Are Disney's cutesy Cars about to get crushed by a monster no, not truck but three-bedroom colonial? In theaters Friday, Monster House uses cutting-edge motion-capture technology to computer-animate the tale of DJ (Hannah Montana's Mitchel Musso), a barely pubescent lad who comes to realize that the house across the street has just as volatile a temper as its owner, Old Man Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi). DJ conspires with best bud Chowder and a local lass to expose the dwelling's sinister foundation, leading to a final sequence that is spine-tingling in its digitized dynamism. TVGuide.com spoke to Musso about his frightful feature foray.
TVGuide.com: So, have you seen the final print?
Mitchel Musso: Yes, I did. I saw it with my family and I thought it was incredible. I couldn't believe it. I've been waiting for so long since I did all the work and I'd been waiting for it to come out, and I was like, wow.
TVGuide.com: What is your favorite effect? Nebbercracker is rendered extremely well, but the rampaging house is enormously effective, too.
Musso: Yeah, definitely the last couple of scenes with the fighting and the explosions... and when [two characters] dance at the very end, that was amazing because [the two actors] really did dance for it, and then they [motion-captured it]. It's really cool.
TVGuide.com: There are so many fun actors on the voice cast: Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder.... How many of them did you actually get to work with?
Musso: I actually got to work with every single one of them. You would think that you wouldn't, because it's animation and the stage is really, really small 20 feet by 20 feet. But [Monster House's particular motion-capture process] used gray wires, motion sensors, and wet suits that had reflectors all over them and stuff, and we'd shoot the actual scenes on the stage. Nothing could reflect, so they had to make everything cars, my bed, doors, stuffed animals out of gray wires.
TVGuide.com: So every move we see DJ make, you actually made that move?
Musso: I actually did every single thing with every single prop. The prop would just be made out of gray wires.
TVGuide.com: I didn't realize until I called up a photo of you before this interview how much DJ is modeled on your own look.
Musso: We talked about it because at one point DJ looked completely different than me. First they made a clay model out of my face, and then the computer took pictures of that, and that's what they used [for mapping the animation].
TVGuide.com: DJ and Chowder reminded me so much of Stand by Me's Gordy and Vern, not just in their appearance but also in their personalities.
Musso: Oh, you're right! Me and Sam [Lerner, Chowder] had so much fun working together. So much fun. After that experience, we became the best of friends. We went to Cheesecake Factory just yesterday! We totally hit it off.
TVGuide.com: Did you know Spencer Locke (Phil of the Future), who plays Jenny the love interest, beforehand, from your respective Disney Channel gigs?
Musso: I actually didn't know [about that connection] until after, but Spencer, Sam and I, we'd always get together and hang out. We had great fun, which totally helped the movie. And then of course, I got my first on-screen kiss....
TVGuide.com: You got to act that out for the computers as well?
Musso: Yes, we actually had to do the kiss and all!
TVGuide.com: What's been the feedback on Season 1 of Hannah Montana?
Musso: It's crazy. I can't walk out my front door without getting noticed. I thought people were going to be like, "Oh, I think I've seen that kid on that show," but it is crazy. I enjoy it so much; being recognized is, like, my favorite part.
TVGuide.com: What's the setup, that your character, Oliver, is crushing on Hannah? Is it requited at all?
Musso: In the very beginning Oliver had a crush on Hannah, and then he figured out that it was kind of weird "This girl I've been best friends with my whole life, do I now like her?" And then we sort of set it aside.
TVGuide.com: Will we get some sort of cliff-hanger for Season 1?
Musso: I'm sure we will. It's the Halloween episode, so we'll see!
TVGuide.com: Monster House, Hannah's season finale... gee, there's a lot of Halloween stuff for you, here in middle of July.
Musso: Yeah, lots! [Laughs]
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