Disney’s “Flora & Ulysses” is probably one of the most safest and comforting family superhero comedies to be released this year. While it isn’t nearly as complex or dense as some of the more mature films of the genre, its content makes it very accessible and resonating with younger audiences, especially those who are navigating life during a time of confusion and frustration like a family unit breaking apart. What’s more, this family-friendly story has a superpowered squirrel who may or may not help mend that broken family.
That’s It LA had a chance to sit down for a special virtual press conference with the cast and crew of “Flora & Ulysses.” During that time, they talked about their experiences working on the project, what it’s like for their kids to watch it, and so much more. So we narrowed everything down to the top five things we learned from the press conference.
1 – Watch Yourself
For Allison Hannigan who plays Phyliss, Flora’s mother, she is apprehensive when it comes to watching herself on screen. But it was different for “Flora and Ulysses,” because it was a chance to share a moment watching her kids see their mother star in a film adapation of one of their favorite books. “I forgot that I was even a part of it because I was engaged watching them. And they were just so-they were so happy,” She said. “They laughed out loud, like, beyond belly laughs.” These laughs got to a point where Hannigan had to tell her kids to stop otherwise they were going to miss the next scene.
“My husband and I kept looking at each other like, ‘It’s so good.’ We were so happy, and it was such a new experience for me to be able to not to be critical of, ‘Oh, I should’ve done that,’ blah, blah, blah, you know, the, like, actor thing, um, and just really just be engrossed in this wonderful movie,” Hannigan added.
2 – Different Kind of Comedy
“Flora and Ulysses” is the second time that director Lena Khan and actor comedian Danny Pudi have worked together. Ever since he first started working with her on “The Tiger Hunter” Pudi said he put into his contract that he’d work with her on every film she does for the rest of her career. But she assured him that “Flora and Ulysses” would be a “complete depature” from their first effort working together. “I love physical comedy. I thought that was gonna be really exciting and just kinda fun to dive into this world,” Pudi said. And in terms of the physicality, they would give me pillows to put under my shirt. Sometimes this weird headless squirrel mushy doll to simulate the VFXs what the real squirrel would look like.”
“It was like dance, it was just letting go. It looked like I was getting electrocuted a lot, just kinda running around,” Pudi added. “Technically, I’ve been attacked by a few animals in my life.”
3 – Comic Inspirations
Author Kate DiCamillo isn’t what you would say to be a traditional superhero comic book fan. She grew up on healthy doses of Charlie Brown and Peanuts comics, which helped shape her childhood and current sensibilities. But when she was writing the book which centers on a 10-year-old fan of superhero comics, her editor saw that the author ran into one problem, the book had no superheroes in it.
“When I was writing the book and I had Flora love comic book superheroes, I turned it in, it didn’t have a superhero in it. And my editor said, ‘Oh, you’re gonna have to make up a superhero.’ And I-and I thought, ‘I can’t do that,’ DiCamillo said. But she discovered how much fun it could be after creating a hero like Incandesto. “I went back and did prep work by reading superhero comics.”
4 – Changes From Page to Screen
As with any film adaptation from a major studio like Disney, the source material will change when it goes from the book to the screenplay to the screen. And for “Flora and Ulysses” author DiCamillo, it was a good thing. “I had read Brad’s script and I liked it a lot. But when I sat down and watched the movie, I watched it as my eight-year-old self,” DiCamillo said. “I didn’t compare it to the book or anything. It feels to me like what happened between the script and the cast and the and the directing is that the-the themes of the book are amplified.”
5 – Acting Against Nothing
Matilda Lawer plays one of the titular roles in the film. As Flora, she goes on these adventures with the superpowered squirrel she named Ulysses. But during the production, Lawer had to act against nothing, which was a strange way to work for the young actress. In fact, Khan served as the squirrel in place for Lawer. “You had this, like, little stuffed animal squirrel that you would pretend was doing the scenes, so I could kind of get an idea of what it would be like,” she said. “And then, for the most part, like, during the actual scenes, I had this gray and creepy thing that kinda looked like a rat.”
“It was really, like, kind of creepy. Some other times, I didn’t have anything, and I had to pretend there was something there when it was nothing,” Lawer said. “So, yeah, it was definitely interesting and kind of challenging.”
“Flora & Ulysses” is out today only on Disney+.