Talking ‘Free Birds’ with Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler and Director Jimmy Hayward

– by Gig Patta

freebirds Gobble. Gobble.

Thanksgiving arrived early this year in the form of the animated movie “Free Birds.”

The movie follows a couple of turkeys going back in time to stop the very first Thanksgiving from serving…..turkey as a dish.

The voice cast included Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, George Takei, Keith David and Dan Fogler.

Latino-Review was present at the “Free Birds” press conference earlier this month. The attendees included director Jimmy Hayward, Wilson, Harrelson and Poehler.

“Free Birds” will be in theaters tomorrow.

Read a partial transcript below of the press conference. Or listen to the audio which features a lot of fun stories and laughter.

Where did the story come from? Where did it generate? It’s a lot of fun from these radically different turkeys together.

Jimmy Hayward: It originated from these two writers named [John] Strauss and [David] Stern. They had the original concept and it went through a couple of different versions. Then Scott Mosier and I picked it up and wrote the screenplay that’s there now. That’s pretty much it. [Laughter] No agenda. Nothing like that. It’s just a really fantastic premise about on what would happen if two turkeys that got access to a time machine. There’s a lot to work with it. [Laughter]

My question is actually for all of you.  What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory? Is there any particular dish you’re well known for? Is there any dramatic things that happen during a Thanksgiving dinner?

Owen Wilson: Lots of Thanksgiving memories. We would always have a football game on Thanksgiving. It would lead to a lot of arguments. The Cowboys game is always on Thanksgiving. For favorites, [it’ll] be my mom’s stuffing in the turkey, cranberry sauce, apple pie…..you guys want to jump in? [Laughter]

Jimmy Hayward: I thought Thanksgiving was designed for Thanksgiving for families to get together and argue. [Laughter]

Owen Wilson: Yeah, and we accomplish that.

Amy Poehler: Well, I started a new thing with my kids where we watch a movie on Thanksgiving that we never seen before. That’s always fun to show your kids a movie.

Owen Wilson: Like one of yours?

Amy Poehler: Yeah, only mine. [Laughter]

Like a 30s and 40s movies?

Amy Poehler: I wish. Last year we watched the original “Willy Wonka” on Thanksgiving which was just great. So maybe this year we’ll watch “Free Birds.” [Laughter]

What are your Thanksgiving memories?

Woody Harrelson: The thing I remembered most about Thanksgiving was that after I moved to New York and we would come back to Thanksgiving in Lebanon, Ohio, where my mom still lives. We would just have the best time…..no, I just don’t remember much. [Laughter]

Since this is a family friendly film for kids, how important was it to do a project that you can share with your family compared to your past films which may not be age appropriate?

Amy Poehler: It’s nice. It’s nice to be to work on something that you can [share]. I got to show them some of the art from the film. They were really into it. They like the buddy adventure about two young boys. It speaks to them, certainly.

Most of the time they’re really disinterested in on what you do like most kids.

Woody Harrelson: This is the first movie that I’ve done that my kids can watch. [Laughter] Even the twenty-year-old. [Laughter] The cool thing was that I asked Makani, my seven-year-old rascal, on what her favorite movie was. I wasn’t trying to lead her towards anything. And she goes “Free Birds.” [Laughter]

Really? You know the way to my heart, kid. You’re going to get dessert. [Laughter]

Amy Poehler: You should point out that she is also your publicist. [Laughter]

Woody and Owen, you did accomplish a great buddy movie vibe you guys did. You weren’t in the room together. Was that a little weird for you guys to not be in the room together recording. I’m assuming you weren’t.

Woody Harrelson: We did the first session together. But then we’re not at the same place at the same time.

Wasn’t that just hard?

Woody Harrelson: No. He would [say] something funny and I try to really respond.

Owen Wilson: We did have some sessions together. I don’t know if there’s any more magic in those sessions than we were apart.

Woody Harrelson: I remembered being hung over and all the magic came from your corner. [Laughter]

Jimmy Hayward: I think some of it comes from the improvisational work on the spot.

Owen Wilson: And this guy likes to have the last word. So it’s maybe the best not to have him in the room with me. [Laughter]

This movie is heavily filled with vegetarian ideology. How many of you turned to vegetarianism or veganism after sympathizing with the turkeys in the story?  

Owen Wilson: I wasn’t thinking that when I wanted to play a turkey. I didn’t think it was a vegan ideology. It was more of a funny idea or these guys traveling back in time. But, we could’ve just been easily playing soy beans traveling back in time in Japan. [Laughter] Maybe we were trying to stop tofu in miso. Turkey is just funnier than soy beans. [Laughter]

Usually in the animation, we would see a little bit of the person in the character that has been drawn. Did you see them as these turkeys? Did you see yourselves as these turkeys?

Woody Harrelson: I did see some of myself. [Laughter]

The pecs are from Woody, right? [Laughter]

Woody Harrelson: I didn’t want to say it. I’m glad you brought it up. [Laughter]

Jimmy Hayward: Turkeys aren’t very good looking animals. They’re pretty ugly. We design the characters and look to execute what they need to do in the movie—still be appealing to look at. I don’t see much turkey resemblance in any of these guys.

In the film, Reggie was an outcast in the film with his clan. Was there a time in your life that you felt like an outcast?

Owen Wilson: I think my name when I was a kid. You wanted to fit in. There weren’t many kids named Owen. That’s always the first rule I had in the neighborhood to play a game to have a new name. For the game, mine was always Jim Johnson. [Laughter] So I think every kid could kind of relate to that.

So if you can travel back in time, what historical time period would you go back to? And if you change anything, what would you change?

Owen Wilson: Do we have to go back?

Amy Poehler: I would just go back to last night and get more sleep. [Laughter] Is that exciting? I guess I should’ve think bigger.

Woody Harrelson: I would like to go back in time like Owen did in “Midnight in Paris.” That was a good era.

Owen Wilson: This is probably with my inner twelve-year-old. Dinosaurs. Custer’s last stand. I want to see some action. [Laughter]

Jimmy, you primarily done animation, but you also had done “Jonah Hex.” Do you plan on traveling to outside of animation anytime soon?

Jimmy Hayward: I plan on making stories and making movies that I’m stoked on. Anything that is just exciting and interesting to me in any way. That’s what I’m interested in doing. I’m not sure if that answers your question.

If you had a time machine to travel back in a moment in your life, then what moment would you try to relive?

Amy Poehler: I was in a dog run once and I threw two tennis balls up in the air. My lab caught them both in his mouth and everybody clapped. [Laughter] I like to see that again.

Woody Harrelson: And you should have your phone out this time. [Laughter] You have the most unexpected answers to this. One was last night for sleep and now a dog. [Laughter] You get two big opportunities…..

Amy Poehler: I guess I just think too small. [Laughter]

Jimmy, when you’re making a children’s movie that’s based around actual events—do you ever feel that you have to balance between both being entertaining and educational for children?

Jimmy Hayward: I think with this picture we lead more with entertainment. That’s why we put a fun disclaimer at the beginning of the movie. We didn’t set out to make it super-educational. Not that we were trying to kids the wrong things. I felt it was the responsibility to make an entertaining heart-warming good message. It was a message about the flock and togetherness. It’s about being a part that’s bigger than yourself. That’s probably the most educational part of it. I think that’s the opportunity rather than teaching the kids about history. That’s what school is for.

I think there’s a real message in the movie that applies to all people. And that’s more important than dates and times.

“Free Birds” will be in theaters tomorrow on November 1st.

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Interviews, Film Amy Poehler, Free Birds, Jimmy Hayward, Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson