This past Winter’s coolest family comedy, Norm of the North, is gliding this Spring onto Digital HD, March 29, and Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital HD) and DVD (plus Digital), April 19, from Lionsgate. Telling the ultimate tale of a loveable underdog who proves anything is possible with determination and a posse of loyal lemmings, Norm of the North features the voices of Rob Schneider (Grown Ups), Heather Graham (The Hangover franchise), Ken Jeong (The Hangover franchise), Colm Meaney (Con Air), Loretta Devine (TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy”), Gabriel Iglesias (Magic Mike), Michael McElhatton (HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually).
In honor of the home release of Norm of the North, ToonBarn had the opportunity, thanks to the nice folks at Lionsgate, to interview the star of the movie, Rob Schneider, who plays Norm. ToonBarn Head Writer Marc Morrell talked to Rob over the phone. Here’s that conversation:
Marc – Hi Rob!
Rob – Hi Marc, Thanks for your time this morning.
Marc – My pleasure, thank you. So we’d like to know, you have your own indestructible minions in Norm of the North – the Lemmings. Do you have a greater appreciation for arctic animals after doing this film?
Rob – Yeah, it just lets you know that life has its way of surviving anywhere and the more that you look for it, you’ll find it. The adaptability is incredible. Even when you discover things deep down near these volcanic vents several miles down in the ocean, there’s life down there. So, as much as there are a lot of changes happening on the planet, hopefully these special animals can survive.
Marc – Do you think that humans will actually be pushing their way to that region like the movie suggests?
Rob – I think it’s happening already. I mean, you have more and more people, and we are running out of space for people. I do think you need to have balance. I think, in a lot of ways, tourism is a way to bring awareness to certain species and certain areas that are definitely endangered and I’d rather have tourism than drilling. We have to figure out something because by the middle of the century, that oil…there’s a book on PECO oil, I don’t know if you’ve read it?
Marc – No, I haven’t.
Rob – We have to figure out something. I think hydrogen is the answer. In my opinion, we have to work and figure out a way to make it cheaper.
Marc – Okay. That sounds good. I was actually thinking of going on an Alaskan cruise but after seeing the tourism in this movie, now I’m not so sure.
Rob – Ah, yes, it’s beautiful, you should definitely do it!
Marc – You’ve been on one?
Rob – Absolutely gorgeous! Yeah, well the one up in Alaska is beautiful. I mean, Greenland is gorgeous. I love the story behind Greenland where people call them Greenland and Iceland to confuse people, to keep people away. They are the exact opposites. Iceland only has about 250,000 people in the whole place. I mean, it’s a virtual paradise. It’s cold. It’s 66 degrees, but it is a beautiful place.
Marc – Okay, a lot of people may not know this, but you’ve had a lot of credits doing voiceover work besides Norm of the North. What are some of your favorites?
Rob – Well, I liked this movie that was kind of a rip off of Nemo, it was called The Reef. And I liked it because they let me write the jokes and change everything, and it ended up doing very well for Miramax. And I like doing different voices. I used to watch a lot of movies when I was a kid and I would tape-record them and then repeat them in my classes. I liked doing different voices. I think I did about 9 in that one. And it’s nice. I have a 3-year-old daughter and it’s nice to do something that she can go see and she can watch several times. And, kids love animals. It’s a special magical time.
Marc – It certainly is. You’ve produced, directed, written, acted, been in sketch comedy – you’ve pretty much seen it all. What’s your main focus? What gets inside you the most?
Rob – Right now, working with my wife on this television show for Netflix is the most exciting thing, ’cause we are in the golden age of television and its getting the chance to do our show, Real Rob on Netflix, is very exciting for us.
Marc – Netflix has proven to be a very good vehicle for a lot of shows these days, huh?
Rob – Yeah, well, they have 70 million people watching it so they are the biggest right now. So, it’s the best platform on the world to be on if you are a film or TV show.
Marc – Going back to Norm, Norm has flashbacks of a time when he was younger. What did you have to do to your voice to “young it up”? What directions were you given on how to make it younger?
Rob – Stop smoking cigars! (laughing) Before we start shooting, If I smoke more cigars, I’m gonna sound like Rodney Dangerfield. (Doing impression – hey baby, you’re alright, you’re okay). But no, I’ve given up smoking because of my kids.
Marc – Good for you! Good for you.
Rob – I can get there now, it just takes a little bit longer. I still feel pretty youthful. You don’t think of yourself as getting older. I know I’m different, but I don’t feel different. Just more tired now.
Marc – Still feel like a twelve year old kid?
Rob – I still feel like a kid, yeah.
Marc – That’s great!
Rob – And you?
Marc – Yeah, I really do. So, for Norm of the North, did you record by yourself? Or were there other actors in the studio at the same time?
Rob – They were very nice to let me record with Heather Graham and sometimes with the other actors and that helps a little bit. It gives you somebody to play off of. But it’s nice to be doing an animated movie; you can get fat during the making of it, and it doesn’t matter. You can go in your sweatpants. So basically, when you get older, I remember when I worked with Rodney Dangerfield, he was about an hour-and-a-half late to come to the cartoon we did together years ago. He comes out of the limousine, basically in his pajamas, and he says, “Hey Baby! How are ya?” And then he says, “I like to be comfortable. They’re not going to film me, so it’s alright, you know?” And I thought that was pretty cool. So, I’m at that point now. So, it’s like 20 years later, and I get it. I’ll show up in my sweats and a sweater and I’ll be comfortable.
Marc – So these voiceover roles suit you pretty well then, huh?
Rob – I like it, yeah. You get to use your imagination. You know, like Charlie Chaplin once said, “It’s unfair, actors can’t compete, they can’t fly, they can’t have a building fall on them, or flatten out like a pancake”, like some of the characters do in this movie, and 2 seconds later again, they are fine.
Marc – Yeah. (laughing) There was a part of the movie where Norm gets to NY and he has to audition as a polar bear, and he lets out this big roar. Was that something where you said, “I can do that!”, or did you leave that to a sound guy to figure out?
Rob – I think the sound guy helped me out a little bit on that one.
Marc – Okay.
Rob – And, sometimes you gotta have somebody help with that, too. So, I think they did a really good job.
Marc – Okay.
Rob – It’s a funny idea – it’s tough to do. Kids have seen everything. I thought it was kinda fun and Ken Jeong is great and Heather Graham is terrific. It’s fun to work with people like that, who are enjoying the process as well. Everybody loves to do animated movies and it’s something that you can see with your little kids.
Marc – Who actually did the voice of the Lemmings?
Rob – I don’t know.
Marc – I never could figure that one out.
Rob – I don’t know. That’s true – Im not sure. That’s a good question.
Marc – Yeah, I was wondering if maybe a guy like Dee Bradley Baker or someone like that took it on.
Rob – (Laughing) – I don’t know, but let me know if you find out.
Marc – Okay. So we’ve seen you in many films where you pretty much had to carry the film on your shoulders, like The Hot Chick or Deuce Bigalow. Is that what led the producers to you for Norm of the North?
Rob – I think so. I have an adolescent type of humor that I think, delayed adolescent I think you would call it, in psycho-analytical speak, And I think I kinda represent that humor to some people and I think that’s what they wanted me to convey, and I think I can, and it’s a pretty nice compliment.
Marc – I’d have to agree with that.
Rob – You know, I’m trying to grow out of that, but we’ll see, but I’m enjoying it as well. My comedic heroes were John Cleese and Monty Python, Gene Wilder, and Richard Pryor. There’s a real youthfulness about these guys. For me, there was nothing more fun than being in a theater watching these guys who were so funny together. And that’s what kinda got me into wanting to perform myself. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to do that with Adam Sandler many times. Hopefully, we’ll have a couple more.
Marc – Okay. Have you been able to get the “Arctic Shake” song out of your head yet?
Rob – NO! And I’m not happy about that! (Laughing) You have to have some music in an animated movie. It’s really the last bastion of music in the music business is animated movies. And the kids love to hear it so it’s good energy. It’s fun for them.
Marc – Yes. So what other projects do you have lined up? What’s next for you?
Rob – After Norm of the North, I’m doing the “Real Rob” on Netflix and there’s another Adam Sandler movie I’ll be doing once Netflix is over. It’s not titled yet. Hopefully, something else from Lionsgate.
Marc – You were in The Ridiculous 6, right?
Rob – Yes, Yes. Did you get a chance to see that?
Marc – Yes, I did get a chance to see that. It was one of those things where a lot of people were saying to me, “Hey – have you caught The Ridiculous 6 on Netflix yet?” At the time, I said, “I haven’t heard about it, is it a Netflix original movie?” and they confirmed it was. So, I told them I would check it out to see how Netflix makes their movies. So I saw it and thought it was hilarious.
Rob – Well, thank you. I think Adam and I had a lot of fun on that. We’ve been making a lot of movies over the years but I think this one we had the most fun. That’s saying something, because you know we did 50 First Dates in Hawaii and Big Daddy in NY and a couple more here in LA and Grown-Ups in Boston, so that was a pretty darn fun one.
Marc – I’d still have to say that one of my favorite of all time is Benchwarmers.
Rob – Oh, Thank You.
Marc – I love Benchwarmers!
Rob – Adam Sandler wrote that. We had a nice time with that movie as well.
Marc – Yeah, it was great. Well, I’d like to thank you for joining me with this interview for Toonbarn.
Rob – Well, good luck with everything and hopefully, we can make another one, so we can talk again.
Life can be a real bear—just ask Norm, a polar bear with unusual talents and a heart as big as the great outdoors. When he hears that human homes are going to be built in his Arctic backyard, Norm comes to the rescue. With a team of ragtag lemmings at his side, Norm heads to the concrete jungle of New York City on a freewheeling, fun-filled mission to stop the madness and save the Arctic.
Experience even more exhilarating adventure with special features including deleted scenes, outtakes, “The Arctic Shake” sing-along and a trivia challenge for the whole family to enjoy! The Norm of the North Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $34.99 and $29.95, respectively.