Flora & Ulysses Stars on the Challenges Of Acting Opposite a CGI Squirrel (Exclusive)

Hannigan compares it to her “Buffy” days, while Schwartz says he experienced the flip side of voicing Sonic the Hedgehog.

“Flora & Ulysses” stars Alyson Hannigan and Ben Schwartz have worked with a number of CG characters in the past, but that still didn’t really prepare them for appearing opposite a superhero squirrel in the new Disney+ film.

For Hannigan, she wasn’t “too intimidated” by the idea after her time on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and found the technological advances in the last 18 years extremely beneficial, as well as having a clear point of reference this time around.

“If anything, this was kind of the easiest imagining I could ask for because with all the years I did on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ there were a lot of like, ‘Okay, there’s going to be a big scary monster there,’ and you just have to make that up in your mind,” she explained with a laugh. “But at least with this, I was very familiar with what squirrels look like and I love squirrels so it was easy.”

“We had a foam squirrel that did all the movements that Ulysses was gonna do, and then we would have a mark and if he moved, then the mark would be on a pole and somebody would move him so we all looked at the same place at the same time,” she continued. “I remember a lot of monster scenes from ‘Buffy’ where I’m looking here, and I see somebody looking there. Something’s not quite working out here. It’s gonna be a real big monster.”

For Schwartz, the chance to star opposite Ulysses gave him a greater understanding of what his “Sonic the Hedgehog” costars had to go through after he provided the titular character’s voice for the recent film.

“It was very interesting to work with a CGI character. I had a lot more respect for James Marsden from doing ‘Sonic,'” he explained. “It was pretty remarkable. It was pretty great. The idea of, ‘Look left, now look right, now look down.’ And you look at the movie and the squirrel is doing flips and it looks perfect. It’s a testament to [director Lena Khan] and it’s a testament to the CG team who brought it all to life. They did an incredible job.”

Hannigan also sang the creative team’s work.

“CGI can go either way and it hinges so much on the squirrel looking like a squirrel,” she said of the film. “When I saw the final product, I was blown away because I knew it’d be good, but it’s fantastic.” She said one of her daughters asked how the filmmakers were able to “get the squirrel to do that.”

In the film, Hannigan and Schwartz play a married couple in the midst of a separation. Throughout the movie, they try to get that spark back, while also keeping the idea of magic alive for their daughter, the titular Flora. With the help of a powerful squirrel, they all start to get back on track.

Finding new ways to the magic alive at home is something Hannigan has experienced firsthand during the pandemic, while in lockdown with husband Alexis Denisof and their two daughters.

“I do think one of my strengths is sort of my ability to find fun in any situation, or most situations I should say,” she explained. “So with this at-home schooling, we just turned over our living room and said, ‘Okay, this is gonna be school now.’ I made it really fun for them.”

“And then I was like, ‘We should walk to school,’ because we don’t get to walk to school when they’re in school, so we would leave the front door and then walk around the house to the side door and then come in like, ‘Okay, we’re ready for school,'” she continued. “I just go a little crazy with their snacks. I love to craft … I upped my game.”

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Schwartz’s character, meanwhile deals with a bit of imposter syndrome as a struggling comic book artist. It’s something to which he can relate.

“Just because of the nature of doing improv comedy, especially in the beginning of my career, you’d have a couple of good shows in a row, and then one would just be like, ‘What’s happening? Nobody’s laughing. This is terrible. Am I terrible? I’m terrible. Get off the stage!'” he explained. “So, there’s always that thing. Once I get that first laugh and I see that we’re going to be okay and the crowd feels comfortable, and we feel comfortable, I feel good.”

“So, when I’m filming things I have that same type of thing,” he said. “There’s always gonna be nerves before you go in. It’s like the first day of school, you’re meeting all new people to act with, all new people to be in the crew with … there’s always that feeling of like, ‘Oh, I hope that was good?'”

See the two of them in action with “Flora & Ulysses” premieres February 19 on Disney+.

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