All images courtesy of DreamWorks, Twentieth Century Fox
The adaptation of the popular book series Captain Underpants is flying into theaters on June 2 and fans — both young and old — couldn’t be any more excited. The movie, appropriately titled CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE, includes the voice talents of Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, and Thomas Middleditch and is directed David Soren (Turbo). They, along with the mastermind behind the books Dav Pilkey, recently talked about the movie at a press conference. They shared information about making this into an animated franchise and dished the dirt on who was the biggest diva of the cast — and the Tracking Board was there to get the scoop.
1. The cast that records together stays together.
Helms said that the cast was lucky enough to work in the studio together — which almost never happens in animated movies. Soren insisted that they record together to see their chemistry. And considering the cast’s comedy pedigree (which also includes Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele, and Kristen Schaal — who unfortunately were not at the conference), it gave them a chance to improv and riff with each other. But Helms had one minor complaint about the recording sessions.
“It was a special treat even though Kevin doesn’t wear deodorant,” Helms admits.
Hart adds, “I also do it with my shirt off — all voiceover in the booth was done with my shirt off.”
“And in your underpants,” Helms chimes in.
“Yes,” Hart laughs. “But (seriously) David is amazing at what he does and we had great material to work with. When you’re looking at a book with this kind of following you just want to make sure you do your job and bring justice to an already successful franchise. Having Ed, Thomas and the rest of the cast to play off of made it easier when you saw what people were doing with their characters.”
2. Thomas Middleditch goes on a power trip
At the beginning of the press conference, everyone who was expected to be on the panel was there — with the exception of Thomas Middleditch. The conference started without him and about 10 minutes into it while Hart is answering a question, Middleditch comes in.
Hart stops, looks at Middleditch and says “He was like this every day on set.”
“I enjoy making people wait for me,” declared Middleditch without missing a beat. It’s 100 percent a power move. I am the alpha in this room and I will have you all know that.”
Of course, it was all a joke…or was it?
3. The cast had complete control after seeing the first cut…kind of
Soren said that the cast was brought in for an early cut of the film about a year and a half ago. Soren admitted that it was “hardly polished,” but the cast was a bit more honest with their critique.
“We tore it apart,” said Helms.
Middleditch adds, “We eviscerated it.”
“Thank God you screened it for us because I think we saved it — we improved this movie to genius,” said Helms.
“I remember watching it and I said, ‘More Kevin’, said Hart. “I told David that we needed to fix that and they did.”
Helms adds, “You actually wanted to change the name to —”
“Kevin Underpants,” said Hart. “I tried, but no one else bought it.”
4. Kevin & Thomas vs. George & Harold
In the movie Hart and Middleditch voice George and Harold, grade school BFFs who have an affinity for comics, jokes, pranks, and laughter — which wasn’t too far from the truth of how the two actors were when they were in grade school.
“As a kid, I was very much a prankster. I was very much always in trouble because I didn’t want to stop laughing,” said Hart. “I loved laughing in school and I loved making other people laugh. In school, that’s the worst thing you can do — be the funny guy. Because no one is focusing. I was very much like my character — and that was what was cool about the movie. I love the relationship that Thomas and I had with those characters. In school, that best friend is important — the one that you open up to. The one that you talk to on a different level. That’s dope to me. That’s something kids could relate to.”
“I agree, said Middleditch. “I became a jokester in class later, but the other day I just realized: I had curly hair, drew comic books and I liked to giggle and laugh. I probably a needed a George but never got one so it was more of a solitary effort. I was just a weird kid that liked to draw comic books.”
5. Kevin Hart’s real-life Harold
It’s unfortunate that Middleditch didn’t have a George when he was a kid (insert collective “awwww” here), but fortunately, Hart had a real-life Harold.
“I had a friend named Kyle Lowe and you couldn’t separate us,” said Hart. “He was my right-hand guy. To this day when I go back to Philadelphia, he comes out to shows and supports.”
When asked if they are still friends, he immediately answers, “Oddly, we aren’t still friends. I’m the guy that makes it and stops talking to people. That’s a fact!”
Obviously joking, Hart continues, “We aren’t close as we used to be but at school, I wasn’t in trouble without him and he wasn’t in trouble without me.” Much like George and Harold.
6. Ed Helms’ lost “tra-la-la” sessions
Fans of the books will know that Captain Underpants’ signature call to action is “TRA-LA-LAAAA!” It’s a catchphrase that Pilkey is proud of so Helms, who voices the titular hero, really wanted to know if his “tra-la-la” was acceptable to Pilkey.
“It was totally wrong,” joked Pilkey.
“David made me do it that way!” Helms defended.
“It’s not the way I used to do it,” admits Pilkey. “When they sold the books in box sets you would open it and it would go “tra-la-laaaaa!” I did the voice for that — you did it better.”
Helms glows, “I had to make it my own.”
“You did a million versions of it!” said Soren.
“So does this mean there’s a solid ‘tra-la-la’ session out there?!” asked Middleditch.
7. Kevin Hart has a HUGE phobia
At one point in the movie, Hart had to do something that he does not like to do.
“We made you do a little singing in the movie,” said Soren, “and I believe your comment was I would rather do nudity than singing.”
“I would — I was really uncomfortable with the singing,” admits Hart. “I just don’t do it…that is when the character falls apart. (turns to Middleditch) Your voice is great though!”
Middleditch responds, “I’m an angel — you get these pipes warmed up and I will bring all of you to tears. After you cry it will be followed by a ‘please stop!'”
8. Captain Underpants v. Wonder Woman
Captain Underpants opens in theaters the same weekend of another superhero: Wonder Woman. When asked which one will conquer the box office, the cast isn’t afraid to back down.
“Wonder Woman doesn’t stand a chance!” exclaims Hart.
Middleditch adds, “Marvel doesn’t make successful movie — that’s DC anyways, but still!”
“There is no following behind Wonder Woman, we’ll be fine,” jokes Hart.
9. The future of the Captain Underpants franchise
Considering Pilkey wrote an entire series of books about the underwear-clad superhero, it’s destined to be a franchise — but that’s always not always the case. Even so, the cast is hopeful.
“We would love for this to go on,” said Hart. “It’s an actor’s dream to be part of an animation franchise that can live on. Everything is set up perfectly so we hope that people go out and respond to the movie.”
Helms, however, has a very different response.
“I’ve signed on for 30 (Captain Underpant) movies,” Helms jokingly admits. “I’m pretty sure that DreamWorks is committed to 30.”
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer