By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Few things annoy the Scots more than hearing non-native speakers mangling their language.
“People’s ears are much more attuned to authenticity in accents,” says Glasgow native Craig Ferguson, host of CBS’ “Late Late Show.”
Ferguson is one of a handful of Scottish performers tapped by Pixar to provide their voices in the latest animated feature “Brave,” a colorful action adventure set in medieval Scotland. He gives voice to Lord Macintosh, the off-kilter leader of a royal highland clan, who wants his son to win the hand of the lovely Princess Merida.
Ferguson quips that he wasn’t asked to perform the role so much as he was “summoned” by the respected animation house that has produced such award-winning hits as “Toy Story,” “The Incredibles” and “Up.”
“Pixar requires you (to do this) and you go, otherwise you’re a fool,” he says. “That’s kind of what happens. They’ve earned that right by what they’ve done. It gives you a special feeling, Realizing what these people have done, trusting that they will do it again, that’s really it. There’s trust involved.”
Besides, says the veteran funnyman, “if you’re going to make a film about Scotland, I think it’s probably a good idea to have Scottish people in it.”
Prior to the film’s world premiere, Ferguson was joined by cast mates Kelly Macdonald, who provides the voice of Merida, a strong-willed Scottish princess who desires nothing more than to control her own destiny, and Kevin McKidd (of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame), who gives voice to two characters: Lord MacGuffin, leader of a Scottish clan and Young MacGuffin, his nearly incomprehensible son, to talk about playing their characters and taking pride in being part of animation history.
Front Row Features: Do you feel gratified that this is a cast of people mostly doing their own accents?
Craig Ferguson: I think it’s a sign of the times. I think the world is different from the way it was 20 or 30 years ago when regional accents were a very exotic and odd thing.
Kelly Macdonald: What’s interesting, though, is I’m Scottish and I’ve read things that say I’ve got a terrible Scottish accent.
Front Row Features: Being Scottish, did you make any suggestions to the animators about your characters?
Ferguson: The film was pretty well formed by the time I joined it. The story was pretty much set. I think they just wanted us to bring our voices. They were very much open. They’d say, “This is the line of dialogue” and we’d say, “Yeah, but it would be more natural if…” or “A Scottish person would say it more like this,” or “It would be funnier if we said it like this.” So they were very open to us changing things and giving us different options.
Macdonald: I think the filmmakers have seen more of Scotland than I have.
Front Row Features: Kevin, how did you go about developing the voices for your characters?
Kevin McKidd: I started out just doing Young MacGuffin. It took us a while because we wanted Young MacGuffin to have a voice that nobody could understand because his accent is so thick. So we started messing about with that, making up words and that didn’t seem to work so I suggested this dialect from (the Scottish highlands around Inverness) called Doric. My grandfather spoke it, and it’s a very thick, almost Norwegian-style dialect that’s quite strange, Then, they offered me Lord MacGuffin, the older MacGuffin character, the dad, and we started doing sessions where I’d do both at the same time and I ended up meeting somewhere in the middle. To avoid confusion, I’d do Lord MacGuffin first thing in the morning when I’d just woken and my voice was low. After lunch, we’d do young MacGuffin.
Front Row Features: Where did you draw your inspiration for the characters?
McKidd: I basically channeled my dad for Lord MacGuffin because he’s grumpy and old and I channeled myself as a young boy for young MacGuffin. I was a very painfully shy boy. That’s why I became an actor.
Front Row Features: Craig, can you contrast this voiceover experience with doing the voice of Gobbler in “How to Train Your Dragon?” Were they different or the same?
Ferguson: It’s a different person so that’s different. But the technique of doing it is much the same. It’s not the biggest stretch in the world to go from one Scottish speaking character to another Scottish speaking character, but I assume that’s why they asked me to do it. The contrast was the personalities of the characters involved.
Front Row Features: Is it more fun to do animated characters than perform live-action roles?
Macdonald: This is my first.
Ferguson: It’s good for me because I’m not a very good actor. I’m pretty good with voices, though. Plus, I have a day job so I can’t go and make a (live-action) film. What I like about it is that you’re not limited by who you are physically. Both Kevin and I have done radio work in Scotland, and doing voiceover work is very similar.
Front Row Features: Did any of you have an opportunity to record together?
McKidd: No, we were all in different areas of the country and parts of the world. It was a shame but I think Katharine (Serafian, the producer), said that if we were all in the same room, we would never have gotten any work done. It was a shame we didn’t get a chance to do sessions together, though.
Macdonald: I think it’s the norm to (record) on your own.
Front Row Features: So how was working solo then?
Ferguson: It’s nice because while you’re doing it, you can close your eyes and see the film in your head and just participate in it. The interesting thing with this is when I saw the film, it was better than what I imagined, which means Pixar is better than me at making animated films.
Front Row Features: Kelly, how did you feel when you knew you would be the first female Pixar protagonist?
Macdonald: Attention to detail is not my strong point so it took me a while to get that. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know it while I was recording my part. It’ would have been a lot of pressure. But I don’t think I’ve watched a Pixar movie and felt robbed that there wasn’t a female protagonist. They’ve make films about fish and toys and robots and there are some very strong female characters in those films, in “The Incredibles” and “Toy Story,” so I never felt like I was missing out but I feel very privileged having said that.
Front Row Features: Is there a Scottish network in Hollywood? Do you guys get together?
Ferguson: We can’t tell you that.
McKidd: We’d have to kill you.
Ferguson: The Scotia-Nostra.