MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is now available for you to buy on DVD/Blu ray and thanks to Disney/Pixar we have a chat with Pete Sohn one of the artists from Pixar but also the voice of Scott ‘Squishy’ Squibbles in the movie.
Tell us about your role in Monsters University?
I’m lucky enough to be the voice of Squishy, the chubby monster with a hat and a bunch of eyes. It’s been really fun.
How did you win the role of Squishy?
I guess I look a little like Squishy. The movie’s director [Dan Scanlon] asked me to do the temporary voice for the character a while ago, but then it became the permanent voice; I guess they liked it.
How does it feel to record your voice for a project like this?
It’s really interesting to do a voice at Pixar. I’ll get called down to the recording studio and I’ll be asked to scream into a microphone for 10 minutes about something funny. Then it’s straight back to my work on my other projects.
What else do you do at Pixar?
I’ve worked at Pixar for about 12 years. I started here as a character designer on Finding Nemo, but then I moved into the story department and animation. I’ve been all over the place here. It’s amazing that Pixar allows you to move around into whatever area interests you. Pixar is great like that.
Is this your first role in a Pixar movie?
I’ve voiced a couple of characters before. I was Emile the rat in Ratatouille and I also played a mugger in The Incredibles. Plus, Russell from Up was based on me, but I didn’t voice him.
How similar are you to Russell from Up?
I grew up in New York and I was a bear cub, so I was an Asian boy scout in an urban area – but that’s about it. Interestingly, I did the temporary voice for Russell.
Why did they choose you for the role of Squishy?
I’m not the type of actor who can meld into different types of personalities. They wanted a nerdy, sincere quality – and that’s what I can do. When I read the script for the first time, I realized that he’s part of the misfit fraternity at university. I totally understand that role, so it wasn’t a big stretch for me.
What do you like about Squishy?
I like that he’s so sincere and innocent. There’s a scene in the movie where Mike and Sulley want to throw a party. Squishy says something like: “This is great… Grab some couch cushions guys cause we’re building a fort!” I totally connect to him because that’s how I grew up with my cousins. We didn’t have the internet and we would nerd out over one LEGO piece. I love that naïve sincerity that Squishy has.
How much input did you have into the character?
The script was already written, so the only thing I had to do was try to find funny ways to say certain lines. Dan Scanlon, the writers and the storyboard artists had already figured out most of it. Dan’s such a good director. He is very understanding and we know each other really well, which is great.
Were you anything like Squishy at college?
I was a nerd in art school, so I was pretty similar – but there were no fraternity parties or anything like that for me. It was a whole different scenario, but there were definitely cliques.
In Monsters University, Squishy dreams about becoming a ‘Scarer.’ What scares you?
I’m going to get real now… I have a 3-year-old daughter and a 6-month-old baby. This is going to sound very sad, but the idea that they will be able to break your heart purposely one day scares me. In the beginning it’s, ‘I love you, you love me; that’s great.’ But when the love has grown so much, they then have that ability to say, “I hate you daddy.” I’m so terrified of that, but as a parent, I know it’s coming.
How does it feel to hear your voice coming out of a cartoon character?
It’s really thrilling and exciting. I try to ignore the voice when I’m seeing a film for the first time – but sometimes you hear yourself and you think, ‘Oh my god… That is so embarrassing!’ There are times when I don’t think of it as my voice anymore because Squishy’s attitudes are not necessarily mine – but then I hear the audience laugh at something and I think, “Oh yeah… That’s me.”
How would you describe your experience in the sound booth?
It’s really exciting. At the same time, it’s naked; it’s a really naked thing because you’re so self-conscious in there. For me, acting is about trying not to think about anything else other than what your character is thinking. I try to think about what the character’s natural instincts will be. It’s also about having the trust in the directors and the crew; knowing that they’ll take care to make the character real.
What’s your favorite character in the new movie?
I love Art. He’s so cool! He looks like a Muppet, and I’m a big Muppet fan. I also love Squish’s mom, Ms. Squibbles. She’s really funny and heartwarming. I got to have lunch with Julia Sweeney, who plays Ms. Squibbles, and she is brilliant. It’s funny to see how Squishy is embarrassed by his mom, but he still loves her. There’s this weird 30-year-old-living-with-his-mom kind of feeling that I totally understand and connect to.
What advice can you offer aspiring animators?
For me, it’s all about passion. Some people say, “I’m thinking about getting into animation.” And I think to myself, ‘Okay, that’s great.’ But then you meet people that say, “I love animation. I love this about it and I love that about it.” It’s that passion that can create life, and I think that’s what animation is all about. It’s about trying to make something real and alive, and the only way you can do it is to love it.
Is it important to be passionate about animation if you want to make it your career?
I call it ‘the love tree.’ I think it’s important to wholeheartedly love what you’re doing – and in doing so, you’ll start to find all of the other branches and then you start to learn everything about it. You become so passionate about it that you can’t help but do it. It’s an important thing because this type of work takes a long time and it’s hard work. These films take four to five years to make!