The animated action-comedy series The Adventures of Puss in Boots, available at Netflix, stars the much-loved fighter, lover and milk connoisseur known as Puss in Boots (voiced by Eric Bauza). As he embarks on legendary adventures, the suave, charismatic, swash-buckling cat springs to action in search of treasure that leads him to a mystical city filled with unforgettable characters.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, voice actor Eric Bauza talked about what it’s like to be a part of a TV series about such a popular animated character, how he came to be a part of the show, the challenges in voicing a character that was established so iconically by Antonio Banderas, getting to see this character in the middle of some really fun action, being able to record with many of the other voice actors, and the fun and unexpected character relationships. Right now, the series has five episodes with the promise of more to come.
Collider: What’s it like to be a part of a TV series about such a popular animated character?
ERIC BAUZA: I’ve always been a fan of DreamWorks movies, especially this character, in particular. It’s just so odd, to begin with, because this amazingly manly, sexy voice comes out of him. It’s so unusual. For a performer, it’s a roll of a lifetime. I’ve gotta thank Antonio Banderas for creating such a great character. Essentially, it’s just him, which is one of the trickiest parts about voicing such an iconic role, or any iconic role, for that matter. It’s not like he’s even doing a voice. He’s just being himself. I started out as a character layout artist, which means I was drawing. I was an artist drawing poses that were to be animated. As a study of the genre, as a whole, you look at everything from the art, the cast, the writing, the music. It has a lot to live up to, but I think with today’s technology, I’m actually amazed that it’s out as soon as it is. I feel like we’re still just scratching the surface of recording these episodes, and yet, here we are with the episodes on Netflix.
How did you come to be voicing the beloved Puss in Boots?
BAUZA: Just like anything that comes about in the city of Los Angeles, I’ll get emails on auditions. This one came around and I had actually worked with the executive producer on it, Doug Langdale. We’d worked on a show called El Tigre, way back in the day of 2007. It was actually created, and most of the episodes were directed, by Jorge Gutierrez, who directed The Book of Life. I ended up doing the voice of the father, which was very much my Ricardo Montalban. It’s much more refined and dignified, but in the same wheelhouse. I still auditioned, fair and square, for it, but I think they had remember working with me, and it was such a joy to get to work with those folks. It’s not just Doug. We had Andrea Romano voice directing, and she also directed me on El Tigre. It’s quite a mix of newcomers, heavy-hitters, and some A-list celebrity talent. We’ve got H. Jon Benjamin on the show, from Bob’s Burgers, and John Leguizamo. It’s really amazing because we’re not just hiring them for a name, but because they have good voices and they have a good understanding of character. There’s always been that argument about celebrities just phoning it in, but there are some out there that have character voices and know comedy. Mike Myers does Shrek, and he’s not really doing his regular voice. He’s creating a character. That’s his background. Second City is all about character.
What are the challenges in voicing a character that already has such an identifiable voice?
BAUZA: When you are approached to do the voice of such a well-known character, like this one in particular, they are very iconic sounds. As a voice over artist, you can peel back the layers. There has to be a certain something there for Puss in Boots. I’ve watched a lot of Antonio’s films, and you really see how much fun the man has, as an actor and as a performer. He’s very unpredictable. It’s more about getting the mind-set of what he’s thinking, so as I perform, I try to be as unpredictable, or I imagine what he might do, that day. It’s so exhausting. But I think back to the writing and the amazing guidance from the director, and it’s safe for me to go over-the-top, and then if they want to reel me back in, they can.
Do you find that it’s easier or more challenging to voice a character that’s already been established and developed compared to voicing a character that’s brand new and that you have to figure out, from top to bottom?
BAUZA: As a voice-over performer, you could make a great living off of doing voice matches. Puss in Boots is not the only one I’ve done for DreamWorks. I’m currently doing the Paul Giamatti voice match for Turbo. But, I’ve never considered myself the go-to guy for voice mimicry. A voice-over performer’s ultimate dream is to create the voices that the kids will run around in the school yard and imitate. SpongeBob is a good example because he’s a very familiar voice. But having the responsibility of taking over a role such as Puss in Boots is quite the honor. DreamWorks has been a trusted name in kids’ entertainment for way over a decade. Sometimes you’ve gotta pinch yourself and make sure you’re not dreaming. Netflix is where it’s at, these days, for something new like this. Amazon is, as well. Yahoo TV is also catching up. All I have to do is keep making stuff people like. Knowing that I’m on a platform such as Netflix, I’m completely thankful.
What can you say about this show and the story that you’re telling, in these episodes?
BAUZA: This is the first time we’ll see Puss in Boots in action since his feature film. I think it’s smart because they’re doing another feature film, so to get people back into it, they are developing this series for another continued adventure with him. It starts out with him just being that Lone Ranger type, on his own. He’s a bit of a trouble-maker. He’s on his treasure hunt, and in turn, he discovers this hidden city that the treasure has kept cloaked from any outsiders. It’s funny, it has an adverse affect on the townspeople because, although they’ve been kept from danger under this magic spell, they’ve also kept themselves cooped up in this town, so everybody is a little cooky. Puss discovers that there are these weird townspeople, but then he sees that there are orphans, and he has a soft spot in his little heart for orphans because he, himself, was one. So, he takes it upon himself to protect them. Of course, once you open the floodgates, all of the villains come in and start taking treasure. We have these well-known fairy tale characters, but the writers on the show create so many new situations with them. It’s refreshing and it gives you a little bit more time. We’re not going to be done with the story after an hour-and-a-half or two hours. This is a full-blown series. You will probably see some sides to Puss that you can’t really get out of the feature films or even shorts, for that matter.
How did the recording process work for this? Did you get to work with any of the other voice actors?
BAUZA: Oh, yeah. Sometimes the facilities can accommodate four to five actors. I remember one day when it was just me and all the ladies, and I was like, “Wow, I won the lottery today!” And then, they started talking about shoes and shopping, and I turned into the boyfriend that sits on the couch, looking at his phone. We try to get as many people in as possible, to have that real chemistry. You can record by yourself, and I’ve done it a couple times on this show when our schedules all conflicted. And sometimes there are so many people in one episode that you can’t get everybody in, at the same time. But being the central character in a show like this, I have the luck and luxury to be able to record with a majority of the people that are in the show. And they prefer it that way because you get a natural timing. I prefer it. I love working in an ensemble.
The relationship between this suave, charismatic cat and the totally goofy pig, Toby, is just such a great part of this show.
BAUZA: Another great thing about working on this show is that we can portray kid voices, but there’s something about hiring an actual kid that is experiencing life by the seat of his pants. It pours into roles like this. Josh [Rush], who is the voice of Toby, the pig, just brings so much to the part. He’s so smart. These kids that are coming in to do the voices for these characters are just having a good time, but you talk to them off microphone, in between scenes, and they’re just so quick. There’s a reason why they get to do this for a living. They’re way ahead of the game. I wish I could have done it that young. They seem to be having such a great time, and we’re very thankful to have authentic performances from these young performers.
What was it like to do the scenes between Puss and the Sphinx (Grey DeLisle), especially with how different your voices are?
BAUZA: That was another amazing turn for a character. She’s introduced as this giant Sphinx, who’s very authoritative and ethereal, and then she turns into this Valley girl, immediately. It’s so funny!
What do you enjoy most about bringing a character that’s considered the world’s greatest fighter, lover and milk connoisseur to life, and how often do you secretly wish it was a live-action character that you could embody and live out the adventures of?
BAUZA: Oh, my gosh! Before they started the series, they asked me to do motion capture as Puss in Boots. It’s a contrast already because my voice sounds like Antonio Banderas, but I look like the short, chubby Asian kid from Up. So, to embody that character, physically, was so tough. For motion capture, you’re squeezed into this scuba diving outfit with ping-pong balls all over you, so you’re already a little self-conscious, and they strap you into this helmet that weighs 50 pounds. It’s quite the task. I think any guy would wish they were as cool as Antonio. I always tell people that I got his voice, if only I could imitate his abdominal muscles. For now, I’ll settle for just the voice and the cartoon.
The Adventures of Puss in Boots is available at Netflix.