We recently had the opportunity to visit the frozen peaks of the Yeti Village to talk with the stars of Smallfoot- Channing Tatum, who voices Migi, and Common, who voices the Stone Keeper along with Director and Writer Karey Kirkpatrick who’s known for his work on James and the Giant Peach, Chicken Run, The Hitchkiker’s Guide, and the Broadway musical Something Rotten!.
We pulled up a seat and broke the ice and got to yak about all things Yeti.
If you were wondering where the names for the characters came from Director and Writer Karey Kirkpatrick let us know what inspired him.
KIRKPATRICK: “Migo is a Nepalese word for Yeti. And so is Migi.”
Even though Smallfoot has a soundtrack full of delightful songs including “Wonderful Life” by Zendaya, neither Tatum or Common knew they were going to be singing when they first signed on.
COMMON: “It’s challenging for me in some ways, so I really enjoyed it. It took a little work. You know, you would think, ah, Common is just going to come in and just lay the rap and it’s done. But, no, I had to find the way the stone keepers rap was and how he would do it.”
TATUM: “I only recorded that song, like, probably a month ago. I kind of was just, like, ‘Look, guys. I don’t sing’. And then what they ended up doing was they found a guy that sounds a lot like me and in my range. And he just sang the thing. And I was, like, all right, I think I might be able to do that with some work. So, I just tried to mimic what he did, and that was it. I was singing it and at some point Karey was, like, look, it’s sounding really good. You’re sounding like the guy that sang it that was a professional singer, but now I need Migo to come back into it because you’re the character. You still have to tell the story. You still have to be the character, and that was another way for me to just sort of be a little more comfortable with kind of the rough parts.”
Even Kirkpatrick didn’t know it was going to end up being a musical when he first set out.
KIRKPATRICK: “Well, they didn’t decide to make it a musical until January of 2017. They had seen my musical on Broadway. So, they asked if I thought it could be a musical. And I said, let’s do a proof of concept. So, my brother and I went off and wrote an opening song. That opening song was called, Ignorance is Bliss.
It kind of had a Brady Bunch feel to it because I always thought that the Yetis had this sort of golly-shucks innocence to him. And so, you know, songs from the Brady Bunch like Sunshine Day, and we were like, oh, it should have that kind of 70’s, like, kind of groovy vibe to it.
And then it worked as a number, but we kind of decided Ignorance is Bliss was a little bit too harsh to be saying about the Yetis, so Wonderful Life was the second song that we wrote. And that’s when everybody was like, okay, I think this could work.”
Turns out Tatum and Common were on board with the movie without even setting eyes on a script.
COMMON: “So, for this project, we didn’t get a script. But, as Channing was saying, Karey presented the vision so well and then by the time I came on it was Channing. It was Zendaya. It was LeBron James. It was Danny DeVito. And Gina Rodriguez eventually came on later, but I already was into the vision.”
Tatum talked about what he loved most about his character Migo.
TATUM: “When all of a sudden something comes into his world that completely knocks out a pillar of truth in his life, everything is questionable now. Everything is on thin ice and you don’t know if anything is real. And I think it takes a really strong person, a really brave person, to just sort of go out past the breakers and see what’s out there, and he does that. I think also that he respects the Stone Keeper and his father so much because of the way they raised him and what they represent. That’s why it was the hardest thing in the world to go against them. And they raised him well because he did–he still spoke his truth. He didn’t lie just to stay out of trouble.”
KIRKPATRICK: “I remember situations where the person in authority says, ‘you need to tell the truth’. ‘I am.’ ‘You’re not.’ And if they’re saying I’m not, because it doesn’t fit their preconceived notion of what the truth should be, and I think that is so frustrating and I think so many kids relate to that situation, which is this guy is there telling the truth and being told he’s getting punished for telling the truth.
And kids have such a strong injustice meter that I always think that that moment is when they really connect with Migo and its like, this isn’t fair. How many times have you heard a kid go, ‘This isn’t fair’? And that moment is just the ultimate unfair.”
We asked Common about having doubts along the path to his own success and he shared his thoughts on struggle and stardom.
COMMON: “I found out sometimes when I get knocked down, it makes me work harder. And as long as I remember what my purpose is, and I’m doing it because I care about this- I love acting, and I love music, and I love just wanting to do things and inspire people.”
We asked everyone what they hope people walk away with from watching Smallfoot and they had some thoughtful answers.
COMMON: “The thought that it’s okay to think for yourself and to question things that you’re being told because, as kids especially, we inherit so many things- We say this is what should be done, and this is how it’s done. But, even as adults, too, we hear that. The only way to actually get to some progress is to challenge those things sometimes because if we keep doing the same things we’ve been doing over and over, then we’ll never get to break past this wall.
Finding the truth, and speaking that truth, and believing in that truth, and not being afraid to share that truth is, I think, is one of the great messages we have in this movie.”
KIRKPATRICK: ”I think kids, whether they know it or not, they go to movies to learn how to live their life. They go to watch other characters navigate difficult situations and resolve conflicts. And they use that, sometimes for good or bad, to figure out how to navigate their own relationships.
I take that really seriously that kids do that. It’s why they go watch the ones that work over and over and over again. Because I don’t think they’re just watching it because it’s pretty.
I think they are watching it because there are some kid fears, and some really deep things that are happening that they live through these characters as they watch them resolve conflict and grapple with issues.”
We asked Kirkpartick, as a writer, what inspired him to make Smallfoot and about what he hopes kids will learn from watching his movie.
KIRKPATRICK: “I know that this movie sort of sneaks up on people at some point, and it’s like, oh, wait, this is about maybe some heavy things that are going on in the world.
And it is dealing with truth, and what is truth, and it’s dealing with authority and isolationism, and it’s dealing with–in a weird way–immigrants and the other and borders and all of these things that are in the world. But, it’s also dealing with–if you think about the world that kids live in, you know, kids live in a totalitarian world with parents and schools where, you know, you’re hearing, ‘because I said so’, or ‘as long as you live under my roof’. Kids go to movies and they think, oh, to be hero, just slay a dragon, to blow up the death star, and that takes courage. Courage is actually standing up and doing the right thing when it’s hard. To stand up and actually tell the truth, you know, when that is not the popular thing to do.”
Catch Smallfoot out in theaters today and experience the legend for yourself.
Get tickets to see #SMALLFOOT, in theaters September 28. http://bit.ly/SMALLFOOTTix