie 2 producer, John Cohen to talk about the direction that Angry Birds 2 went in to set it apart from the first movie.
I don’t think I’ve met anyone as enthusiastic about a movie they were working quite like John Cohen. He loves interacting with the fans of the franchise on social media. I sat down with him back in May to talk about the movie.
What was your inspiration for Angry Birds 2?
John Cohen: What was so exciting for us with Angry Birds 2, is that in the first movie we brought the games to life. So it was really telling that story of the key things that people loved about the Angry Bird’s games and knew about the games and, and honoring that. And with the sequel, we had the opportunity to go and develop it in a new direction. We were able to build beyond the game, and that gave us so much creative opportunity. We knew with the movie that there was a very big idea, but also something that was unexpected.
When we thought about, ‘well what are audiences going to expect this movie to be?’ They’re probably going to think it’s more battles between birds and pigs because that’s what the Games are. And we said, ‘well what if we introduce a new villain, someone that we’ve never ever experienced before, someone that’s new to the games and it’s a villain from a place that they’ve never been to and never heard of. And that villain causes the birds and pigs to have to unite.
We also knew that when they come together as frenemies that it’s not going to be easy. It’s kind of like when the Avengers came together for the first time I met the Guardians of the Galaxy. They’ve got egos. There are trust issues. There’s a lot of comedic friction. And that for us was a lot of fun.
Do you use some of the expressions from the actors on the characters faces and the animation?
JC: We do. And part of that is because our cast is filled with so many amazing improvisational comedic actors and all of them are not only funny and great at performing, but they’re great writers too. So when you have someone like Leslie Jones or Tiffany Haddish or Sterling K. Brown or Jason Sudekisi, Rachel Bloom, they come in, and they add much, and we have a camera there that is capturing everything they do. A little eye dart, some little bit of motion that they put into it. And so that’s why Awkwafina, we’ll see her character come to life and say, ‘that’s me. That is me there as Courtney.’
So it’s a fun thing, and the animators who sit at their computers are all incredible actors. They’re so good at bringing these characters to life with such comedic performances. They take great inspiration from what the actors do with them in the booth.
How do you decide which jokes for kids and parents are placed in the film?
JC: For us, it’s really about ‘what are the jokes that make us laugh,’ and as we’re making the movie, we’re constantly putting it up in front of audiences filled with families and kids. I don’t think kids watch Dawson’s Creek, [laughter] but it’s so important to us when we make these movies and especially really want to have great jokes in that the parents can enjoy and the non-parents, and the kids. Sometimes you’ll hear a parent joke, and sometimes you’ll hear a kid joke, but a lot of times everyone’s laughing at the same jokes, which is so much fun to get to experience.
You mentioned a bunch of amazing Improv comedians. How much were they allowed to Improv?
JC: They were allowed to Improv quite a bit. It’s something that we always encourage, and so we’ll have a very funny script that we go into the recording sessions with, and we’ll record that a few times and then say, ‘you know, okay, Bill Hader, what do you want to do with it? Any ideas?’ Or Maya Rudolph or Rachel Bloom. And they will come up with incredible stuff to plus it.
And what you hear, someone like Josh Gad or Jason Sudeikis do in a recording booth is they give the delivery of the line, so much more spontaneity and so much more of a naturalistic quality. Then you would get if someone was just reading the lines and so it, it adds that many great new jokes to the movie and also just they’re great perspectives on it.
It’s crazy because you sit there and we’re all there, the actors behind a microphone, which is a very hard thing to do. I think a lot of times people talk about, ‘well, recording a voice in an animated movie is simple because you don’t have to get dressed.’ You can wear sweatsuits and all that, but you’re really there alone and having to perform. So when you imagine an actor is up with other actors, the spotlight isn’t always on them because there’s someone else that they’re working against. But when they’re recording for animation there behind the mic, it’s not unlike like a live stand-up comedy show, and we’re all sitting in the booth watching it and laughing so hard at it.
So they’re the greatest things to get to come to. Um, but then we come back to the, to the studio and sit in editorial and listen to all the takes. And you have an embarrassment of riches of ‘well do we use this one or that one or that one.’ Cause there are so many good things.
What is it that draws you to animated storytelling?
JC: I don’t think there is anything as fun as getting to make an animated movie because you are making a movie that is there to purely entertain. They’re movies that, because they get dubbed in different languages so easily, they play around the world. And so there’s such a big opportunity there to reach so many people, but it’s also such a big responsibility that you feel.
I think about movies that I saw and experiences that I had as a kid when I went to the movies, with my mom or my dad and, and the things that I felt after seeing movies and the things that movie’s inspired me to, dream to do. You think about these movies and how they really have the ability to inspire, and so it’s an honor to get to do that, but they’re also so much fun.
What is it that you would like kids to walk away learning from this movie?
JC: That is something that is super important to us. Obviously, it is first and foremost a comedy. The message of the movie that we really feel is something that is important for kids to be hearing and experiencing today is that you can find common ground and you can work together, and there are ways to do that.
The birds and pigs don’t have a lot that they really agree on, but they find a way to work together, and I think that’s something that everyone needs to be doing in the world.
Angry Birds Movie 2 is in theaters today!!