When Channing Tatum was originally approached about the leading role of Migo in “Smallfoot” he was given a relatively simple pitch.
“They said it was a group of Yetis at the top of the mountain that believe that nothing exists below the clouds,” recalled Tatum.
“Then my character Migo is confronted with a human, a smallfoot, something that he believes shouldn’t exist, which knocks off base everything he thought was true.”
But rather than the story, it was the chance to reimagine the classic Warner Bros and Looney Tunes cartoons of his childhood that instantly convinced Tatum to sign up.
“The most important thing to me was the tone of the animation. They told me the comedy was going to be like the old school Warner Bros and Looney Tunes cartoons. Which was what I grew up on. So I was really excited by it.”
Not only did that immediately make “Smallfoot” unique in comparison to its animation peers, but it also gave Tatum the chance to make a modern version of a Wile E. Coyote and Tom & Jerry cartoon.
Only this time, the legendary anthropomorphic animals are Yetis.
“This is categorically different to something like Pixar movies. You know, they make masterpieces. The first 15 minutes of ‘Up’ is probably some of the best film that has been made in the last 30 years.”
“But it is a different tone. It really makes you think. More and more people are trying to make an animated film for everybody.”
“But those films are starting to skew more to adults than they are for kids. As far as just joy and fun factor. This film was made with the silly sort of feel.”
“The let’s just be silly and foolish. Because you can’t really hurt these Yetis. And it reminded me a lot of Will E Coyote and Tom & Jerry. It was really nostalgic for me.”
This was a comparison that was immediately obvious to Common, who plays Stonekeeper, the mysterious Yeti tribe chief, too.
“Despite all of the technological advancements sometimes you can bring it just back to the essence of what animation is.”
“Not that we are straight old school with it. But it does have the freedom and the energy and the child like qualities that I always loved in the cartoons that I loved growing up. But it still has substance to it.”
But while Tatum and Common were overjoyed to go on this nostalgia ride, writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa admitted they had a tough time trying to contain their imaginations when it came to building “Smallfoot.”
“It is hard when you can do anything and everything that your imagination can come up with,” Ficarra admitted.
“You can get away from the story. I think there’s no short of great and crazy ideas and stuff that you want to do. But eventually it comes the day when you have to pair it down.”
“We went way outrageous. It is a problem and a luxury with animation. It was a very generous premise, too ” added Requa. “It was very conducive to coming up with crazy wacko concepts.”
“The Yeti civilization, this idea of them having a myth of the humans, that was really generous for shtick.”
“Then we had to justify the notion that they hadn’t looked for 7 billion human beings. How primitive and ossified is their philosophy that they wouldn’t look.”
“That generated a lot of very funny ideas. But ultimately it is about story and character, and that’s what we had to keep coming back to.”
“Smallfoot” is released in cinemas on September 28.