Interview: Meredith Anne Bull of “Strange Magic”

Posted on January 21, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Bog King (voice of Alan Cumming), Griselda (voice of Maya Rudolph) and Marianne (voice of Evan Rachel Wood) are part of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps in "Strange Magic," a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Released by Touchstone Pictures, “Strange Magic” is in theaters Jan. 23, 2015. Strange Magic © & TM 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Bog King (voice of Alan Cumming), Griselda (voice of Maya Rudolph) and Marianne (voice of Evan Rachel Wood) in “Strange Magic.” Strange Magic © & TM 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Meredith Anne Bull stars in this week’s release “Strange Magic,” an animated musical fairy tale based on a story by George Lucas. She plays Dawn the “young, naive, unaffected and thrilled with life” younger sister of the heroine, Marianne, played by Evan Rachel Wood. She has done voice-over work before, but this was her first time as the voice of a feature film animated character. She says she felt very comfortable working in a recording studio, which is a challenge for some actors who don’t have a musical background. But it was a challenge to create a performance alone in a recording booth, “without the other actors around you to interact with. Sometimes the director will feed you lines and sometimes you are out there on your own and you have to pull from your imagination.” She did get to see some of the movie’s visuals, especially more recently. She began working on the film in 2011, before most of the animation work had been completed.  And the storyline changed over the year. But in the last year she got to see some short clips and had a better idea of what the final version would be like. She says her favorite fairy tales are “Red Riding Hood” and “Goldilocks,” which she thinks is “hilarious.”

Bull told me she originally auditioned for the part of Marianne, singing “Thriller” and “Like a Virgin.” They asked her to read for Dawn, though she says it is Marianne who is more like her in real life, more independent, with more of a dark sense of humor. “But they saw some part of Dawn in me. They’re more to her than being irresponsible and flying off the handle. She’s sensitive, and she really cares about her sister.  Sometimes she can be self-centered, and she lets her sister down at one point, but you see how much she cares about what her sister thinks of her.  She’s not just happy all the time, though that is certainly her go-to emotion.”

The movie has an assortment of contemporary songs, including a duet with Elijah Kelley, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”  “They’re not like the typical Prince Charming and Princess.  She’s like three feet taller than he is!”

She says the best piece of advice she ever got was from Kelley, who told her not to be intimidated, no matter who she was working with.  “This was kind of my first big film.  I was not exactly intimidated but a little squirrely to be around these people who are very established.  Elijah talked to me about not being intimidated — we are all people, we all have families, we all have insecurities and disappointments.  You should never let anyone make you feel less than you are.”

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