Building a Snowman: 1on1 with Joe Izzo (ABOMINABLE)

Dreamworks’ Abominable tells the story of young Yi (Chloe Bennet) who inadvertently discovers a yeti on her rooftop. Naming him Everest after the famed mountain region that he calls home, Yi and her two friends embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family. However, along the course of the perilous journey, the young adventurers must also be on their guard to protect Everest from a wealthy financier and a determined zoologist who will stop at nothing to capture the beast for their own gain. As a member of the production team (and the voice of Everest), actor Joe Izzo was thrilled to have been part of the film?s development from the very beginning.

?We?re super proud of the picture, especially with the character design. Everything about it is so sweet and beautiful,? he beams. ?I worked on the movie in a production role very, very early on, [maybe as far] back [as] 2013. I was a production supervisor, so I was alongside the director as we were getting the first version of movie up. Some things changed over the years and? I came back to help out with some voice work.? 

?I worked at Dreamworks and I worked on the first version of the story. So, I had a super behind the scenes and close look at the very beginning stages of it. Honestly, when I first read the script, I just I fell in love with story. It was always that good from the beginning.? 

Having also been involved in other high-profile projects such as How to Train Your Dragon and Boss Baby, Izzo maintains that his joy in animation stems out of his love of collaboration.

?I think you feel more involved in animation because the process takes a lot longer,? he explains. ?You get to see all of the stages and, literally, the characters and the story comes to life, not just through animation, but through writing and voice work and all the different artists that bring it together. I did a little bit of a work in live action but nothing gets you as involved? as animation. It’s really inspiring.?

Since he was involved from the beginning of the film, Izzo remains excited about how Everest developed over time in the hands of an amazing director and incredibly talented crew of animators. Asked how he developed the voice of Everest, he claims that the sounds of the lovable yeti came directly out of the character design. 

?I think it goes back to the design,? Izzo reflects. ?We had so many great storyboard artists that that drew the character and, in a way for me, I just felt like, ‘Oh, this is how he has to sound.’ The way they made him act, move and some of the mannerisms just made it easier. Jill [Culton]’s just a great director so, just being at her side, and kind of playing around with how playful he can be and how much of an animal he can be. [It was] just kind of a fun process that way.? 

Throughout the film, Everest?s playful energy pops off the screen but also connects deeply with the youth who are changed by their relationship with him, especially Yi. Similarly, Izzo also notes that Everest?s journey home parallels Yi?s emotional arc as well.

Says Izzo, ?I think they’re both [beginning to] understand what home is. I think that’s the big overlying theme of the movie. Home just means something a little different as they’re going on a journey. It’s what they need and [it’s about] how they find it through each other. There’s a sense of growing and maturity that they kind of find with each other too in the sense of… his ultimate sense of purity. He’s just good. He’s like nature. Sometimes he can look a little scary, but ultimately he’s good and necessary and we don’t necessarily understand him.? 

Interestingly, Abominable is actually the 3rd animated film to feature the yeti in the last two years*. While each film is entirely different in tone and style, Izzo believes that they are also similar in their desire to instill a sense of wonder into their audience.

?With most animated movies, there’s that sense of wonder and sense of something that you don’t quite understand,? argues Izzo. ?There’s something really neat about the whole thing that there’s something else, you know? I think all those movies still try to do the same thing. They relay that he’s a good person or a good character, you know? He’s not a monster.?

One of the most beautiful aspects of Abominable stems from its celebration of the power of music. Brought together from the relationship between Yi and Everest, music is shown to contain a live-giving quality that offers healing and hope to those around them. 

?I that was something that Jill, the director, had in very first draft of the script very early on its something she held on to,? he recalls. ?I think music is just very important to her. I think the violin was always? something that we tried to bring to life. You don’t necessarily have to know how to play music or know what the song means or really understand the history behind certain things, but there’s a sense of power behind it. There’s the sense of beauty and wonder. It’s something that we can all be united for that.? 

In light of this, the film also contains a powerful message of hope through the emotional journey of its characters

?[I think that hope is] that sense of the future, especially as they’re younger characters,? Izzo believes. ?It’s something to look forward to as they saw themselves grow and mature and saw the change in the villain, in the sense of the end. Just knowing that they have [made an] impact [and] to be part of that change.? 

For full audio of our interview with Joe Izzo, click?here.

Abominable thunders onto 4K and Blu-Ray on December 17th, 2019 and is available on VOD now.

*Smallfoot (2018) and Missing Link (2019)

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