Animated films offer a great opportunity to bring together the kind of all-star cast that would be difficult to wrangle for a live-action film, as this week’s Monsters vs. Aliens proves.

Inspired as much by The Dirty Dozen as by the B-movies it celebrates and lampoons, the movie centres on a group of misfit creatures (Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen and Will Arnett) locked away in a government facility until an alien invasion gives them the chance to prove themselves.

Rounding out the supporting cast are Keifer Sutherland as their military minder, Stephen Colbert as the president and Paul Rudd as Witherspoon’s self-absorbed fiancé.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with a lot of great comic actors,” Witherspoon says of making animated films.

“We’re all so busy doing other kinds of movies that it’s only ever possible to work with this many amazing, talented people in this capacity because it doesn’t take up a huge amount of all of our time.”

“We got really lucky with our cast,” producer Lisa Stewart says. “We set out to create a comedy all-star team.”

The film marks Witherspoon’s first foray into animated work, and she says the fact that the story centred on a female protagonist (her character, Susan) and was what drew her to the role. But if she thought a cartoon would be a walk in the park, she had another thing coming. “We really put Reese through the ringer,” director Conrad Vernon jokes.

Like Witherspoon, much of the cast was new to animation when they signed on.

But Seth Rogen has been racking up plenty of cartoon credits, popping up in almost as many animated films as he has live action. Last year, he was heard in Kung-fu Panda and Horton Hears a Who, which also featured Arnett. And he appeared recently on an episode of Family Guy lampooning his own success.

“It feels a lot more like playing than acting,” Rogen says of doing voice work.
Monsters vs. Aliens also features a number of Canadian cast members, including Sutherland, Arnett and Rogen. “We’re slowly taking over,” Sutherland said.