DreamWorks is kicking off the year of the Yeti with its animated feature Abominable, hitting theaters on September 27. Written and directed by Jill Culton (Open Season), the film tells the story of a lost Yeti named Everest who finds its way home with the help of a Shanghai teen and her friends.
Tenzing Norgay Trainor and Albert Tsai play those friends, two cousins who may be as different as night and day but still band together for the food of their found family. The young stars sat down with Screen Rant to share how their characters shape Everest’s journey, and how different their Abominable filming experience was from the television world they’re used to.
You guys play cousins in this film: Jin and Peng. Now, Jin is an aspiring med student and Peng is an aspiring basketball player. How do they fit into the adventure of Abominable?
Tenzing Norgay Trainor: Well, I don't think Jen fits in at all. Peng definitely does.
Albert Tsai: Yeah, when it comes to Peng, I think he really bonded with Everest. They have this sort of brotherly bond, and they become like best friends. They’re besties on this adventure that they go on. They love to play around and roughhouse and do all this stuff.
We sort of realized throughout the movie that Everest is a kid through his relationship with Peng. Because the way they play around is so great, and they're best friends, Yi and Jin kind of realize, “Oh, Everest is a kid too.” In Yeti years at least, because at first, they thought they were they were dealing with a grown-up Yeti. And then we see more of that when he sort of can't control his powers.
How much of the performance is on the page, and how much of the performance is actually you guys living through these characters?
Tenzing Norgay Trainor: I think that we relate to our characters, so we were able to pull from our own experiences. But Jill also kind of wrote her script, like, taking from us. And she also allowed us to go off the page.
Albert Tsai: Which is what was really great about working with Jill and our creative team. They were so collaborative, and they kind of let us ad-lib for a lot of scenes. Which is really great, because sometimes you aren't able to do that when you're doing live action. Because everything's already set in stone. But when you're recording for animation, you don't have anything yet. You're just recording, and then they animate – so they can kind of work around what you created in the booth.
That's fascinating. I actually wanted to ask you guys about that a little bit, because you guys have extensive background in television. What's difference between that and animation did you discover along the way?
Tenzing Norgay Trainor: Well, we aren't surrounded by a set or a location – our location is a sound booth. We don't get to hold things that our characters are holding.
Albert Tsai: And we don't get to interact with each other, for the most part. We recorded like 90% of it with Jill, our director. We weren't in the room together; only a couple times. But other than that, we were alone.
It's definitely a different experience when you don't have that interaction, and when you don't see anything. You have to imagine it all and portray it through your voice.
I'm a big basketball fan, as well. I want to know, speaking as Peng, what was his favorite basketball team?
Albert Tsai: Oh, um, I'm not sure.
Tenzing Norgay Trainor: I think he mentioned the Lakers.
Albert Tsai: Yeah, he mentioned the Lakers. We had the Lakers in an early version of the script, but I think they couldn't do that for reasons of copyright.
Tenzing Norgay Trainor: Come on, Lakers!
Albert Tsai: But we did mention he wanted to be like Kobe. Or like the Lakers, something along those lines.
What are you hoping kids take away when they see this film? Or actually, anybody watching this film?
Tenzing Norgay Trainor: Perseverance, I think, is a big one. To never give up and dream big.
Albert Tsai: Yeah, definitely. If you can dream it, you can do it, as long as you persevere. And definitely the concept of family. In the beginning of the movie, we see Yi kind of detached from our family and friends. And then through this movie, and throughout the course of our adventure with Everest, I guess she kind of realizes that. Everest kind of helps her to realize that she belongs with her family. I think the concept of how far you're willing to go for your family is really important in the movie.
And what did you guys learn throughout the course of making this film?
Tenzing Norgay Trainor: Maybe patience, because of how long we've been doing it?
Albert Tsai: Yes, it took forever. Definitely worth it.
Tenzing Norgay Trainor:It's been, like, three years.
Albert Tsai: It's been three years for us. But they've been making it for way longer than that.
Tenzing Norgay Trainor: Jill’s been on it for eight, I think. Seven or eight.
Albert Tsai: Yeah, it's definitely been a special journey.
Tenzing Norgay Trainor: But it's really cool to see it done. I didn't dread the day that it would finally be done; actually, now I'm kind of sad that it’s over.
Albert Tsai: It's kind of bittersweet.
- Abominable (2019) release date: Sep 27, 2019