The Secret Life of Pets 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the hugely successful 2016 animated feature that first explored the emotional lives of our pets, continues to follow Terrier Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt), as he copes with some major life changes that are making him a bit nervous and anxious. On this adventure, Max and his adopted canine brother and friend Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet) find themselves on a farm and face-to-face with a dog named Rooster (voiced by Harrison Ford), who helps Max find his own inner courage, while cat Chloe (voiced by Lake Bell), Pomeranian Gidget (voiced by Jenny Slate), bunny Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart), Shih Tzu Daisy (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) and Basset Hound Pops (voiced by Dana Carvey) all have their own various levels of trouble to contend with.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor and funnyman Dana Carvey talked about how cool it is to get to be a part of The Secret Life of Pets franchise, how the character he voices was first pitched to him, when he realized they’d get to do a sequel, whether he’s thought about what his pets were thinking, why he loves Pops, finding his inner curmudgeonly Basset Hound, who he’d like to see be Pops’ owner, what gets him excited about a project, and how he feels about people wanting to do impressions for him of some of his most famous characters.
Collider: This movie was so funny and so much fun, and it’s totally what you need, when everything else in the world is going insane.
DANA CARVEY: Yes, it’s a great escapist thing to go into that little Secret Life of Pets world that they live in. It’s fun.
How cool is it to get to be a part of a movie, where all ages can see it and enjoy it, but kids especially love it and love these characters, and just can’t get enough of them?
CARVEY: It’s just a total pleasure. Anything that resonates or is a hit is a blessing. It’s definitely nice. My advice is to always work with Kevin Hart.
When they first mentioned this project and who Pops would be, what did they tell you about him? Who was Pops, when they first pitched him to you?
CARVEY: Well, we knew that he was paralyzed, and that he was an old Basset Hound. That was the main thing. And then, I played around with a few different voices, and the quintessential, archetypal grumpy old man voice seemed to match Pops. He’s like that classic guy who’s like, “Things aren’t now the way they used to be. I don’t like it.” I figured that he’s achy, and maybe his legs hurt a little bit, so he has this edge to him that’s fun to play.
The first film was a huge hit. When did you realize just how much people were loving the film and loving these characters, and that getting to play this character again was actually a real possibility?
CARVEY: After the first movie came out and it did that kind of business, all over the world, I figured they’d do a sequel. It opened to $103 million, or something. That’s insane!
Have you ever found yourself someone who’s wondered what their pet is thinking about or doing, especially when you’re not there?
CARVEY: Oh, 1,000%. I don’t think we can ever totally know what goes on behind those eyes, with dogs and cats, and how they perceive us. What are we to them? Do they understand that they’re not us? Do they process? What do they think of driving in the car, with their head out the window? Do they think they can run 50 mph? You wonder what they think.
What do you love most about this character, with voicing him and having a hand in bringing him to life?
CARVEY: I love the change-ups of his rhythm. The way he hits certain lines is musical. It goes up, and then goes down. It’s the chewiness of the range of his vocalism. And it’s fun to play the blunt character that just says what is on their mind, but that also has a sensitive side that is revealed in this film.
How do you find your inner curmudgeonly Basset Hound, when you’re in the voice booth? Does that just come really naturally, or is there anything you do to get yourself where you need to be, in order to embody Pops?
CARVEY: Usually, when I go in the booth, they have a giant picture of Pops with a scowl on his face, so I’m like, “Oh, I’m that guy.” And then, they’ll play my audio from previous sessions, and you do get warmed up. It takes a few takes, and a little bit of time to get into the rhythm of it. All of that together is really a lot of energy because he’s yelling, and then you have to do it a thousand times, which can be very rough. Luckily, my sessions were basically just two hours, so you give it your all for two hours, and then my voice would usually be shot by then and that was about all I could do. It’s still great work, if you can get it, trust me.
How did you find the experience of working with Chris Renaud, as a director?
CARVEY: He’s really sharp and knows what he wants. If my voice wobbled a little bit, or if I was going too high, and he didn’t like that, he’d let me know. It was the same, if I was a little bit out of the voice. I’m one of the only people doing a voice that’s not my voice, so he would keep me in the right frequency, so to speak.
In this sequel, Pops is essentially running a puppy boot camp/disobedience school. How did he find himself in this situation, and how does he feel about his life choices, at this point?
CARVEY: At some point, he was like, “You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna get five or six of the most adorable puppies, and I’m gonna train them to torture humans.” You didn’t see that scene, but that’s probably how it happened, as a diabolical plot.
How do you think he feels about this position in he’s in, in his life?
CARVEY: Why does Pops do anything? Why doesn’t he just stay at home and sleep in his bed? For an old guy with wheels for hind legs, he’s pretty active and pretty aggressive, and he’s gone to all of this trouble. So, what is it about humans that he wants them to be tortured, or that he wants to teach dogs to be disobedient? What is that? These are very good questions. He should come back as a diabolical character that has taken over the world with this army of adorable puppies. No one will see them coming.