A summer ago, the teaser trailer for the Sky Original series
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In the beginning it was The prodigious Maurice and his ingenious rodents, children’s book written by Terry Pratchett, author of numerous novels in the humorous fantasy genre who at home, and beyond, is an authentic institution capable of selling 85 million copies of books translated into 37 languages! A novel in the “Discoworld” series, published in 2001 and which has sold nearly 100 million books worldwide. A lively and funny parody inspired by the German fairy tale about the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Last year, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its arrival in bookstores, the Sky group joined forces by creating a co-production which sees the synergy of the German “Ulysses Filmproduktion” and the British “Cantilever Media”, in collaboration with “Global Screen ”, to give life to an animated film for families that aims to compete on equal terms with the giants of the “animation” genre made in the USA.
Even the animation departments collaborated equally on the challenge, dividing the costs fifty-fifty: next to the Hamburg-based “Studio Rakete” there is the “Red Star Animation”, which is based in Sheffield in England. Finally, if the two directors, Toby Genkel and Florian Westermann (who mainly dealt with the visual part), are both German, the cast – as we will see – is made up of the best of English cinema. The screenplay was instead entrusted to a wizard of animation and adventure cinema such as the American Terry Rossio, who wrote the script for two cult genres such as Alladin and shrek, plus a couple of Godzillas and the saga de Pirates of the Caribbean
The Kaiser – Franz Beckenbauer, the review of the film Sky Original
This is the plot, as told by the film’s producer Andrew Baker: “Maurice is a talking cat who gets together with a group of intelligent rodents and Keith, a boy who plays the flute, to plot a scam against of the community. One day they arrive in the town of Bad Blintz where they meet a librarian called Malicia and their scam goes down the drain.”
Even if in Italy we will hear it dubbed (although thanks to your Sky Glass, or any television you own, you can see it in the original language), it is worth listening to the words of the voice actors of the original version, who tell us about the character of their characters.
First of all, Maurice, voiced by Hugh Laurie, legendary interpreter of Dr. House – Medical Division, the TV series aired in Italy from 2005 to 2012: “Maurice, who is a cat, but you probably already know this, is sneaky and mischievous; he’s calm, he’s charming, and he’s also a bit of a psychopath. I know many ‘Maurices’, cunning, crafty, manipulative; winners, and I don’t think I’m anything like him, I seem to be rather a stupid bum. So to have had the opportunity to play a character with such charisma and strength was terribly enjoyable. I should do it more often…”
Malicia is voiced by Emilia Clarke, primarily known for her portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen in the series Game of thrones (visible on Sky, together with the sequel House of the Dragon): “What prompted me to accept the character of Malicia are a couple of aspects of her character, first of all her liveliness (‘Here I am! What’s going on? Let’s do it! I’m in!’) And then more than anything else his madness. She is an incredibly optimistic character. A young woman who lives lost inside her imagination; that she lives to read and to tell stories. With an overflowing vitality! The most important thing I share with her is her imagination. A child still lives inside of me, even if I’m an adult!”.
Finally, the young Keith is Himesh Patel, an English actor of Indian origins, who came to success thanks to Yesterday by Danny Boyle and then revised in the cast of keeper by Christopher Nolan: “When I started figuring out how to bring Keith to life vocally, I also had to consider his physical appearance. And I began to work on his innate nervousness to understand how he should speak. Then I relied on Toby Genkel’s indications, since it was the first time I dubbed an animated film. And I learned that, compared to a live action film, here you have to tread the most extreme ups and downs”.
Everything was beautiful – The story of Paolino and Pablito, the review
One last curiosity, entrusted to the testimony of the director of the film, Toby Genkel, who reminds us that, after all, The Prodigious Maurice is above all a Christmas comedy, made with scrupulous attention but also with the right amount of childish irony: “If you observe drawings of the Pied Piper you notice that he has very long legs similar to the legs of a spider. In fact we wanted him to be perceived as a funny but at the same time disturbing character. Because all in all it’s still a children’s film and from time to time there was a need for a comic margin, so we wanted to mix a mixture of menace and buffoonery in him. The first thing we focused on was his walk, which we wanted to be quite bizarre. I lent myself as a model and started climbing on my kitchen table because we wanted the Pied Piper to be able to climb like a spider. It’s the price to pay for illustrating cartoons and we directors are forced to get involved in the first person (laughs). With the result that, if today someone wants to blackmail me, it is enough for them to go to the web where it is full of videos in which I literally lose face!
The prodigious Maurice: a big talking cat with the voice of Dr. House