After winning over the nation’s heart for calmly asking neighbors if they could sharpen his axe, Dave Foley became a comedy icon thanks to Kids In The Hall.
The show immediately established Foley as a subversive wit that he carried on through such bowel-looseningly funny projects as NewsRadio and The Wrong Guy. However, for the young at heart (or low of maturity) he’ll always be best known as the voice of the impossibly perky and motivated little ant named Flik from Pixar’s second feature film A Bug’s Life. After voicing that character through a movie, a surprisingly decent Playstation game, stuffed toys, and an entire section of Disneyland, Foley returned to the Pixar fold last year with Monsters University.
Along with Sean Hayes, the comedian plays one half of a two-headed monster in the college-set Pixar prequel to Monsters Inc. Pixar is good to its collaborators (just ask John Ratzenberger), so it’s safe to say this won’t be the last time Foley will be part of a Pixar joint, but for now it’s nice to see the gap-toothed voice of Canadian hilarity back in a summer blockbuster from the world’s finest animation company. CGM recently got a chance to chat with Foley about his experience with Pixar past and present, the possibility of future Kids In The Hall projects, and of course, his experience of being directed by Leonard Nimoy in Three Men And A Baby.
Comics & Gaming Magazine: How would you compare working with Pixar during its infancy on A Bugs Life compared to now when they are one of the biggest animation studios in the world?
David Foley: Well, it’s kind of been an ongoing relationship with Pixar over the years. I’ve stayed in touch and done other stuff for them and also did some Disney stuff that John Lasseter oversaw. The company has definitely changed a lot since A Bug’s Life, which was only their second feature. You know, they’ve got their own campus outside San Francisco, but the thing that hasn’t changed is their approach to making a movie. That is exactly the same. It’s a constant refining with a constant willingness to tear things apart that they’ve already done and go back in to start over. They’ll follow whatever the best idea is no matter how much work that means, which still amazes me about the company. They keep bringing along really talented new directors into the system, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
CGM: How do you fit into that working method as a voice actor?
David Foley: Well, when I was doing Bug’s Life, if someone improvised or came up with something in a voice session that they really liked, but it meant having to bring me in to re-do my session, they’d just call me up and ask if I was free. Even if it was something that they had already partially animated, they’d throw that all out and bring us back in to go with the new idea. So that freedom was always there. They gave you that freedom and took the burden of all the work that meant.
CGM: It must be tough to get the comedic rhythm of scenes down without the other actors there.
David Foley: Yeah, for A Bug’s Life I never even met any of the other cast members. So that was just John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton sitting in the recording studio with me doing all of the other lines. John would get up and act out the movie for you. (laughs) I remember going to the audition for A Bug’s Life and John did the entire movie for me from start to finish just before the audition. I just remember sitting there thinking, “Who is this guy?!”
CGM: So how do you prepare for playing out a scene knowing you don’t have a partner?
David Foley: I generally don’t prepare at all…well, for anything really (laughs). But especially for this. In the animation that I’ve done, you really have to rely on the director. You have to rely on them for what every other actor has done, what the action is, what the tone is, and where you are in the story, everything really. But for this, I had the fun of actually getting to record with Sean Hayes. They scheduled it so that he and I could come in together and improvise and talk over each other like siblings. They wanted the two heads to feel like bickering brothers.
CGM: Did you get tethered together?
David Foley: No, the sound engineers would not allow that.
CGM: What’s it like being the straight man to Sean Hayes?
David Foley: Um, well I guess for me to be the straight man, it has to be with Sean Hayes (laughs). I love working with Sean, I did a few episodes of Will And Grace with Sean where I was his only boyfriend. Actually, I went to Palm Springs after doing those and I’ve never been more famous than being there right after shooting Will And Grace.
CGM: Have you had any crazy roommates like that yourself?
David Foley: I’ve actually never had any roommates. I’ve just had wives.
CGM: But you’ve never had a house full of them.
David Foley: No…well…No, I’m not like Andy Dick. He has had several of wives living together at a time. I guess Wally Langham did live in my house for a while when he got divorced. I don’t know if you know him, he was in Larry Sanders and he’s on CSI now. So he lived with me for a while and we used to call ourselves the less attractive version of Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. That’s the only time and he wasn’t really a roommate. That was just a friend living in my house. There was no fighting over the TV or anything.
CGM: Were you involved with the Bug’s Life section of Disneyland?
David Foley: Yeah, very much so. I recorded for the It’s Tough To Be A Bug 3D film for the wild animal park in Orlando and actually went to the opening of that. And then when they opened up California Adventure they had A Bug’s Land as part of that and John brought me in to do voices. So I’ve got my own little mini-theme park, which my daughter is very proud of and we’ve got a sweet deal at Disneyland.
CGM: Having done all this voice work in family films, do you get kids recognizing your voice?
David Foley: Usually their parents do and the kids are confused. Then I’ll startle the kids by going, “Princess Atta!” And they’ll go, “ah!” It’s like the alien from Aliens just popped out of my chest. It’s that disturbing to them.
CGM: Is it important for you to have a balance of the adult and family focused projects in your career?
David Foley: Yeah, I pretty much just enjoy all comedy. I enjoy all of the dark Kids In The Hall stuff and doing things that even my own children aren’t allowed to see, but it’s nice to have things that my kids can see. Also I’m a huge fan of animation and have been my whole life. To get to be involved with animation is an unexpected thrill. Certainly it’s the only way I could ever play a college student is in animation. I’m a liiiiittle past that.
CGM: This is a weird one but I had to ask because I wasn’t sure if it was an imdb mistake or real. Were you in Three Men And A Baby ?
David Foley: I was, I was. That was the only time my mother was ever impressed that I was in show business because I got to meet Tom Selleck. I was the pharmacy clerk when Tom Selleck goes to buy diapers and my one line was, “Down to the left and two aisles over.” And then growing up as a Star Trek fan, it was amazing for me to be directed by Leonard Nimoy. His direction to me was, “Faster, David.” I’ll never forget it.
CGM: Has enough time gone by that you and the rest of the Kids In The Hall have started talking about getting back together again?
David Foley: We have. We’ve been trying to find a time to get together over the last year. We like to get down to write and then see where that writing leads us. It could be another movie. I’d love to do another mini-series like Death Comes To Town. Or we always like to go out on the road together every few years. In fact all of the guys are going to come up for a guest spot on the sitcom we were doing. So we’ll get together for that and that’ll give us some time to talk about the next project.
CGM: So things aren’t as tense anymore?
David Foley: Well, that time apart helps (laughs) There was a bitter rivalry in Kids In The Hall at some points and we were always very mean to each other, but once we would agree on what we were doing then everyone worked hard to make each other look good. That’s pretty well over now though. We’re too old for that.