In a world filled with social distancing and face masks, the press junket for Disney’s “The One and Only Ivan” took place in a different way than usual – over Zoom!
The cast and crew of the new film, streaming exclusively on Disney+ starting Aug. 21, gathered together for a special Zoom-based press junket, in which members of the press were invited to attend and hear everyone speak to their experience on the film in what turned out to be a pretty casual setting.
“The One and Only Ivan” is an adaptation of the award-winning book of the same name, telling the story of a very special gorilla, the importance of promises and friendship, and what it means to call a place “home.”
The panel was moderated by Grae Drake, film critic and entertainment journalist, who called this unique presentation “madness” in a most appropriate way: “It’s the magic of the circus, and you guys are here for it!”
Drake was joined by quite a large cast of characters from the film, including Bryan Cranston (“Mack”), Angelina Jolie (“Stella”), Sam Rockwell (“Ivan”), Danny DeVito (“Bob the Dog”), Helen Mirren (“Snickers the Poodle”), Chaka Khan (Henrietta the Chicken”), Phillipa Soo (“Thelma the Parrot”), Brooklyn Prince (“Ruby”), Ariana Greenblatt (“Julia”), Ramon Rodriguez (“George”), Ron Funches (“Murphy the Rabbit”), writer Mike White (also the voice of “Frankie the Seal”), and director Thea Sharrock.
The theme of quarantine permeated the junket, with Cranston, sharing his newfound hobby of bread-baking – and just how it contrasts to the craft of acting.
“In this world of COVID-19 and lockdown, I’ve actually started baking sourdough bread. And I’m quite proud of it actually,” said Cranston. “In our world of self-motivation and developing your own characters, it takes a lot of energy, but you don’t really follow any rules. So I thought, you know what, following a recipe is kind of fun in that regard.”
DeVito, on the other hand, found a new interest in nature during his time at home, starting a hobby of his own: bird-watching.
“I’ve been hanging out, since the old lockdown stuff. You know, talking on [the phone], texting Zooming, whatever I can. But I also had a tree planted in my yard, and I decided to hang a couple bird feeders on it […] It’s gotten very, very popular,” said DeVito.
When asked about the complexity of the film and its technical challenges, Sharrock felt as though she were working on two films at once:
“I’ll say two things: One is, in terms of shooting this movie, [it] was very much like simultaneously working on two movies at the same time, because of the technical aspect of it. So, on the one hand we started the whole process with the voice actors, because the animators needed their voices to begin to be laid down for the animation journey to begin. Then we shot all of our live-action stuff.”
“And then we went back in and we shot the virtual aspects of the film, which was whenever we had just animals in a scene together,” continued Sharrock. “And those scenes we often re-visited […] The technicality of it was certainly unlike anything I’ve ever done before.”
Ivan’s story also had a powerful impact on one of the younger actors in the film, Greenblatt, who plays George’s daughter, Julia.
“As a kid, I want to spread awareness for kids my age as well to help animals in every way possible. When I read [‘The One and Only Ivan’], it was very touching,” said Greenblatt. “I love art and painting […] so combining my animal-loving side of me and my art side of me is really cool to see. I’m just very thankful to play [Julia].”
Prince, on the other hand, who provides the voice of Ruby, had a special bonding experience with Jolie, who both voices Stella and serves as executive producer, during production.
“When I saw [Angelina] at the Critics Choice Awards, I was like, ‘Hey, we should wear elephant onesies in the recording room,'” said Prince. “And I go home, and I’m like, ‘Mom, Mamma, Mamma, please buy me and Angie elephant onesies.’ And my mom was like, ‘I am buying Angelina Jolie an elephant onesie to match my daughter.”
“I think it’s safe to say we became like the elephant family,” said Jolie, sharing equal excitement over the sweet memory. “We got really into our characters, us two.”
When asked about why she decided to take on a producer role for “The One and Only Ivan,” Jolie shared that the initial inspiration came from her children.
“One of my children read [the book], and we talked about why it was special and why it meant so much to them. So I started to pursue […] and started to get involved, and looked at the early drafts, it was very interesting. […] I know this young generation is really very aware of what is happening in the world to our natural habitats, to these animals […] and they’re angry. So I think this will, you know, this character [Ivan] represents them.”
One of the last interesting quips from the panel came from Sharrock, who shared that she intentionally kept a specific color out of “The One and Only Ivan” as much as she could in order to make a more subconscious emotional impact.
“Throughout the movie, […] we also made the choice to have next to no green used. So that when you get to either Ivan’s flashbacks from when he’s a kid, which we made as green as possible and made as like the Congo as possible, or the very end when he gets to where he needs to go, again, we made that as green and lush as possible.”
Sharrock eventually summed up what it felt like everyone was thinking about this unique press experience, saying, “Obviously, we should really be standing on some podium somewhere passing a mic down the line, welcoming everybody to come in and see our movie. Though, sadly, we can’t be in the cinema at the moment, but at least we are blessed with having the option of putting it right out there to everybody.”
“The One and Only Ivan” streams exclusively on Disney+ starting Aug. 21. Check out the trailer for the film below: