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– by Gig Patta

For many generations, Woody Woodpecker entertained children with his sassiness and often mischievous actions. And now he’ll come alive on to the screen.

Universal 1440 Entertainment presented a new hybrid film that blends live-action and animation with an original story of Woody Woodpecker.

The film is directed by Alex Zamm (Inspector Gadget 2, The Little Rascals Save the Day). It stars Timothy Omundson (Psych), Thaila Ayala (Rio Heat), Gram Verchere (Fargo), Jordana Largy (Monster Trucks) and Eric Bauza (The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water) as the voice of Woody Woodpecker.

Here’s the synopsis of this movie:

Woody must protect his forest home from Lance Walters (Omundson), who starts building his dream mansion in the forest with his son, Tommy (Verchere) and fiancée, Vanessa (Ayala). To make matters worse, Woody must avoid the clutches of two grizzly poachers. With a series of crazy hijinks to sabotage their plans, Woody proves he’ll stop at nothing to defend his turf.

LRM had a phone interview with actor Graham Verchere earlier this month on his first hybrid film that blends animation and live-action acting. He also addressed on learning to play the guitar for his role.

Woody Woodpecker is now available on DVD and digital download today.

Read our exclusive interview transcript below.

LRM: I’ve checked out your movie Woody Woodpecker.

Graham Verchere: Yeah, I think I’ve heard of it.

LRM: [Laughs] For you Graham, did you grow up with Woody Woodpecker? I wasn’t sure if that was still on air for your generation.

Graham Verchere: No, I think it was before me. If it was on TV, then I never saw it.

LRM: So how did you become familiarized with this type of cartoon then? Especially since you’ve never saw it before. Did they sent you a bunch of DVDs?

Graham Verchere: No, when we got the audition, I checked out a couple of the episodes from a long time ago. I just watched them through.

LRM: So what did you think about it? What is your impression of Woody Woodpecker as a cartoon?

Graham Verchere: It’s a pretty classic cartoon. It was made a long time ago. I wouldn’t say it would be a type of cartoon I would normally watch. It’s still totally fun.

LRM: [Laughs] Out of curiosity, what would you normally watch for your generation?

Graham Verchere: Awww, man. Not a lot of cartoons. The only cartoons I watch right now is Rick & Morty. [Chuckles] I like to watch things like Black Mirror and stuff on Netflix.

LRM: Those are pretty good awesome shows. For you particularly, what attracted you to this project? What made you wanted to be in a Woody Woodpecker movie?

Graham Verchere: On what I felt that was interesting was on how they were going to put Woody into the movie. I had never done anything with CGI before. I was really excited to try that out. And the bit with guitar was also pretty cool.

LRM: Let’s talk first about the CGI part of the movie. Was the concept of doing CGI like this for the first time was kind of scary? How did you approach it?

Graham Verchere: It was something that I’ve never done before. I didn’t know on how they were going to do it. But, it turned out that it was a lot of acting with things that wasn’t there. In some parts, they had a fake Woody, a stuffed doll on the end of a stick, so we could see on where he would be. Otherwise, there was a lot of pretending that he was there.

LRM: Was it a little odd to be acting against a doll on a stick for yourself?

Graham Verchere: Definitely odd. Yeah. It was something to get used to. There was no response. You’re just talking to the air.

LRM: By going off a script, did anyone was talking back at you?

Graham Verchere: They had someone playing off the lines. They told us on what the lines were so we could act properly. A lot of times, it was just done visually.

LRM: Did it leave any type of improv for this film, in particularly with your role?

Graham Verchere: What do you mean?

LRM: Did you have the opportunity to make up your own jokes off the script? Were there any chance of improvisation throughout this movie? Or did you just stuck it with the script?

Graham Verchere: I do have to think back. I’m sure there were definitely times with a bit of word rearrangements. I don’t think there was too much drastic improvisation.

LRM: Cool! On being in a hybrid film, how did it feel acting with great live actors like Timothy Omundson, for example? I love that guy. He’s a great actor.

Graham Verchere: Oh, yeah. He’s so talented. Working with other actors were pretty regular. I’m used to on doing that. It was also kind of difficult in scenes with multiple people trying to interact with the CGI. A lot of the times, they had to put Woody on where your eye line is. If there are multiple people, then you’ll have to match it up perfectly.

LRM: When you’re actually acting out these scenes, was it funny to see others acting against thin air?

Graham Verchere: There were some scenes with big interactions with Woody. Tim had to actually try to hit Woody with a broom a couple of times. [Chuckles] It’s funny to watch him swinging the broom around and missing [a CGI character].

LRM: [Laughs] Since so many goofy stuff happens in this film, what was your favorite stunt joke you witnessed on set?

Graham Verchere: Oh, man. That’s a tough one! There’s a lot. Right now, I’m thinking about the cement in the car or smashing the table with the broom or even with Woody pecking the bullies’ clothes off. But, I think I’m going to go with the cement scene since it was so much fun to watch.

LRM: Yeah! I was quite so amazed on how they actually did that. Did you had a chance to touch that…..oatmeal? I think that’s what they used to portray the cement in that scene.

Graham Verchere: Yeah, I think so. I think it was just oatmeal dyed grey. Well, it was pretty cold.

LRM: [Laughs] At least, you didn’t have to taste it or eat it.

Graham Verchere: [Laughs] Yeah. Luckily, I didn’t get some.

LRM: Let’s swtich gears. Let’s talk about your singing and guitar playing. Are you a natural musician? Or did you had to train for the part in this movie?

Graham Verchere: I’ve done music stuff before. I started to do this stuff in theater as well, which involved singing. I used to playing the piano a long time ago, although I am relearning it now. I’ve never touched a guitar before. But, I had done some singing.

LRM: Was it you playing the guitar in the movie or was it mainly air guitar?

Graham Verchere: I did actually played the guitar. I’m not quite sure if they used it for the actual recording though.

LRM: What about the singing part? Was that actually you too?

Graham Verchere: I definitely did sing in the movie. I don’t know if they used autotuned my voice.

LRM: [Laughs] So what was actually harder for you then—acting against Woody or singing and playing a guitar for this film?

Graham Verchere: I think it was more challenging to learn to play the guitar, because acting with someone invisible—you’ll eventually get used to it. I had to learn an entire instrument for this movie.

LRM: That’s terrific! Does this inspire you to some day pick up the guitar playing to the next level for yourself?

Graham Verchere: I did. It was always in the back of head in wanting to play it. When it came down during the audition process, I was the only person who didn’t know on how to actually play the guitar. We figured that you know what? Let’s get one. If you can’t get along, we can skip the guitar. And if we do, then it’s worth it. And I still do play it today.

LRM: Since this is your first experience with a CGI-hybrid film, would you like to do something like this again?

Graham Verchere: Yeah, definitely. It was really interesting and good experience. It was something out of the ordinary at least for me. I was always curious to see on how they were going to animate that. I definitely think it would be really, really fun to do again.

LRM: Thank you, Graham. I thoroughly enjoyed your role in this film. You were a lot of fun in this film. I know you had a lot of fun in this film.

Graham Verchere: Thank you so much!

Source: Exclusive to LRM

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.