As entertaining as the big green guy and Donkey are, for this pop of twin 5-year-old boys, it's the ancillary fairy-tale critters who make the Shrek films full of adult-targeted chuckles. On the occasion of ABC's Shrek the Halls special premiering tonight at 8 pm/ET, TVGuide.com chatted with Conrad Vernon, the voice behind Gingy the Gingerbread Man, and the director of Shrek 2 and the much-anticipated Monsters vs. Aliens.
TVGuide.com: When I stopped to think about it, it dawned upon me that Christmastime cannot bode well for the Gingerbread Man.
Conrad Vernon: [Laughs] No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t. I haven't seen the whole [ABC special] yet but I've definitely seen my part in it, and it's kind of horrifying — but that’s fine.
TVGuide.com: At the risk of spooking the wee ones, Shrek the Halls sheds light on some serious issues haunting Gingy.
Vernon: Absolutely. They're bad memories for him. We all have horrible childhood memories that pop up, things that affect our psyche, and I think that’s probably why he's such a little tough guy.
TVGuide.com: We saw that in Shrek the Third, when Gingy's life flashed before his eyes. He's one layered, very complicated cookie!
Vernon: Absolutely. And we know more about him than we ever thought we would.
TVGuide.com: From where you're coming from, do you think he was happy-go-lucky pre-Lord Farquaad, or has he always had some spice and vinegar to him?
Vernon: Always spice and vinegar to him. If you remember the first scene with him in Shrek, he was being tough and spitting milk in the guy's eye even though his legs were being broken off. He's the proverbial tough cookie.
TVGuide.com: Shrek the Halls has a moment where Gingy's projectile vomiting looks actually rather tasty. What's your favorite sight gag?
Vernon: So far, it's in Shrek the Third when he poops a gumdrop. That’s pretty funny.
TVGuide.com: Are there any fairy-tale characters that the Shrek projects have wanted to use but for one reason or another can't or haven't?
Vernon: I'm not sure about can’t, but we did go into some of the Grimm fairy-tale books to try to find something that no one had ever thought of using. But the trouble with using something no one has ever heard of is you can't really twist their story because people won't know who you're twisting. That’s part of the reason they brought the King Arthur legend in [for Shrek the Third], instead of trying to dig up any more fairy tales. We started reading some of those old books and they were creepy, some of them. There was one about a little boy who sucked his thumb so his mom cut it off!
TVGuide.com: Shrek the Halls lets slip another hint at Pinocchio's perhaps non-PG "proclivities." Care to set the record straight?
Vernon: There is definitely a cross-dressing side to him that we like to play with. It's one of those things the franchise does; we get winky with the adults without getting completely weird. We actually got as far as putting him in a sequined G-string in Shrek 2. And I think he also did the Michael Jackson crotch grab. It's just something that was tacked onto him — and you can only imagine the rest.
TVGuide.com: One of my favorite Gingy lines, which I almost feel bad reciting to my kids because of its use of the S-word, is "The only thing you're the king of is the King of Stupid!"
Vernon: That's one of your favorites? That's hilarious!
TVGuide.com: Yeah, I'm doing everything I can to get it onto one of those all-time movie quote lists.
Vernon: That was totally ad-libbed in one of the recording sessions. That is very flattering!
TVGuide.com: Is there a timetable yet for Shrek 4? Any buzz, a script?
Vernon: There's a bit of buzz but I'm sure I'll get spanked on the hand if I say too much. But it is under way. A friend of mine is directing it, and it's going to be great. It's continually inventive, which is great about the world we've invented.
TVGuide.com: Does the plot hinge on a big event, or a new major character from fairy-tale lore?
Vernon: Loosely it's about learning more about what it is to be a family. The Shrek movies don't change subjects suddenly. We try to follow a natural order of things. After he got married, he needed to meet the parents. And then he had kids.
TVGuide.com: Shrek 3 took a few hits from the critics. Does that lead to any learning moving forward?
Vernon: I don't know what they were saying exactly — I tend not to read too many reviews — but each time you make one of these you need to remember that people will be more skeptical naturally. The people that haven't liked them in the past will never like them. But every time we've come out with one of these, it has surprised new people.
TVGuide.com: What's the status of Monsters vs. Aliens [a 3-D animated feature due out March 2009]?
Vernon: It is in production and it is looking unbelievable. Every day I come in and see something new. It's the same 3-D [technology] James Cameron is using [for May 2009's Avatar], and like Bob Zemeckis used [for the Imax versions of Beowulf].
TVGuide.com: As for the plot, I suppose the title says it all?
Vernon: The title says it all, which is going to make it so much easier when we go to do promotion!
TVGuide.com: Might there be another ABC holiday special in Shrek's future?
Vernon: Arbor Day would be great!
I then asked Conrad to talk to each of my sons as Gingy. It went something like this:
"Gingy": Hi, how are you?!
"Gingy": What are you doing today?
Jared: I don't know....
"Gingy": Yes, you do! Are you playing?
"Gingy": Are you playing with your brother?
"Gingy": Are you going to have more fun today?
OK, I'll tutor the tykes on their interviewing skills. In time.
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