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Producer Mike Scully (The Simpsons) led a discussion that featured returning cast members Jon Heder (Napoleon), Tina Majorino (Deb), Efren Ramirez (Pedro), Jon Gries (Uncle Rico), Sandy Martin (Grandma), Diedrich Bader (Rex) and Aaron Ruell (Kip).
Following introductions, Scully tried desperately to play a voicemail from the movie’s co-director Jared Hess, and after several failed attempts handed his phone to a presumed tech-savvy Heder. Scully eventually resorted to summarizing the message from Hess, a producer on the series, who had sent his blessings while he is filming in Europe.
The discussion began with questions about how the series developed, and why the producers and network settled on the animated route. Scully explained that, following the success of Napoleon Dynamite, Fox had asked for a sequel. Hess, who wrote and directed the film with his wife Jerusha, had expressed interest in venturing into animation, keeping in line with his vision of doing something completely different with the property.
“A lot of movies can’t make the transition into animation,” Scully said. “Schindler’s List would be one. But Napoleon Dynamite … the characters were so unique, and the voices were so special and the world was so much fun, we really thought it could make the leap [that] we started working on it.”
Majorino confessed the transition to animation voice work initially made her uneasy. “The reason why I was so nervous is because you’re going to do things with people like Diedrich who had done it before,” she said. “It’s really exciting to try new things that you haven’t done before, but I wanted to get it right and be true to Deb. It was just a little nerve-wracking.”
A confessed Shakespearian actor, Ramirez discussed how he arrived at his take on Pedro, saying he “combined Buster Keaton and my ex-girlfriend’s dog together.” He also said that he had double-booked Napoleon Dynamite with another, larger unnamed feature. Having a passion for the material, Ramirez said he turned the other job.
Heder talked about his relationship with Jared Hess led to their involvement with the film. Heder said he had never really acted and was studying animation when he and Hess made Peluca, the short film on which Napoleon Dynamite is based. “We shot that little short, and it blew up in the college world, and then Jared said, ‘Hey let’s make a feature,’” Heder said.
Once the cast ceased their praise of the movie and the animated series, Scully premiered some never-before-seen clips and teasers that drew virtually nonstop laughter from the audience.
He then announced that Napoleon Dynamite will feature a host of guest stars, including Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live) and Sam Rockwell (Moon). After the panel, Scully divulged to CBR News that the series will introduce romantic interests for Napoleon and Kip, and that there will be an episode that pits the two against each other for the affections of a girl.
Napoleon Dynamite premieres in January on Fox.