Ed Helms on Crafting a Superhero Voice for ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’

     June 4, 2017

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What does a superhero that dresses in only his underwear sound like? That’s the dilemma for Ed Helms, tasked with bringing to life one of the most popular modern children’s book heroes: Captain Underpants. The book series, by Dav Pikey, has spawned over twelve sequels and spinoffs, selling over seventy million copies worldwide. Captain Underpants is so successful – it’s a little surprising it’s taken this long for a film company (in this case: DreamWorks) to adapt the series into an animated feature.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie takes most of its cue from this source material. Two troublesome fourth graders, George and Harold (Kevin Hart & Thomas Middleditch), hypnotize their cruel principal (Ed Helm) into thinking he’s a comic book superhero – the aptly titled Captain Underpants (Helms again). Of course – when an actual super-villain (Nick Kroll) enters the picture, the kids will need their hypnotized hero to become the real deal in order to save the day.

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Image via DreamWorks Animation

The film, just like the book series it’s based on, cleverly tweaks at the conventions of the superhero genre and the animation medium itself. There’s an extended sequence where Captain Underpants turns into a 2D sock puppet play and later when the action heats up, the film switches to a flipbook for “budgetary reasons.” At the film’s center, Ed Helms ably performs dual roles, switching from the cruel principal to the stoic clothing-challenged hero often in the same scene or even within lines.

In the following interview with Helms, he discusses coming up with the voice for Captain Underpants, how the movie changed during the lengthy recording process and how many of his lines were improvised on the day. For the full interview, watch above.

Ed Helms:

  • Ed Helms on coming up with the voice of Captain Underpants
  • On how many different versions of the Captain Underpants’ voice he experimented with
  • On how Captain Underpants changed during the recording process
  • On how many of his lines were improvised.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is now playing in theaters.

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