Like all good books, that first sentence, that first burst of an author’s voice will dictate the rest of your journey through the subsequent pages. Movies are no different, where the first image or the first sound of a character’s voice will instantly transport you into the world on screen. In the new animated fantasy-adventure “The Book of Life,” that first burst of color is provided by what looks like an ordinary museum.
But audiences will find a world beyond their imagination right through those doors. Film and television star Christina Applegate opens up and leads audiences into a tale that does everything but go by the book in “The Book of Life.”
As the mysterious tour guide named Mary Beth, she seems to have been awarded the thankless task of guiding a group of rowdy kids who would rather be anywhere else but on a museum tour. Yet, the charming Mary Beth has something special in store for them, escorting them into a secret room that houses the powerful magic of “The Book of Life.” For director Jorge R. Gutierrez and producer Guillermo del Toro, the character of Mary Beth had to be voiced by someone with great charm, humor and warmth. It was a crucial role because she would not only entrance the kids in the film, but the audience as well. Familiarity and richness of tone were essential.
“It’s just so exciting to see it come to life,”Applegate enthused. “It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before!” Applegate takes us more into the rich and colorful world of “The Book of Life” in the following q&a.
Q: Christina, you’ve voiced roles for animated projects before “The Book of Life.”What motivated you most in wanting to become part of this unique motion picture?
A: I just wanted to be intrigued by the story because in animation audiences do not get to see our faces. We need to be incredible storytellers through our voices. It can be a magical experience, so you want to make sure that it’s something that you find incredible. Then you can really get behind it and tell the truth of a character, of a story.
Q: All aspects of “The Book of Life” are as diverse as you will ever find in an animated film. How does its multiculturalism enhance the experience for the audience?
A: I think there is something to be said with the story behind Day of the Dead and the remembering of people that we love. They do stay alive because we remember them, because we honor them. That’s a beautiful part of the story. It’s not just a love story, it’s not just an adventure. It has a meaning and it’s something that’s very near and dear to Jorge. His growing up in Mexico and being enmeshed in the culture, he really wanted to bring this message out because a lot of people probably don’t understand what Day of the Dead means. I think at the end of it, you’re going to have an incredible experience, visually and comedically, with the music and everything else. But, the underlying theme is much deeper.
Q: The artistry behind the animation has certainly teased the imaginations of audiences who have seen the trailers. What makes the look of “The Book of Life”such a singular achievement?
A: When I saw the photographs, I was so intrigued. But I thought, “How is this going to be fluid? Are the characters going to be really static?”I didn’t know how that was going to turn out. But, my golly, they did such an incredible job because it’s magical! By making a lot of the characters appear to be made out of wood, this folk art aesthetic brings about the uniqueness of this movie. And it makes it really mystical. It really does. Oh, the Land of the Remembered and how gorgeous that is! It’s so cool to be a part of something like that.
Q: When you do get a chance to be part of something truly original, what sort of lasting effect do you feel?
A: You know what’s very cool about when you walk away from doing an animated film? You never know what it is until you finally get to see the artistry that’s been created over these months. I didn’t get to really see what Mary Beth’s face was doing or how she moved her body. I had nothing to do with that, which is so interesting. It’s different from when you’re doing a film and you know how it’s going to turn out because you’re physically being these characters. But with this, they’ve created her. I provided a voice, they created this human being.
Q: Audiences will be taught the importance of writing their own stories. You continue to live such an inspiring life, what are you most proud of in your narrative?
A: Raising an incredible kid. That’s my story. I’m raising an incredible kid. She’s cute. She is a life changer to anyone who comes in contact with her! I know we all feel that way about our kids. I get it, but she’s the most amazing kid in the world!
Family-filled adventure begins when “The Book of Life” opens in cinemas in 2D and 3D on October 16 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.