By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—No one knows when or if a sequel to the 2012 blockbuster animated feature “Wreck-It Ralph” will happen. And John C. Reilly, who voices the titular videogame character, isn’t about to spill the beans.
For the time being, Reilly’s fans can hear him voice a different character, that of Officer Barry, on “Stone Quackers,” an FXX animated series that he also executive produces.
“Stone Quackers” premiered on the cable network last fall. As part of FXX’s Animation Domination block, it airs Thursdays at midnight.
The series revolves around the misadventures of two ducks named Clay and Whit (voiced by Clay Tatum and Whitmer Thomas, respectively), who live in the fictional town of Cheeseburger Island. As Officer Barry, Reilly is the voice of authority—and also a duck with curly hair.
The Oscar nominated actor (“Chicago”) recently spoke about the new series, created by animation veteran Ben Jones, who previously created the Cartoon Network series, “Problem Solverz.”[private]
Q: What’s different about recording a series like “Stone Quackers” compared to recording something like, “Wreck-It Ralph,” a film?
Reilly: They’re pretty similar, in my experience. What I like about doing voice-over, in general, is that you’re never fighting the sun. When you’re doing films, you’re always fighting either the clock or the sun or you’re always desperate when this kind of scramble to get what you’re trying to get in as quickly as you can. But with animation, the voice recording is always moving faster than the animators can move, so you have the luxury of exploring and improvising and goofing around. I guess one difference between “Wreck-It Ralph” and this was these are episodes, so the story arc takes place within one session as opposed to “Wreck-It Ralph,” which was months of getting that arc complete. But honestly, I felt really lucky. I was very careful before I agreed to do this, that it would feel similar to my experience on “Wreck-It Ralph,” because I got really spoiled on that, by that director (Rich Moore). He gave me a lot of freedom, and it was just fun to be together.
I quickly realized meeting Ben and these guys that this would also be a fun hang. That’s pretty much my criteria at this point for everything in my career. It has to be a fun hang or it’s really not worth it.
Q: Are we ever going to get “Step Brothers 2?”
Reilly: Next question. I’ll do a press junket about that, pal.
Q: With the target of this series older kids and adults, basically, watching at midnight, do you feel like you have a little more freedom in terms of what you say? Obviously, you can kind of go to places and say things that you wouldn’t have been able to say, like in “Wreck-It Ralph.” This seems targeted toward an older demographic, like your audience for “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Step Brothers” or one of your other R-rated live-action comedies.
Reilly: I don’t think because it’s on at midnight means anything these days. You make something, the whole world’s going to see it, and I can’t tell you how many times a nine or ten-year old has come up to me and said, “I love ‘Step Brothers,’ and that part when you say, **** this ****.” It’s kind of startling. You can try to guide your material towards a certain age group or audience, but in fact, it’s just out there, and I think the kind of anarchic fun spirit of this show really appeals to a lot of different people, but I never try to feel constrained.
The only constraint, I don’t really try to edit myself in terms of like content. What edits you is the character, like Ralph wouldn’t swear. He wouldn’t do stuff that was like R-rated because he’s not like an R-rated character. You know what I mean? He was sort of an innocent. So I didn’t feel constrained, like, “Oh, I can’t say this, I can’t say that.” I was just honoring who he was.
Q: I have to ask you about “Wreck-It Ralph 2.” When is it going to happen?
Reilly: Don’t waste your follow-up question on this. Do you know how much press I’ll have to do if that movie’s made? I’ll talk to you about it then.
Q: What was it about this project and working with Ben, in particular, that made you want to get involved?
Reilly: I was actually first exposed to Ben through his artwork. I saw a show that my friend, Mike Diamond, curated at MOCA, and his piece was my favorite piece of the whole show. And, then it turns out we had a mutual friend, Eric Wareheim, and Eric just had nothing but great things to say about Ben. And, then I went in and met with everyone, and he was a delightful chat, and Whit (Thomas) and Clay (Tatum) were also very charming, funny guys, and we quickly just started telling stories about our childhood and juvenile delinquency. It just seemed like a really inspiring, fun thing to do. The first thing I saw of Ben was “Neon Knome” That first short he did that was the prequel to “Problem Solverz.” A lot of my friends were obsessed with that for a long time. I just thought it was this mysterious thing created by some weirdo somewhere, and then that was true, but it also turned out that Ben had done a lot of other things. So I was already a big fan.
When this came my way, I thought, “Wow, I must be a cool person to be asked by such a cool person to do such a cool project.”
Q: What do you think makes “Stone Quackers” stand out from the rest of the animated shows on TV?
Reilly: I don’t have a huge awareness of the other animation on TV other than, say “The Simpsons,” or something, but what I can say? What I think it has going for it is I can tell from the creative process that improvisation is embraced and used, which gives it a real kind of spark of excitement and originality. It’s also very personal, these stories. For the most part, or at least the characters come from the real lives of Whit and Clay. Having Ben’s perspective as an artist is different. It’s different than just trying to please people with a cartoon. There seems to be more depth to the expression, and certainly visually it’s pretty unique.
Q: In your role as executive producer on this, what does that mean you have to do?
Reilly: (deadpan) It means I get more money. I make money off the actual creative people involved in the show. It’s like all executive producers; it’s really just an empty title by which I can direct money towards my bank account. No, I have to give an actual answer; I thought I could just give a smart*** answer. You know, I’m kidding.
At this point, I’m finding this terrible thing happening where I’m the oldest person in the room when I go out to a movie set or any creative endeavor, so I guess with age and experience comes good advice. Just slowly embracing that part where you can help people do what they’re trying to do just by sticking your name on it.
Q: Did you have any say in what your character would look like or did you leave it all to Ben and the animators to do that?
Reilly: No. I didn’t really. They all look like ducks, so I didn’t try to change that. I think we did have like a brief conversation. I was like, “Really? You’re going to put curly hair on the duck? Okay.” I honestly don’t remember. I just have so much respect for Ben as an artist that I just was like, whatever. I’m going to be delighted by whatever it is, so I put myself in his hands regarding that.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the animation and voice-over process in comparison to a film and making a movie?
Reilly: Shooting movie scenes are really pressurized situations because you’re trying to quickly get lightning in a bottle, and then you have to move on. In animation, you have this luxury of always having time because the animators need time to draw, and so you can horse around in the studio, you don’t have to memorize all the dialogue, you can just kind of freestyle, make mistakes, go back, do it again, so it ends up being this really kind of collegial fun thing, or it has been for me, for the most part. It has been all the time on this one.[/private]