A couple of Oscars ago, Chris Rock called recording a voice for an animated film “the easiest job in the world.”
The directors of The Croods would beg to differ.
For their tale of a prehistoric family seeking a safe home after their cave falls prey to tectonic tumult, Kirk DeMicco (Space Chimps) and Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon) chased actor Nicolas Cage around the world for roughly three years to record his voice as Crood paterfamilias Grug. “He is constantly working and usually on location,” says Sanders. “The first recording session was in Bath, England, in Peter Gabriel’s recording studio — and then from there, we went to New Orleans, the Bahamas, New York, Las Vegas, [and] Los Angeles. I think that was it. There was a chance that he was going to be in Alaska at one point. We were kind of hoping for that.”
“Set up a recording studio in the Klondike,” adds DeMicco.
So what happens when you gallivant across the globe to capture Nicolas Cage’s voice?
You’re going to sweat.
All of Cage’s sessions took place in relatively traditional recording studios — except for the one in the Bahamas, where Cage occasionally lives. “That was a little bit more catch-as-catch-can,” says Sanders. “There was a [traditional] recording studio,” adds DeMicco. “But something happened there, so it was closed down.” It’s the Bahamas. It happens.
Instead, the directors say they followed Cage to the home of a sound engineer who had rigged up a recording studio on his second floor. “So many things were making noise in this room,” says Sanders. “The microphones that he was using were very, very sensitive, so we pretty much had to shut everything down.” That included the air conditioning. “We were in the upstairs room under a tin roof. It got really hot. After about two hours, I think we actually had to quit because we were all wondering if it were getting dangerous.”
Adds DeMicco, “Some of the best things in the movie were from that session.”
You’re going to experience some cognitive dissonance.
In Las Vegas, where Cage also occasionally lives, DeMicco and Sanders found themselves in a recording studio inside the Palms Hotel and Casino. “It’s a rock ‘n’ roll haven of just awesome,” says DeMicco. “Let’s just say that I think you might get pregnant if you sat on the chair.”
Into this potent setting strode Cage looking, says Sanders, like “Nicolas Cage crossed with Bono.”
“He was about to go to dinner with his wife,” says DeMicco. “So he was all dressed up. He had this beautiful suit on, these gorgeous sunglasses with blue lenses in them, and these ridiculously butter-leather loafers. Gorgeous.”
So then Cage steps up to the mic, and starts, well, grunting like a caveman. “He specifically did the sequence in the film where Grug is having a midlife crisis,” says Sanders. “We were just having the best time just watching him do these caveman lines dressed like he’s going to the Oscars.”
You’re going to start thinking about golf.
“One of the things that was really cool about doing the recording sessions with Nic is that you could see him thinking,” says Sanders. “I would equate it to a golfer going back to his bag and choosing his iron.”
“You don’t even play golf!” says DeMicco. “That’s a really good metaphor. And we’re totally like the caddies. We walk up, we’re like, ‘No, no, seven iron.’ He’s like, ‘All right, you know what, I think I’m going to take the six.’ He just threw the six in there. We’re like, ‘Holy shit. He did it totally different than we thought he would.’ It worked out.”
“There’s a moment in the film where Grug sinks underwater and then he sees something and screams,” says Sanders. So during an additional dialogue recording (or ADR) session at Skywalker Sound in northern California, the sound engineers pulled out a large tank of water and placed a waterproof microphone inside it. “Nic was such a good sport,” says Sanders. “He stuck his head underwater a couple times and did his underwater screaming.”
DeMicco puts it more bluntly: “We waterboarded him.”