I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
Inspired by William Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, George Lucas’ STRANGE MAGIC features familiar fairy tale creatures, such as fairies and goblins, in a world riddled with pop songs and fantasy.
With STRANGE MAGIC making its way into theaters tomorrow, Fresh Fiction got the opportunity to speak with Meredith Anne Bull who voices Dawn, a young and full-of-life fairy. We talked about animated character crushes, the process for recording her character and songs, and if she could teach a class of her own.
So I have a bit of a confession to make.
Meredith Anne Bull: “Oh, yeah?”
I have a bit of a crush on Dawn, the animated character you play in the film.
Meredith: “Oh, no! [Laughs]”
She’s a very cute animated character.
Meredith: “Aw, thank you. It’s funny because Gary Rydstrom, our director, says the same thing.”
[Laughs] To be honest, growing up there were a lot of animated characters I had crushes on- Jessica Rabbit being the obvious one. Did you have any crushes on animated characters?
Meredith: “Hmm. That’s a good question. Well, this is going to sound so corny but maybe like Tarzan.”
No. Not corny at all! That’s a good one.
Did you have any input on how your character would look? I read that this film was in production for quite some time.
Meredith: “When I first started, she had brown hair; it was long and in a braid. She looked more human-like. Then over the years she changed: her hair got shorter, blonde, and she lost a lot of the features that could possibly confuse someone with her looking too much like a human.”
When did you start?
Meredith: “I started in 2011.”
Was that a strange thing for you? It’s an usual process, kind of like a television series. You would come in and record, sing some songs, and later change how you sing them.
Meredith: “We weren’t really told much about it, because it was so secretive at the time. Well, actually, it pretty much was secretive all the way until a few months ago. I asked my agent to ask them if they could give us a rough idea how often we would be working. They wrote in my contract I was guaranteed to work three days. So I was like, ‘only three days?!’ I was so worried that it was only going to be three days, but then it turned out to where it was three days, every six months kind of thing. It really wasn’t cumulative that much. They would record and then send it off to the animators again.”
Wow. It’s almost as if BOYHOOD was an animated movie.
Meredith: “Right! Totally. It would be cool to see the transition of everything. The musical director told me that he was going to send me some of the songs that didn’t make the movie, though, which is pretty cool because I recorded a lot of music that didn’t end of making the final cut.”
The songs really are great. I really liked your “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.”
Meredith: “Aw, thank you!”
Of course. Was this your first voice-acting project?
Meredith: “No. I’ve done a lot of commercial voice-overs. I also narrated a show on MTV called TEEN CRIBS for a few seasons. So I was pretty comfortable in a sound studio. The thing that I was most excited about doing was getting to sing for the movie, because I have a musical theatre background. I was really excited to do something like that and on that scale.”
I imagine this had its challenges, though, mainly because when you’re doing duets in the movie, you didn’t record it together like that. You would record separately, right?
Meredith: “Right. Sometimes Gary would give us the cue line to help us lead into it, but most of the time, the way voice-over is recorded, you record a lot of the lines over and over again with different sounds and at different volume levels. So it would be technically pretty difficult to do it with another actor because it’s so stop and go.”
Ah, that makes sense.
Meredith: “Like the exact opposite of BIRDMAN.”
[Laughs] Yeah. What was the most challenging aspect for you?
Meredith: “Um, well, when you do these kind of projects there will be times where you told that you have to get a lot of screams in today, or we got to get a lot of laughs today. There was one time when I had to cry, and I had to cry for like an hour. It was very draining. I think only a few seconds of that actually show up in the movie [Laughs]. Elijah Kelly, who voices Sunny, always joked that he had eight hard drives worth of screams left over from yelping and screaming for the film.”
That’s really funny, because as viewer you never really think of those things. Even in live-action films, where you have to capture grunts or yells that weren’t captured during production.
Meredith: “Right! Yeah.”
But I really like this idea of all the characters kind of battling and chasing after the potion in the story. It represents that thing that everyone wants and it’s a long journey to get it. What is the actor’s equivalent of that? What is that one thing that you want and it’s a long journey to get there?
Meredith: “Well, obviously for everyone it’s very different. I think it’s getting to do what you love more than anything, whether it’s a small indie film or recording an album. Not only that, but being supported by your peers. I think we spend a lot of time doing jobs just because we have to work, you know? But when you get to do something that you really enjoy, like STRANGE MAGIC, it’s really special.”
Before I let you go, if you could teach a college course of your creation, what do you think you would teach?
Meredith: “Oh, God! Are you kidding? [Laughs] First off I would like to say I went to four colleges and I only have six credits.”
[Laughs] Coming from the woman who is the lead in a George Lucas film; I’m sure you have something interesting to teach.
Meredith: “[Laughs] Whole other thing! Oh, boy. That’s such a great question. What would you teach?”
I would probably teach some kind of micro-budget film course of some sort. I stole that answer from Mark Duplass.
Meredith: “Oh, cool! I would definitely teach something not on the acting side of things but on the life side of things. I find that projects are more enjoyable when you connect with the people you work with on a personal level. When I find that I connect with person on a human level, it’s so much easier. Gary, for instance— he’s so cool and down-to-earth. The guy has won like seven Oscars, yet he’s one of the nerdiest guys I know. And not nerdy because he’s so full of knowledge but nerdy because he has such nerdy humor, and there’s no shame in that. It’s so nice to meet someone who is so, so down-to-earth after such success, because in Hollywood you hear all these horror stories about people with such success being such conflicted human beings. It was such a family environment for everyone who worked on the film.”
STRANGE MAGIC opens in theaters tomorrow.
Clip of Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) and Sunny (Elijah Kelly)
Clip of Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) and MaryAnn (Evan Rachel Wood)
STRANGE MAGIC Soundtrack List: http://www.soundtrackmania.com/strange-magic-soundtrack-list.html