Besides sporting one of the most epic story lines of the summer, animated or otherwise, Blue Sky's "epic" also lays claim to one of the most epic vocal casts around. So it's properly named.
If the film merely boasted Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudekis, Pitbull, Collin Ferrell, and Steven Tyler, it would be impressive in its own right.
But what pushes the vocal cast of "epic" beyond really good and into the realm of epic?
Two words: Beyoncé Knowles. (Actually, we probably could have narrowed it down to one word and you would have known who we were talking about, but that's how she's billed.)
In her first ever voiceover gig, Knowles steps up to the mike as Queen Tara, the royal highness of the microscopic Leaf Men, protectors of the natural world who wage war with Mandrake (Waltz) and his evil henchman, who are bent on the destruction of all things green. So you can see why the Leaf Men need a leader as strong as The Queen B.
We recently spoke on the phone with "epic" director Chris Wedge – the Oscar winner behind "Ice Age" (2002) and "Robots" (2005) – about helping Knowles find her animated voice in this "old school classic adventure movie."
"Beyonce, as it turns out, is quite a soulful person, and was able to carry the emotional content that her role required pretty easily," said Wedge. "Up close and personal she's a very committed and focused person. She was a little timid when she first walked up to the microphone to do acting and not singing, but as soon as she got past that she was really able to reach right in and get what the role required emotionally."
Though Wedge may have been surprised by Knowles's initially timidity, he wasn't surprised by her passion. "As I thought about it, she probably pours her heart into her singing, and this wasn't much difference, she just poured it into these lines."
Being a mom and one of the biggest stars on the planet, Knowles obviously has a lot going on, but when she gets down to work, she's focused and committed. "She's hard to get on the phone, but once you get her in the room, she's all yours," said Wedge. "We didn't have to go for many adjustments. She gave us a really strong performance in the first session and we used a lot of that for the scenes we recorded that day."
Though Wedge is used to working with big names, we asked if he was intimidated by working with a name as big as Beyoncé's. "It's tough to be intimated by her. Her bodyguard's pretty intimidating, he's about seven feet tall, but he's a nice guy."
While working with Beyoncé is a big deal, it's only small part of creating the immense little world of "epic".
"We worked on this movie for four years. And the voice acting is a part of it, but it's only a part of it. Every character is a collaboration of designing, and animating, and all sorts of effects that we have to apply to make the character's hair move, and clothes move, and make skin look like skin, and blah blah blah…," said Wedge, intimating that there's a whole lot more involved.
But he had us at Beyoncé.
"epic" opens nationwide this weekend.
See Beyoncé as Queen Tara in this "epic" character spot...