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Zach Galifianakis On Playing A Sasquatch In 'Missing Link' And Why We All Need To Get Outside

In the new animated movie "Missing Link," Zach Galifianakis plays a Sasquatch who goes off in search of his only kin. "It's a buddy movie, it's a travel movie, it's got amazing landscapes with this beautiful stop-motion animation that is breathtaking, I think," he tells Here & Now. (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
In the new animated movie "Missing Link," Zach Galifianakis plays a Sasquatch who goes off in search of his only kin. "It's a buddy movie, it's a travel movie, it's got amazing landscapes with this beautiful stop-motion animation that is breathtaking, I think," he tells Here & Now. (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

There’s a new stop-motion animated film out Friday called “Missing Link.”

It stars Zach Galifianakis, known for the “Hangover” films, “Baskets” on FX and his satirical interview show “ Between Two Ferns.”

Galifianakis plays a Sasquatch named Mr. Link, who lives alone in the Pacific Northwest. When Mr. Link is discovered by explorer Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman, he asks Frost to take him to find his only kin, the yeti.

“It’s a lot of different moving parts, this movie: It’s a buddy movie, it’s a travel movie, it’s got amazing landscapes with this beautiful stop-motion animation that is breathtaking, I think,” Galifianakis tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson.

“I’d love to have his height. Oh, my God,” Galifianakis says. “He has traces of me. He’s kind of a loner. … To sound really pretentious, I think all the characters I play are looking for friendships. I think that seems to be the common thing of the characters that I play. So this is another one — he’s looking for friends, that’s the bottom line.”

The movie is an ode to getting outside and exploring — something many kids who might see it are spending less time doing than previous generations. Galifianakis says he’s experienced the power of the outdoors firsthand, and hopes “Missing Link” could inspire audiences to do the same.

“Part of the time I live in the woods, and what happens in the woods, if people have forgotten, is that time slows down, and in chaos — at least my interpretation of it — time speeds up,” he says. “And if you want to take a breath and see beautifully amazing things where you can concentrate, lose your mind into nature, there’s nothing better than being in the woods. There just isn’t. I think we forget that.”

Also, a sidenote for all you “Between Two Ferns” fans: Galifianakis says it’s slated to make a feature-length return this year.

“We did shoot a movie that should be coming out within the year,” he tells Here & Now. “I can’t really go much into it, because it’s kind of still early.”

Interview Highlights

On what made him want to do this movie

“Well honestly what happens is people say, ‘Hey the director would like to talk to you about maybe doing this stop-motion [movie],’ and stop motion piqued my interest because it is kind of an old-fashioned way of doing animation that I’ve always liked. And the fact that the advancements in stop motion are really kind of amazing right now and like that did the movies the stop motion movie that I signed up for seemed to be a really great company and they were doing kind of exciting new work. And that was enough.”

On his character in the movie, Mr. Link — also known by his more casual name: Susan

“Yes, Susan is the more casual name. The character is this kind of innocent creature that’s been in the woods. And I think all creatures in the woods have a certain innocence and earnestness to them until they get out of the woods — much like humans, we become poisoned by our own world. And I think he was yearning to get out of the woods to see if there was … another creature like him. And in his travels, he finds out that you can socialize with a lot of different people, a lot of different creatures. They don’t have to be just like you.”

On how much input he had on Mr. Link

“Chris Butler, the director, was very gracious at letting me breathe and do my own thing. But he’s a very witty person, so I trusted him. But you know, you go off on an improv here and there, or you change your voice a little bit to the character and the animation you’ve seen. You don’t see a lot when you first start working on it, a lot of it is vague, and you see black-and-white, very kind of rough sketches and you use your imagination.

“The difference I think between … voice acting and regular acting is you have to imagine the space you’re in, versus obviously live action, you can see everything, and, ‘Oh, there’s an actor there, they’re going to hand me this umbrella. I know what to do,’ versus, ‘Oh, I have to imagine someone handing me an umbrella.’ That’s not hard to imagine, but … you use your imagination a lot more.”

Watch on YouTube.

On not having any reaction from other people while reading his lines

“Nothing. There is no reaction. And being a stand-up, you’re kind of used to that instant gratification. But with these animated things, you just kind of speak into a microphone and there’s little reaction. There’s no reaction — kind of like when I do stand-up.”

On trying to reach both kids and adults

“I am keeping in mind that it is a kids movie, first and foremost. But you do want to speak to the adults that might be bringing the kids there … because you want to give them a few jokes, too. It’s always more enjoyable when these kind of movies have some humor for the grown-ups, and I think we try to split the difference there with this. So you’re speaking to mostly the children, but the great aunt that has brought the brought the kids there, hopefully she’s paying attention. You could sneak in a joke there.”

On his comedic style

“I like absurdity. I also like rudeness, because I think rudeness is funny — not because I agree with it, I think rudeness is funny because I think when people are rude they’re … not aware. And I think people that are not aware of themselves is very funny. So I’ve kind of built it on those rules. I don’t agree with a lot of the humor I do. I just do it to try to make a point sometimes.”

On his career in comedy and other types of performing he’d like to explore

“I mean honestly … I’m 49, and I am just really happy to still be working, because comedy especially is a younger person’s game, I think. So the fact that people are still asking me to do things is nice. Drama I would rather do, only because you run out of tricks and comedy. And I think I may have run out of tricks, and drama’s easier. It’s a lot easier.

“[Comedy is] much harder. You could ask any comedian that, too, they’ll say comedy is harder. Because you have to have the immediate feedback. With a drama, you just sit there and listen. But with a comedy, you have to hear the laughter. What makes you laugh might not make the person you’re sitting next to in the theater laugh, so it’s kind of a game of averages sometimes with, ‘OK, if we can get 70 percent of the audience to get this joke or like this joke, then you’re you’re kinda good.’ It’s a numbers game.”

Emiko Tamagawa produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Jack Mitchell adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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