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THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY

There Are No Small Actors, Only Tiny People!
When director Gary Rydstrom, the producers and Steve Alpert from Studio Ghibli began considering voice talent for the English-language voice dubbing of "The Secret World of Arrietty" characters, they talked about many casting options. Although the pool was enormous, they quickly compiled a very short wish list of skilled actors. With optimism they set their sights on several of the foremost acting talents in Hollywood.

"It's a superb cast, all very talented, with unique voices that bring life to the characters they are playing," says Frank Marshall. "We wanted a lightness and humorous feel to the movie, so Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Carol Burnett were perfect casting choices."

For the title role of Arrietty the filmmakers were delighted that Disney television star Bridgit Mendler ("Good Luck Charlie," "Wizards of Waverly Place") was available and eager to take on the part of the tiny borrower.

"Bridgit was a revelation!" director Gary Rydstrom says of the popular young actress. "She is a really good actor and brought a completely natural and believable sense of fun and adventure to the role. She was astoundingly good. She gave an amazing performance not only with dialogue but also during long stretches where Arrietty is exerting herself, crawling up and down furniture and doing adventurous things. Bridgit would make all types of interesting sounds as her character moved through scenes on screen. She performed those little details so well, you actually believe that the character and this voice are meant to go together."

Mendler's well-deserved reputation in Hollywood for being as gracious as she is versatile won her the starring role of Arrietty without having to audition. As she recalls, "Disney asked if I would be interested in participating in this project. Of course I said yes! They sent me a copy of the Japanese version of the movie, and I thought the animation was so beautiful. I knew this would be a wonderful project, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to be part of it."

Arrietty is a fearless and brave adolescent who is growing up and wants to have more opportunities to explore the world. As Mendler is not that far removed from Arrietty's stage of maturity, she perhaps had a greater degree of insight into the character than anyone else could have. "It was great to play those growing up moments where Arrietty faces challenges," Mendler says. "Arrietty is very sweet and she cares about her family and takes a lot of responsibility in making sure that they're safe. But when she becomes friends with the human boy Shawn, she's conflicted. And she unintentionally exposes them to the housekeeper who is eager to tell the world about the tiny people."

Although Mendler had not read Mary Norton's series of novels upon which the film is based, she recalls that when her grandfather found that she was working on this project, he was incredibly enthusiastic. "He told me that 'The Borrowers' was his favorite book when he was younger. We talked about it, so through him I became more familiar with the story."

Kirkpatrick was very impressed with Mendler. "In her very first session she absolutely nailed it," he says. "It was not easy to do, getting the rhythm of the dialogue, but she blew us all away and was just a delight to work with."

Amy Poehler ("Parks and Recreation," "Saturday Night Live") and Will Arnett ("Arrested Development," "The Office"), who portray Arrietty's concerned parents, Homily and Pod, are well known for their comedic gifts and easily add a feeling of familiarity with each other to their roles. "I don't know who came up with the idea to cast them," Rydstrom says, "but it was a brilliant idea … not just because they are married in real life, but they're both great actors. They're not only funny, but they have really interesting voices too, and that's key."

Amy Poehler was already familiar with the book "The Borrowers" and when her friend, producer Frank Marshall, approached her about playing the role of Arrietty's overly concerned mother, Homily, she was eager to accept the challenge.

"It's always fun and familiar to play a worried mother. Homily would love to live an undisturbed life," Poehler says. "She is a kind and careful mother who would rather avoid adventure, if possible. Homily reminds us that no matter how small a mother's size, her heart is always big."

For the role of Pod, Arrietty's autocratic but loving father, the filmmakers needed a strong voice to help tell a sweet story. Pod is a character who represents strength and stability for his family. When Will Arnett was offered the part he accepted without reservation. "Here's a guy who is representative of a steady hand," the actor says. Other than being a real-life new dad, Arnett says that his role is the first real father figure he'd ever played. "It's interesting to me, being a new dad, to be able to play a character like this and show the kind of strength and guidance it takes to be a father. Performance-wise, I think it's a reflection of my own life," the actor says.

"The story is delightful and captivating," Arnett adds. "Not only does it capture a child's imagination, but it captures everybody's imagination. The storytelling is wonderful and themes are universal," the actor says.

When tiny Arrietty breaks the cardinal rule of all borrowers and has an interaction with a human being, it is a sickly young boy she befriends. For the role of the human boy Shawn, the filmmakers selected David Henrie, who is perhaps most well-known for his starring role on the Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place" and his recurring role on "How I Met Your Mother."

Just the opposite of feisty Arrietty, Shawn is ill and doesn't have much energy. "David had to give us the sense, through his vocal acting, that exerting himself was dangerous to his health," director Rydstrom says. "He brought a real natural earnestness to the character. He totally succeeded in presenting a perception of exhaustion."

Henrie's depth of emotional feeling allowed him to liberate the emotional feelings of the character, but it was far from easy. "It was definitely challenging, because not only did we have to deliver a range of emotions but also time it out to the characters' lips that are already moving to another language," Henrie says. "So it was a matter of dubbing and redubbing time and time again, and providing the emotion that needed to be delivered."

Henrie explains that the task was more calculated than shooting a live-action movie or television show because the filmmakers required specific emotions at specific moments. "I just had to completely trust the people that I was working with," he says of director Rydstrom, Steve Alpert and Karey Kirkpatrick. "They've done this before, and very successfully. Gary definitely knew what he wanted and how to get his actors to fulfill his goals. Everyone was great, and I had a terrific time working on 'Arrietty.'"

AMY POEHLER
WILL ARNETT

For the role of the odious and quickly becoming mentally unhinged housekeeper, Haru, the filmmakers hit the funny bone jackpot when iconic and universally beloved comedienne Carol Burnett agreed to voice the character. The multi-Emmy Award-winning star says that when she was offered a part in "The Secret World of Arrietty" and discovered it was for the role of the villain, she instantly and eagerly accepted. "Oh, a villain is much more fun to play!" she exclaims.

"To have Carol Burnett play this evil, conniving, bitter character o

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