Filmmaker Tom McGrath says he never lost control of Megamind – even when his actors began ad-libbing in the recording booth.

“That’s why we had the cast we do – to be partners and collaborators,” said the director recently in Los Angeles. “I would say 30 per cent of what you hear in the scene is improvised, we’d get three (jokes) for every line that’s as funny as was written.”

With stars like Will Ferrell and Tina Fey on board, Megamind was definitely in safe hands. Meanwhile, an original spin on the superhero genre, McGrath (Madagascar) expertly weaves a tale about a supervillian with a colossal cranium (Ferrell) who sets out to conquer dependable do-gooder Metro Man (Brad Pitt).

“(It’s mostly about) the layers underneath these characters we all know and the superhero-genre,” explained McGrath, downplaying the notion that Megamind is straight parody. “There were a couple things we referenced, but we tried to keep the movie and the comedy coming exclusively from the characters.”

One notable reference is Space Dad, a hilarious character that clearly spoofs Marlon Brando’s version of Jor-El in 1978’s Superman.

“(Space Dad) looks more like Ted Kennedy than Marlon Brando but Will saw the design for this character and thought ‘I’d like to try kind of a lispy Marlon Brando’,” said McGrath. “We were laughing so hard in the recording booth…we knew it would work.”

Another element McGrath realized would be an attribute was allowing Ferrell and Fey to record together – surprisingly unusual for most animated films.

“It’s a superhero movie, but at the heart of it is a very intimate love story and that’s where casting came invaluable with Tina and Will,” said McGrath. “At the end of the day, it’s a great contrast.

 

“Animation is one of the hardest things for an actor to do,” he added. “Every one of these guys jumped in, instantly became the character. It’s a sight to behold and I had the best seat in the house.”