Napoleon Dynamite, the movie, premiered in 2004 building a fan base and slowly becoming cult hit. On January 15, 2011, Napoleon, Tina, Kip and Pedro will become animated in a cartoon on Fox. Star Jon Heder, along with creator Jared Hess and executive producer Mike Scully, talked about what we can expect from the new TV series, as well as how it compares to the movie.
Could you talk a little bit about once again bringing the town of Preston, Idaho, to national attention?
Jared Hess: "We'd always felt if we ever continued the adventures of Napoleon that we would do it in animated form just because it seemed like the film would translate well into animation. It was a way that we could get inside Napoleon's head as well, but we've just had a lot of fun re-exploring his world. There are new characters that we discover in the town of Preston as well that you'll see as the series progresses. It's been a lot of fun to be able to make the transition to animation and be able to kind of do things that you can't do in live action, but you can do in animated form."
Have you been thinking of story ideas for years, or only once the animated series was picked up?
Jared Hess: "Yes, I mean for us it was just kind of about timing. Jerusha and I have been busy doing film things for a while and yes, I guess we just felt that it was a good time to try it. We'd always had ideas of different ways that we wanted to explore and have fun with the characters and so yes, once we met up with Mike Scully and decided to make it happen, we've just had a lot of fun with it."
How do you think Napoleon Dynamite will fit in with FOX's Animation Domination?
Mike Scully: "Oh, I think it's going to be a great fit, actually. I think it will fit very well in the world of The Simpsons and in general with the Sunday night lineup in terms of the tone and particularly visually. It's very colorful. The Rough Draft animation who does Futurama and they did half of The Simpsons Movie is doing the animation so I think the shows really complement each other well, but they all have their own voice."
What is it about the Napoleon Dynamite characters translate to animation?
Jon Heder: "I think they are so well fleshed out, but in a way that they'll have their one-liners. They are all so very different and kind of cover so many aspects of this weird and quirky world that was created for the film. I think it will run well with animation because you have like the bully, you have the romantic lead, I mean the romantic interest girl. You have the best friend, you have the different family members and they all seem to have different agendas within this world. It kind of lends itself to opening up lots of different story lines, you know just kind of conflicts within each of their own relationships, I think."
Is Kip still a married man?
Jared Hess: "We wanted to have fun with the idea of Kip pursuing a lot of kind of failed online relationships and explored that more than we were able to in the film. I think definitely down the road LaFawnduh will become a part of the play, in the animated series for sure."
Mike Scully: "Yes, you think you don't want a stud like Kip Dynamite tied down to one woman."
Jon, how did you feel when they approached you about doing an animated Napoleon Dynamite?
Jon Heder: "I was excited. I mean we had always talked in the beginning about doing something whether it be a sequel or an animated or a live action in terms of whatever, but I was excited because I'm finally able to tell fans like, yes, we're making more stuff. That's the number one question you always get, like 'Is there going to be any more Napoleon?' Whether it be a sequel or television show or whatever and I'm happy to say the adventures of Napoleon will continue. I was just really excited to kind of get back into the character and get back with everybody involved with the film, the rest of the cast and Jared and Jerusha and work on -- like reenter that world."
What advantages does animation give you over live action?
Jared Hess: "Yes, yes, one of the great things about animation is I think it costs just as much to draw like a spaceship as it does a car and so Napoleon and -- just his interests and the things that he's into in the film even he was always talking about ligers. We have an episode where Napoleon gets a job at a liger breeding facility, which we wouldn't have been able to do in live action and you know do it affordably or I don't even know if you can control those animals anyway. We were able to explore that-"
Mike Scully: "No one can attain them."
Jared Hess: "-interest Napoleon has in that world and do an animation and have fun with it. It just really kind of liberates you in the sense that I think audience accept more ridiculous things in animation as well. It's just been a lot of fun."
Mike Scully: "Yes, it also allows you to kind of get into the character's head more, to kind of see their fears and their dreams whatever, flashback sequences. We're going to do an episode where we actually see Uncle Rico's at the big game where he blew it and how his life changed, that kind of stuff."
How easy was it to get back into the mind of Napoleon Dynamite?
Jared Hess: "It was pretty easy. It's when I'm most relaxed. I remember when we did the movie, it was a very relaxing film to do because it's just like-"
Mike Scully: "Your eyes are almost closed the whole movie."
Jon Heder: "Yes, you're kind of resting. You can hide behind your eyelids and you just kind of rest your voice. He doesn't have to scream that much, but it has been fun and interesting because all that works for a movie, but for the lead character in an ongoing animated series, I've had to show way more emotional range in this role than I ever have in anything else I've done."
"I've had to explore all the different sides to Napoleon that I never knew was there so, with the help of Mike and Jared and those guys it's fun for all of us. It's kind of like there have been many times in the recording studio where we're like 'What would Napoleon say here?' or 'How would he react? Well, let's try this. Let's try that.' It's been a lot of fun."
Napoleon Dynamite has a loyal fan base who quote iconic lines. Are you looking forward to more of that?
Jon Heder: "Well, yes, I mean, I think going into it we felt well, are we going to save some of those classic lines or are we going to try to create new ones. I think it's a blend. It's like we didn't want to just jump out of the gate saying all the old stuff that everybody knows, but we wanted to obviously keep it somewhat familiar. I think there is a lot of new stuff that people are really going to grab onto. We have new characters, their lines and so-"
Jared Hess: "In addition to Napoleon I think a lot of people are going to quoting Grandma as well."
Jon Heder: "Yes, Grandma gets a lot more screen time, which is great."
Was it easy or difficult to get the entire cast back together?
Jon Heder: "It was a lot of fun because most of hadn't seen each other since it played up at Sundance [Film Festival] when we first screened it. It was kind of a fun little reunion to get everybody back together for the table read. It's been a lot of fun. Most of us hadn't had consistent contact throughout the years that have passed, but everybody was such a delight to work with on the film and it's continued on the series."
Is Napoleon the same guy or has he got some new obsessions coming up that we can look forward to?
Jared Hess: "Oh, okay. No, I think Napoleon at his core is definitely the same person, but we are able to see him in so many more varied situations and just aspects of the character that we never really got a chance to see in the film."
Mike Scully: "I definitely think there will be new obsessions, but stuff that makes sense to Napoleon's character for sure. We don't talk about ninjas a lot in the movie, but in the TV show of course there will be ninja stuff. It will be awesome."
Was the character of Napoleon based on any real acquaintances?
Jared Hess: "Yes, after my mom saw the film for the first time, she said, 'Well, that was a lot of embarrassing family material.' I come from a family of six boys and Napoleon for me-the writing and directing process-the character was really based on probably every nerdy aspect of me and my five brothers so it was kind of a hybrid amalgamation of my adolescence."
What was it about the film that made it such a sensation across different social groups, not just with underdog nerds, for instance?
Jared Hess: "Yes, I just think people really related and responded to the awkwardness of everything that was happening in the film. I think that kind of in a way transcended age groups and I think they really had to love the characters to really enjoy it and understand them on some level and relate to them on some level. Even if it wasn't the nerdy aspects of it, maybe they had a failed football game in high school and they now live in a van. Whatever it may be, I think people just really responded to the characters."
How will the style of animation compare with the rest of the animated comedies in Fox's Animation Domination?
Mike Scully: "Style-wise very similar to The Simpsons in terms of like the color palette. It's got a really amazing color palette. We want it to really kind of pop, but stylistically it will have-"
Jared Hess: "Character design-wise it's totally its own thing." It stands out from the rest of the lineup, for sure just in the style and design of everything. Like Mike said, it's colorful and vibrant, but the artists did a really faithful job of representing how the characters look and felt on film and brought that to the animation."
Mike Scully: "It also has a nice like small town feel to it as opposed to kind of like the suburban world of like The Simpsons or Family Guy. It's got its own distinct background look."
What's been the biggest challenge in terms of adapting your work for animation as opposed to staying live action?
Jared Hess: "Yes, it's funny, the more that we've all been working on the series the more I've realized that maybe Napoleon should have been animation from the beginning because the movie was kind of a live action cartoon as it was. It may have just been easier to make it a cartoon to begin with. Yes, it's been a lot of fun and it's transitioned quite seamlessly into animation. All the animation is done on the episodes; we're in the final kind of stages of mixing and just kind of sorting out those last minute post-production details."
Was your main goal in making the pilot to appeal to people who already loved the movie or to attract a new audience?
Jared Hess: "I think we wanted to remain true to what people loved, enjoyed about the film. At the same time people who know nothing about the film. But we're definitely I think in the early episodes of the show trying to make it appeal to people that know nothing about the movie or anything, but they can jump right into it and get onboard."
Mike Scully: "Yes, I've actually show a couple of episodes to my 11 year old nephew and his friends and they've never seen the film and they instantly just jumped right onboard with the show really having no knowledge of the film at all."
Can we expect to see any awesome animated dance moves from Napoleon?
Jared Hess: "Absolutely."
Jon Heder: "It will have to be motion-captured. I'll have to put on the motion capture suit."
Jared Hess: "Motion capture to cell animation."
Jon Heder: "I know, I know, so it's going to be-"
Jared Hess: "We've been working on it with James Cameron."
Jon Heder: "We're going to be breaking ground in technology."