Ty Burrell has already established himself as one of the most distinctive voices in the comedy field today, with his work primarily on Modern Family to thank over the past several years. With his irritable and goofy Bailey as well, a Beluga whale who has trouble getting his echolocation to work when he meets Dory in Disney and Pixar’s Finding Dory, he brings about some of the film’s biggest laughs and has helped to create, to me at least, one of Pixar’s funniest and most memorable supporting characters to date. In a film that’s chock full of them as well, that’s saying something.
I recently got the chance to sit down and have a fantastic talk with Burrell about the film too, including what it’s like getting to work with Pixar, what he finds admirable and grateful towards their films for as a father, and more. I even asked him about the possibility of a sequel to Mr. Peabody and Sherman, which I may have a bit of an unhealthy love for, if I’m being honest.
How were you initially introduced to the project?
I got a call, and it really was one of those great calls that if you had asked me years ago when I was struggling and unemployed that Pixar would come calling about doing anything let alone a sequel to Finding Nemo I might have fainted. But yeah I got a call asking if I would do, at the time I think it was a cameo, which didn’t matter to me at all, I was like ‘Yes!,’ like hang up now and call them back because I didn’t want to spend too much time letting them wonder if I was going to do it, I was in. And it’s totally lived up to the hype. I mean, the actual work experience has been incredible, and there is a hype you know?
It’s Pixar! You know, gosh, these guys are just the best storytellers on Earth, like honestly I’m lucky enough in my day job to work with some great storytellers there, my showrunners are amazing storytellers and I’m very spoiled when it comes to that, and they’re just in the same league. Then in the room they also turn out to be friendly, down to Earth, just easy and funny. This is one of those jobs where the selling part of it was just one of the easiest things you’re ever going to do because the movie’s so great, and they’re so awesome to work with. It’s just like, Pixar? Yes. Now, people tell me to talk about the movie and it’s just like, ‘I love it! I love them!’ And it’s great for kids.
You know, like my show, I think it’s something that is, you know, meaningful. That feels great, like I actually get to hope that kids see this movie, and that’s awesome.
That’s sort of what they do right? I had the same feeling when I saw Inside Out last year, where it’s just something that’s not only entertaining and well-made, but it also teaches kids things they need to know.
Yes. Totally. There’s so much, and I think in this even more than Finding Nemo, they just don’t underestimate kids.
None of the Pixar movies do.
Right! They challenge them, and in a way, that’s something that Disney has always done before they were even connected to Pixar, was to challenge kids with ideas of loss, and heavy ideas that they knew kids could handle, and they knew kids would want to talk about. You know, those are things that kids are okay with. We think about them more than they do.
Even just thinking about the scene in Dumbo where he has to say goodbye to his mom. That’s awful to us.
Exactly. You know, my kids watch all of those old, classic Disney movies like Dumbo and all the rest, and that stuff doesn’t even phase them. In fact, what it does is that it prepares them for life. In a great way because there’s a sense that this is a part of life, that not everything’s rosy, but there’s a bigger message that Pixar always has, which is probably the “Just keep swimming…” thing. You know that not everything goes your way, but keeping your optimism and caring about things and going forward is the most important thing. As a parent you know, I’m just so grateful to them.
Well, there’s that joke now that if you’re crying within the first fifteen minutes of a movie, it’s probably a Pixar movie, but that’s also why they work so well.
What I’m always interested in with these movies and especially with actors in animated movies, is how you work through the acting process with just your voice especially in the scenes where your characters have mini arcs. When you’re acting through those scenes and you have to convey a lot of emotions and jumps with just your voice, how much of that do you work through beforehand, and how much of it is just putting your faith in the animation team and filmmakers?
In terms of a total like shift in point of view?
Working with people who are great with story, which is a much more difficult thing than dialogue or jokes, it is the greatest gift I think, and when you get to work with people like that, you really do relax a little bit and trust to just make that pivot. You know, usually with Andrew [Stanton, the director] or whoever working with in any given scenario, really good directors and he’s fantastic, they make sure to really talk you through what’s going on and they really do lay it all out for you.
If for some reason, you’re confused, but most of the time with really great writers, you see it and you see what they’re after and you really learn to trust them. Nobody really benefits from you doing it blindly either. That’s why they explain it, and that’s why they really talk you through it. But with people like that, like Andrew, Angus, and Lindsay, if you have any sliver of doubt, you just let that go. Because there’s nothing I can say that’s going to have any great insight into the story that they don’t already know.
I pitched this to Ed O’Neill already, which is that I want, after seeing Finding Dory, to see a Hank and Bailey spin-off movie.
Oh I love it!
Well, I just really loved Bailey and Hank’s rhythms in the movie, and their comedic banter with the other characters. So what I want to ask you is if you could see Bailey interact with any other character in any of the other Pixar movies, who would it be?
Can I say Hank?
I would totally say Hank because Ed and I have that relationship offscreen. We love each other, we really get along like two peas in a pod. We’ve always enjoyed being around each other, and Ed is just a very lovable curmudgeon and he laughs about it more than anybody, and I’m sort of like a blindly optimistic goof, and the two of us we always laugh when we’re around each other, in a way because we’re just so different. I loved his version of Hank.
Alright, I only have time for two more questions so I’m going to try and make them rapid fire.
First, when you go to an aquarium, what’s your favorite exhibit to visit?
You know, last time I was at an aquarium we were in Utah and there was a Polar Bear exhibit up there, that was unbelievable.
And my last question which I should start off by saying that I loved Mr. Peabody & Sherman…
What would it take for a sequel to get made?
You know, I really loved that movie too, and I was really proud of that movie. It got a lot of critical acclaim, which was great, but it just didn’t, and I’m not exactly sure why, but it didn’t quite sell enough to get a sequel. I don’t know though, maybe it’s life after the theatres will help because I hear from a lot of people that they’re enjoying it, so maybe that could generate enough income that there would be a sequel. Maybe the reason was because it was so plot heavy?
I loved that about it though.
Yeah, I loved that too. But I think maybe for younger kids it may have been tough, but I’m super proud of it. That part I love and my kids love that movie, and I would really love to do a sequel to that movie. I think that movie felt like one of the most natural movies for spin-offs than any I’ve ever done.
It’s time travel!
Yeah! It was the perfect set-up for future movies. So I hope that happens, so just sell the DVDs!
Finding Dory is in theatres everywhere now.
Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.
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