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Behind the Scenes of “Flora and Ulysses”

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A couple of weeks ago, Monorail News was invited to a virtual press conference ahead of today’s release of the Disney+ original movie “Flora and Ulysses.”

During the conference, we had the pleasure of hearing from Alyson Hannigan (“Phyllis Buckman,”) Ben Schwartz (“George Buckman,”)  Matilda Lawler (“Flora Buckman,”) Danny Pudi (“Miller,”) Lena Khan (Director), and Kate DiCamillo (Author); we even got to ask a question!

Some highlights of the press conference included hearing about the origins of the book that the movie is based on, learning about how Disney created the movie’s CGI hero, and of course, getting called on to ask a question.

The Origin of “Flora and Ulysses”

DiCAMILLO:  “So my mom had a vacuum cleaner that she loved and she passed away in 2009.  In the last year of her life, she kept on saying ‘what’s gonna happen to the vacuum cleaner when I’m gone?’  And I was like, ‘why are we worried about the vacuum cleaner? There are bigger things to worry about,’ but when she died I did as I promised her I would do, I took the vacuum cleaner so that it would have a good home, except that my mom had…the world’s most evil cat named Mildew and I couldn’t bring the vacuum cleaner into the house because of all the Mildew hair in it.

“So I had to leave it out in the garage.  Every time I pulled in the garage I would see the vacuum cleaner and it would make my heart hurt.  It would make me miss my mother…Then, the spring after my mother died, there was a squirrel on the front steps of my house, draped dramatically across the steps, clearly in distress.  And he wouldn’t move when I got close to him and I didn’t know what to do for him.  I called my best friend who lives a block away and said ‘help me, there’s a squirrel dying on my front steps,’

“She said, ‘do you have a t-shirt and a shovel?’ and I said I do and she said ‘get the t-shirt, get the shovel, I will come over there and whack him over the head.’  And all of this made me think about EB White’s essay, Death of a Pig, how he was going out to feed a pig, and thought about ways to save the pig’s life.  I thought about ways to save the squirrel’s life and I combined it with the vacuum cleaner in the garage, and that’s the story.”

CGI Squirrels and Superhero Stunts

On working with a CGI sidekick:

MATILDA: And then, uh, some other times, I didn’t have anything, and I had to, like, pretend there was something there when it was nothing.  So, yeah, it was definitely interesting and kind of challenging/

LENA:  You know, squirrels do that [superhero jumping].  If you look up “squirrel superhero landing”, you will find that squirrels-because our CGI people were very particular.  They’re like, “Ah, we don’t wanna do things that don’t feel like what a squirrel would do.”  I’m like, “Oh, no, no.  A squirrel does that.”

Getting to Ask a Question

After a few false starts, I wasn’t sure which of my many questions to ask, I decided to ask Kate DiCamillo about her favorite changes from the book to movie, here’s what she said:

DiCAMILLO” “I mean, I had read Brad’s script and I liked it a lot.  But when I sat down and watched the movie, I watched it as my eight-year-old self.  I didn’t compare it to the book or anything.  I just was so in it that I can’t even … it feels to me like what happened between the script and the cast and the-and the directing is that the-the themes of the book, uh, are amplified.”

“And so, the heart is even bigger and the wackiness is even bigger.  And just the power of connection has been amplified. Whatever is different is more and better.”

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