When we met the three stars of Free Birds to talk about their animated film, it could have been easily guessed that this turkey’d trio would be as funny as their onscreen avian characters.
“I was surprised that Owen takes this stuff very seriously,” Harrelson said of working in the voice booth with co-star Wilson. “The first session he came in and was all in feathers. He had that thing (pointing to his chin.). What do you call it?”
Wilson helps him out. “The wattle,” he said.
“Yeah, that was weird,” Harrelson said and smiled. “The wattle. He takes it seriously, very, very seriously.”
Wilson proceeds to laugh hysterically. The duo are good friends off screen so it is not hard to believe the pair had great chemistry playing best bud turkeys who commandeer a time machine to go back to the first Thanksgiving. Why, you ask? As shown in the Free Birds trailer, to get turkey off the menu forever.
“It wasn’t hard,” Wilson said of working with his bud. “It’s just that Woody likes to have the last word so sometimes it’s best not to have him there in the room with me. I can get my bits in.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that. You can have the last word anytime,” Harrelson said, cutting off his friend.
As shown in these Free Birds photos, Poehler plays a turkey that they meet in 1600s Massachusetts who is clueless of the turkey Armageddon coming her way. When Woody and Owen arrive, she begins to see what they are saying could be true. Now, if Amy could go back in time… where would she go?
“I would just go back to last night and get more sleep,” she said and laughed. “Is that short-sighted? I should probably think bigger.”
Harrelson interjects before adding his opinion. “That’s not very ambitious. I think you’d feel later like you wasted your shot. I kind of like the period Owen went back to in Midnight in Paris. That was a good era,” he admitted. “It would be nice to run into Henry Miller and some other fun people.”
Now, along those lines, we ask the Free Birds stars where in their life they would return to if they could relive a moment.
“Birth,” Harrelson said with dead seriousness.
“Taking it totally back to the genesis for this guy!” Wilson said.
“Yeah, but talking like I talk now,” Harrelson said. “‘Hi, mom!’ Yeah, that would be wild!”
Then, Poehler gets serious… well, sort of. “I was in a dog run once and I threw two tennis balls in the air and my lab caught them both in his mouth and everybody clapped,” she said. “I’d like to see that again.”
“Amy, you have the most unexpected trips back,” Harrelson interjects. “Last night for sleep and then the time your dog caught two tennis balls. You got two big opportunities here!”
Poehler did have a blast playing a 1600s turkey who could be a part of changing history. “It was fun to play someone who’s part of a flock,” Poehler said. “The idea that you can’t do it alone -- those are universal themes that I feel I can understand.”
Free Birds will unite families around a Thanksgiving story and surely get everyone who sees it in the spirit of the holiday that celebrates family. That certainly is what the stars of the film most recall about their Thanksgiving past.
“I have lots of Thanksgiving memories,” Wilson said. “We would always have a football game going on during Thanksgiving that would lead to a lot of arguments. The Dallas Cowboys game was always on during Thanksgiving. My favorite food was my mom’s stuffing, the turkey -- that’s pretty good -- the cranberry sauce, apple pie. Do you guys want to chime in? Were you orphans?”
Amy starts to respond and then laughs as Wilson’s comment hits her. “I started a new thing with my kids where we watch a movie on Thanksgiving that we’ve never seen before. That’s always fun to show your kids movies,” Poehler said.
“Like, one of yours?” Wilson asked.
“Yeah, only mine,” she responded and laughed. “Actually, last year we watched the original Willy Wonka on Thanksgiving. So maybe this year, we’ll watch Free Birds!”
Speaking of family, with Harrelson, Poehler and Wilson making mostly adult movies over the years, it was clearly important to each to make this animated film, something they could share with their children -- as can be seen in this Free Birds clip.
“I got to show them some of the art from the film and they were really into it,” Poehler admitted. “They like the idea of a buddy adventure. I’ve got two young boys. It speaks to them. Most of the time, they’re really disinterested in what you do, like most kids.”
Harrelson concurred. “I asked Makani, my little seven-year-old rascal, what her favorite movie was -- not trying to lead her toward anything. And she goes, ‘Free Birds,’” Harrelson said proudly. “You know the way to my heart, kid! Tonight, you’re going to get dessert.”
“You should also point out she’s also your publicist,” Poehler interrupts.
“Keepin’ it in-house,” Harrelson said as they all laughed.
See, told you they are three funny turkeys!