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Air Buddies: Special Screening and Press Day on the Walt Disney Studios Lot
By Pluto Region1
Disney celebrates an early 10th anniversary of the original Air Bud with the release of the newest film in the Keystone Family Pictures-produced franchise, Air Buddies, available this month on DVD. In honor of the occasion, Disney hosted a special screening event on the Walt Disney Studios Lot, which took place December 2, 2006, and your roving LA correspondent was there to cover it. The event included a brief meet and greet on the red carpet with stars from the film, an opportunity to hold and hug some very adorable Golden Retriever puppies, an all-star panel discussion, and a screening of the film in the studio's theater.
For those who are not familiar with Air Bud or its five sequels, the series is about a talented sports-loving golden retriever and his various adventures with the Framm family. The newest installment, Air Buddies, is actually a spin-off from the original franchise and stars five adorable puppies, the offspring of Air Bud. In a complete departure from all of the previous films in the series, thanks to the magic of computer-generated imagery, the animals talk! Although the focus is now on the fun-loving puppies, the series' original messages of family and teamwork are still ever present. Sadly, the movie is also known for being the final film credit of both the beloved Don Knotts and series regular Patrick Cranshaw. Knotts provides the voice of Deputy Sniffer, the loveable bloodhound, while Cranshaw plays his sidekick and owner, Sheriff Bob.
The all-star discussion panel included Robert Vince (Director/Producer/Writer), Richard Karn (Patrick Framm), Trevor Wright (Grim), Paul Rae (Denning), Tyler Guerrero (Bartleby Livingston), Christian Pikes (Henry), Skyler Gisondo (voice of B-Dawg), and Dominic Scott Kay (voice of Buddha). A moderator posed assorted questions to the panel and later turned the audience for additional questions.
Robert Vince was asked about the change to having the dogs talk. "The talking allows our animals to be three-dimensional characters,” Vince asserted. However, having the dogs talk required development of a unique personality for each pup and finding the right actors to match those personalities.
Richard Karn, best known as Tim Allen's flannel-clad sidekick on "Home Improvement", returns as Patrick Framm, the role he played in Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch. Asked about some of the unique challenges of working with animals, Karn replied, "I wouldn't really call them challenges. You're focused on the moment. With dogs, the moment is all the time. You really don’t know what they are going to do and you have to wait for them to hit their mark or maybe they won't hit their mark and that's even funnier. You just go with it and hopefully the camera guys are going with it also." Vince added, "You can only write what you can imagine and you can never imagine what they [the puppies] are going to do. You have to learn to utilize those moments rather than wishing [they were] different and that's part of working with animals."
Because puppies grow at such a fast rate, several sets of young canines had to be used throughout the filming cycle for the movie. Each set of puppies is employed for about two weeks before they become too big to be used, leaving the trainers to move on to the next set. In each set, there are ten dogs – five primary characters and five backups that are called upon if one of the pups isn't performing as wished. The puppies were eight to ten weeks old during their time on set. At eight weeks, they’re just starting to respond, and the puppy trainers had them trained and working within two to three week periods. “You have to plan way ahead of time and then at the same time be flexible,” said Vince.
Another obstacle came in how to make the animals talk.
The two "bad guys" in the film, Trevor Wright (Grim) and Paul Rae (Denning), were asked about the physical stunts and slapstick comedy they had to perform for the film. "First day, I was face-first in the pig pen. So every day for a week I would have mud wiped all over me and this is in British Columbia, Canada, and it wasn't exactly warm a lot of those days," says Rae. "Everyone's talking about the puppies, we didn't get to see the puppies. We weren't allowed to touch them, we weren’t allowed to play with them, because when we were doing scenes with them, they are supposed to be running away from us. We got to become friends with the goat," Rae added to audience laughter. "The goat has his way with me, he hits me in the head, the butt. You'll see, he gets me pretty well."
After the all-too-short 20-minute panel discussion, it was time to adjourn. Many went on to see a screening of the film, but yours truly couldn't resist one last look at the pups! Air Buddies comes directly to Disney DVD on December 12th.
Read our Air Buddies DVD Review
Buy Air Buddies on DVD from Amazon.com
Published December 8, 2006.
High School Musical: Encore Edition DVD Launch at Disney's El Capitan Theatre (May 2006 - Hollywood, CA)
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Published December 8, 2006.