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OPEN SEASON

Talented Voices
When Boog is introduced in Open Season, he is living a cushy life in Ranger Beth's garage in the town of Timberline — but his idyllic existence is turned upside down one day by the arrival of of Elliot, a mule deer, who is tied to the hood of a hunter's truck. Alive but unconscious, Elliot wakes up and begs Boog to untie him. Boog agrees and soon lives to regret it. "Elliot's a loser and he's desperate for friendship,” says Allers. "He gloms onto Boog and makes Boog's life miserable, precipitating a series of events that forces Ranger Beth to relocate Boog to the woods.”

"When he wakes up in the woods,” Culton continues, "Boog discovers that he is stuck with Elliot, who promises to help Boog find his way home – but only if Boog agrees to let Elliot stay with him back in Timberline.” As the two begin their journey, they meet a territorial, type A squirrel named McSquizzy, a pair of wise-talking skunks, two shell-shocked ducks, and members of Elliot's former herd. Also roaming the wilderness are a pair of hapless campers in their Airstream trailer, accompanied by their troublemaking dachshund, Mr. Weenie, and a maniacal hunter — a myriad of wonderfully original characters all in search of their own voices.

"In animation, inspiration from the voice talent is where it all begins. We might get to the computer with the dialogue framework or temporary voices, but as soon as we have the actors' voices, the movie comes alive,” notes co-producer Amy Jupiter. "Picture the scene in Pinocchio when Gepetto realizes Pinocchio can speak. The voices give the story spirit and inspiration. The animation gives the voices and the characters life.”

Once an initial draft of the script for Open Season was completed, the team began searching for the actors who would lend their voice talents to the characters. The filmmakers were particularly interested in finding two principal actors who would capture the contrast between Boog, the gigantic grizzly bear and Elliot, the scrawny, one-horned mule deer. During early casting sessions, film editor Pam Ziegenhagen-Shefland paired up voices to images of Boog and Elliot. The filmmakers listened to the tests without being told which actor was doing the voicing.

Observes Culton: "We reviewed many different voices, and finally, when we paired Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher, lightning struck. Martin brought this terrific smooth swagger and confidence to Boog, and Ashton's playful, manic energy was perfect for Elliot.”

"One of the things I particularly loved was the different tempo in the voices of Martin and Ashton,” adds Allers. "When they meet in Boog's garage, Ashton as Elliot is a little hyper — he's like ‘Look at this! Oh, wow, this is cool! Look at that!' As Boog, Martin is a little bit slower at processing things — he's like ‘Hey, wait, that's my bed! Hey, no, get out of there!' I just love the sassiness of the Elliot character pitted against the innocence and the stodginess of Boog.”

"When we first began the casting process, we laid Martin's voice recording over drawings of Boog, and the warmth, the deepness and the resonance of his voice convinced us that he could fill this giant bear body,” adds Stacchi. "And Ashton's voice fit perfectly into the character of this tiny, scrawny little mule deer. His comic energy goes well with Elliot's erratic, all-over-the-place personality.”

Lawrence brought a great sense of worldliness that had not originally been part of his character. "The temptation would have been to play Boog like a teenager who'd lived at home too long,” says Open Season's co-head of story Donnie Long. "Lawrence brought a sophistication and coolness to Boog that he didn't have before. It made him much more specific and entertaining, rather than a generic ‘out of his element' character.”

Lawrence approached the develop

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