Opening this weekend is DreamWorks Animation’s next 3D movie Megamind. Featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and David Cross, Megamind is the story of the villain that actually wins. Imagine if Lex Luthor killed Superman. What would his life be like without a worthy adversary to fight? What would make him happy? These are the questions Megamind must face.
Anyway, last weekend DreamWorks held a press junket here in Los Angeles and I got to sit down with David Cross (he plays Megamind’s assistant Minion). During my exclusive interview, we talked about TIFF 2010, all the different animated projects he’s been working on, making Megamind, working for DreamWorks, what’s the status of Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom, will The Increasingly Poor Decision of Todd Margret get a second season and what was making that show like, and a lot more. Hit the jump to read or listen to what David Cross had to say.
Finally, I’m not sure if I’ll be transcribing the press conference with Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, David Cross and director Tom McGrath. So in case I don’t, you can click here to listen to the audio.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview with Cross. You can either read the transcript below or click here to listen to the interview. Finally, if you’d like to watch some clips from Megamind, click here. Again, Megamind opens November 5.
Collider: So how did you enjoy Toronto?
David Cross: I liked it. I mean, I’ve never been to….well, that’s not true. I’ve been to Sundance a couple of times. But I’ve never been to a movie festival where I had no responsibilities. I was there as my girlfriend’s accompaniment. So that was nice.
So you were arm candy?
Cross: [laughs] Yes, I was arm candy. That certainly made it more fun, you know. And I like Toronto. I’ve always liked Toronto. So it was cool.
Did you see any of the big buzzed about films while you were there?
Cross: The only one I saw was 127 Hours, which I loved. It blew me away. It was really moving and I enjoyed it quite a bit. But that was really…because of my girlfriend’s schedule, that was sort of the only movie I had a chance to see.
Let’s jump into animation Obviously, a decade ago you were doing completely different stuff like Mr. Show. Your career has taken an interesting turn over the last few years. Did you ever think you were going to be the voice in so many different animation projects?
Cross: No. I mean, in the sense that I don’t think that even in a daydreaming way I projected where I was going to be and what I was going to do. But it kind of makes sense. I have a…as with a lot of comic characters, especially when they don’t have you do a character, it kind of makes sense. I was talking to the guy who was in here before that there’s a real cumulative effect. You start doing one or two things. You just happen to do a voice in one thing and then somebody else says “Oh, yeah. That guy. He did this. He does this and he did that well.” So you get to do another one and another one. Then, there are sequels and stuff. Then, the next thing you know you got ten animated features under your belt. It’s, as we were saying downstairs, not the most fun in the world. It’s not a big party. But it’s kind of a cool process and fun to do.
You’ve done so many different projects now. Can you talk about how doing Megamind was maybe different than what you’ve done previously, or are they all sort of the same?
Cross: They’re more same than different. And certainly the process is the same. At least it has been for me because I don’t think I’ve done any of these movies where I was in the same room. Just because as Tom (McGrath) was saying downstairs, for the most part, you’ll love to do it. It’s great, but it actually kind slows the process down a little bit in a way. But, you know, it’s kind of the same thing. You go in, you see a design, and you talk to the director. At least that’s the initial thing. The script is always changing and developing, especially as the actors are kind of improving and riffing. And with every single of these, you usually don’t see an animation, even like an animatic, until your third session maybe. So that’s a little odd. You go in and you’re just talking. There’s no real feedback. I mean, you trust the director when he says, “That’s great. You got it.” But then when you are shown some animation, it sort of kicks up the energy up a little bit more. Not energy, but you get more excited like, “Oh, cool. I get a sense of how this is going to work and how this character is like”
I’ve spoken to a number of actors that have done voice work and some of them have told me how the first few sessions are just everyone figuring things out Then, by your 5th, you are re-recording everything.
Cross: Yes. That’s true, because stuff is animated. Then, they will also videotape your sessions so they are starting to animate your mouth movements and if you’re gesticulating , and just things as a performer where you’re like, “I have no idea!” and you do this, and suddenly that character is doing that kind of thing. Yeah, it’s definitely…once you find your way through it and you’re feeling out the character. In the later sessions, you’re like, “Oh, ok. I get it. Ok.” Then, you have to go back and re-record because the takes aren’t appropriate with what…they’re not matching up with what the character has evolved from.
You did Kung Fu Panda for Dreamworks. You’ve now done this one. Has Katzenberg signed you to some long term deal that says “Every animated film…”
Cross: [laughs] Um, no. But I’m certainly not opposed to that. That would be great. We just did Kung Fu Panda 2. We are starting to do that, or half way through actually.
I was actually going to ask you about that. Before I go into that, have you had kids where you are being introduced as from some animation projects. Because people my age know you for something and then kids are sort of knowing you from something else.
Cross: Absolutely. The most prominent one is Alvin and the Chipmunks, of course. I was in London and some Chinese kids, who didn’t speak English, recognized me from Alvin and the Chipmunks. That was pretty interesting. But sometimes the mom and dad will go, “That’s the crane. That’s the voice of Crane in Kung Fu Panda “ [does a kid’s voice] “What? Really?” “Yeah. That’s Crane.” “No it isn’t” “Yeah. It is.” You know, it’s cool. It’s great. I hope to have kids some day and, you know, when I got ten hours worth of shit, I can just shove them in front of the TV and put it on a loop. [laughs] “Alright. Daddy’s going to go away, but he’s going to kind of be right here with you. Goodnight.”
Kung Fu Panda was a huge hit. Were you surprised that they were going to go so quickly into a sequel and what was it like for you recording stuff for the sequel?
Cross: You know, same kind of process, where I’m by myself. There’s definitely less interaction. Minion’s stuff is so…the stuff between Minion and Megamind is very much conversational and it’s an integral part of that character and the story. That’s less so with Kung Fu Panda. Crane is part of this group of five. There’s not as much give and take going on. But I wasn’t surprised by the sequel because it did do quite well. There was just a lot of heart to that movie. I think I’m repeating myself, but it was a very similar process. You go in and you do your lines, and you know….
Is it going quicker?
Cross: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, there’s not all that other stuff. We know the character, we know how it moves, and we know the relationships. It’s not remarkably quicker, but definitely quicker.
Does it ever get old talking about Mr. Show and Arrested Development? People always wanting to talk about these things or is it just, “Well, I’m glad people got something out of them.”
Cross: Both, to be honest, I guess. I mean, I’m glad that those are two interesting quality pieces of television works that live on, and will live on for awhile. It’s just when the questions are the same questions. That’s the only…but sometimes people will surprise me or a reference makes me go, “Wow. I never thought about that. I haven’t thought about that in a long time.” So that part is cool. Look, ultimately, I much rather have people constantly…I mean, it’s a small price to pay to answer the same questions over and over again. I’m glad that people like it, and still like it.
Absolutely. The Increasingly Poor Decision of Todd Margret is currently airing right now. I put on Twitter that I was going to be talking to you and I got a lot of people asking me if there is going to be a season two.
Cross: I don’t know. I haven’t heard a peep from IFC, after numerous emails and correspondences leading up to the premiere. Like, you know four, five, or six a day. Then when the first show aired, I have not heard a single word from them at all or from anybody. It remains to be seen if IFC…it hasn’t aired in the U.K. yet. It will start airing on November 14th and we will see what the reaction is there. I’m not sure what IFC is waiting on to make their decision. I can’t really tell you what their thought process is on that. Obviously, I would like to do another round. I still have a lot more story to tell. But the short answer is that I just don’t know. It’s up to IFC, but I haven’t heard a word from them.
You did six episodes. When you went to start filming them, did you have all six completely figured out?
Cross: Oh, that is absolutely the best part about doing British television. Everything was written before we did pre-production. All of the pre-production was done and decided upon before we shot. Everything was shot before we stepped into editing. It really is the ideal way to work on a show where you are telling the story. I mean, if it was just simply a sitcom, where you are kind of just popping in, and there is no growth to the characters – it doesn’t matter, really. But because there is a very specific story we are telling in a specific timeframe, which we found ourselves numerous times – myself and the other writer – going, “Wait. He can’t go to the bank. It’s Sunday.” Like that’s a real issue you have to…because every episode takes place the very next day. The whole thing is a countdown from the courtroom scene and then we are counting backwards from the opening scene in each show. So you almost can’t do it any other way. You know, because as I said, we find ourselves oddly restricted. Like, “How is he going to get the money from point A to point B? He can’t withdraw it because in episode three he lost his ATM card, and that was literally 32 hours ago. He wouldn’t have any access to it. It’s Sunday. We have to get this character to get money.” So you have all that stuff you have to consider. So you have to have it all done before you start shooting.
What other stuff is bubbling up for you right now that perhaps I don’t know about?
Cross: Between Running Wilde, Todd Margret, and Megamind that is…all of this stuff is coming out at once. I don’t have anything. There’s obviously Kung Fu Panda 2, but that’s it. Should the IFC show not continue, I have a couple other shows that I am ready to pitch that are scripts that are written. That I’m in the process of writing, I should say. Other TV ideas that are ready to go and I’ll just pitch them. I’ll come out here to L.A., and pitch them.
It seems to me as a fan of television and movies that this is the greatest time in history for television. That’s just me looking at it from the outside as a fan because of the abundance of cable channels, HBO, Showtime, and what people are doing in the U.K. Do you sort of have that same kind of perspective that right now is such a great time on television?
Cross: I think really from the last 15 years or so…
I don’t mean to interrupt, I don’t mean that today is the greatest…
Yeah. I understand what you are saying. Absolutely. As you said, there’s a tenfold of extra amount of channels and stuff, and also with the U.K. contributing more and more. Yeah, there’s just great stuff.
I have to ask, what are the top five shows that are on your DVR? The shit that you can not go without.
Cross: Well, Battlestar Galactica and anything related, like Caprica. I guess there is this new prequel that they are going to start shooting. Literally the only things I DVR are Top Chef. The other shows are canceled. I used to have Xavier. Tim and Eric, I always DVR that.
So you’re not on the Mad Men, or Dexter?
Cross: No. Not necessarily by choice. I just don’t watch a lot of TV. I’ve been in the U.K. for six months straight up until August. I just didn’t get into a lot of that stuff, but I’ve heard great stuff.