For any voice actor, joining the Walt Disney Animation Studios roster of talent seems like it should be a dream come true. After all, you’ve become part of a fabric of movies that includes iconic titles like Cinderella, Pinocchio, and Robin Hood. For Alan Tudyk, who has now appeared in six Disney animated films–along with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–it was another movie that drew him to the studio growing up.
Speaking to GameSpot to promote the Blu-ray and digital release of his latest Disney feature, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Tudyk spoke about his love for The Little Mermaid, where he found inspiration for his character KnowsMore in the latest Wreck-It Ralph film, and what’s it’s like being in the Disney pantheon of films. Additionally, Tudyk opened up about his latest project, DC Universe’s Doom Patrol and creating his own take on the iconic villain The Joker in the upcoming Harley Quinn animated series.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is available on digital now, with the Blu-ray and DVD following on February 26. The released includes a range of special features that explore the Easter eggs hidden throughout the film, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie, and deleted scenes.
GameSpot: What were your Disney movies when you were growing up?
Alan Tudyk: Although I was too old to love it as much as I did, I think [The] Little Mermaid, man. Little Mermaid.
Tudyk: I loved the French cook because through the whole movie you’ve got all these fish who are your friends, and then you meet this guy who’s like, “Les poissons, les poissons,” and he’s chopping them into pieces right in front of you. It was so shocking and hysterical because he’s very funny, singing about killing them. It’s just, it’s a great musical.
GameSpot: I have to believe for a voice actor [that] Disney is the gold standard. They are the history of animation from beginning to end. What is it like to know that you’re a part of that fabric; that you exist in this world where you are multiple Disney characters?
Tudyk: Yeah. It’s hard to comprehend. I have to step out of it and think of myself watching Little Mermaid. Like, had I met the guy who played Sebastian, how much that would have floored me. Although, there’s also a little bit of, when you meet the people… Because I did end up seeing him in an interview. I was like, “That’s Sebastian?” I wanted more from that. I wanted him to be funnier than he is.
You get that with kids. There’s a certain age that they believe in the characters; they truly believe they exist. So if you do a KnowsMore character, “Oh, hello. How are you?” They look at you like… they get confused, then there’s this betrayal that goes across their face, like they’ve been lied to, which they have been, and they don’t understand what it is yet.
GameSpot: KnowsMore, it’s a strange character, because, in a way, you’re playing Google.
GameSpot: Obviously, the design of the character, I’m assuming helps in building your vision of the character, but how do you find that character and that voice and how you’re going to play it?
Tudyk: Well this one was interesting. [Co-director] Rich [Moore] asked me before I came in. He said, “Put him in the neighborhood of Truman Capote.” So he put me there, and Truman Capote sounds like this. Close’ish. I don’t do good [impressions]. But it’s sort of him. It becomes somewhere between him and Droopy Dog, but he’s very nice. “Oh, isn’t that interesting.” So we just played around with it from there and that’s how it ended up. That’s how we ended up with who KnowsMore is, but looking at his picture, he’s little and he’s got those glasses and “Isn’t that interesting.” He just became… That’s how he was born. He lives in the same neighborhood as Droopy Dog and Truman Capote. He’s at the house between those two.
GameSpot: When it comes to something like an animated film, obviously, KnowsMore has a lot of dialogue, because he is searching a lot of things. How closely do you have to stick to the script versus playing around with it?
Tudyk: Right. You get to play a lot. And having the relationship with Rich, having done Wreck-It Ralph the first, we got to just kick around some ideas. I think in the first recording, the “Isn’t that interesting. Hm, isn’t that interesting,” we started playing around with that; it became a thing that he always said. I think in terms of, or the way that I improv is, I need to know where I am and what’s happening. I always try to improv about the actions taking place, the world that’s involved. And they [say], “Go with that, go with that, go with that.” They’ll let you go off on a tangent. That’s part of the fun of doing animation.
GameSpot: I’ve also seen the first two episodes of Doom Patrol.
Tudyk: You have? You’ve seen more than me!
GameSpot: Mr. Nobody is not the nicest guy to be around. How do you approach being the antagonist versus the good guy or the hero of the story?
Tudyk: He’s interesting. I mean, a lot of his actions are awful, so that’s good because that acts for you… You read these scripts and you’re like, “Really? Wow.” The one that we just… I just came from there. I just got in town this morning from Atlanta where we’re shooting. Playing evil, you’re kind of just playing who he is, who’s this fractured individual. [Grant Morrison’s run is what] they based it on. He’s got such a wild brain. And Mr. Nobody, one thing he told me when we talked on the phone before I started… Just the idea of Dada, which is what the character gets in. Everything means nothing. It’s all perspective. Nothing is anything. Anything is nothing. If you found a dollar on the ground, what is that worth? If you found it and then you realized the dollar is signed by Andy Warhol and it’s a piece of found art, now what is it worth? Then you found out that it’s a forgery, what’s it worth now? Then you found out the person who forged it was Picasso, now what’s it worth?
What changed? Nothing changed, physically, but it all changed several times. Like, “What is that? That’s nobody. Nobody’s in that.” So try to drive yourself crazy in that world. That’s what Mr. Nobody is.
GameSpot: The last thing I wanted to touch on is, you’re about to bring voice to another super iconic character: the Joker. How do you find that? When you say, “the Joker,” everyone has a voice in their head, whether it’s Mark Hamill, Jack Nicholson, or Heath Ledger. How are you putting your spin on that and who are you looking to for inspiration on it?
Tudyk: I don’t know. Pieces of all of them, really, I guess. This is the first time I’m talking about it. It got released by [Diedrich Bader]. I don’t know. I think the main thing that’s different is it’s my voice; I can hear me in it.
But I grew up watching… My first exposure to the Joker was Caesar Romero, and I know there’s a little Caesar Romero in it. There’s a couple, “Whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo whoo’s,” that I’ve heard that it was like, “Uh, I know what that is,” where he taunts the badge. I can’t wait for people to hear it. I do a couple of voices in it. It’s great.
GameSpot: Who else?
Tudyk: I also play Clayface, who is a former actor who, some accident and he turns into this clay guy and he can be anybody, but he’s a moron, and he’s not good at it. It’s a very funny cartoon. There’s like, “Okay, Clayface, go over there and deliver these packages and distract them.” “Yes. A mailman. What’s my inspiration?” “Just deliver the package.” “Ah, daddy was a mailman! You didn’t love me.” He’s coo-coo, so there’s a lot of fun stuff going on.
GameSpot: That’s awesome.
Tudyk: Yeah. Yeah. I can’t wait to see Doom Patrol. I’m so jealous of you seeing it!
GameSpot: It’s very, very good.
Tudyk: Timothy Dalton is so badass. It’s so great to work with him. I’m working with him a lot, so when I’m working, I’m working with Tim, and I so enjoy it. I so enjoy it. He’s a true Shakespearean actor and it’s just like, “Wow.” That’s one of the things that sci-fi allows, at times when you just get to have these heady one-on-ones like, “What’s the world about? What is f***ing existence about?” Actually playing with those ideas.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is available on digital now, with the Blu-ray and DVD following on February 26.