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‘Angry Birds Movie’ is ‘perfect family film,’ producer says

When producer John Cohen contacted the mobile game app company Rovio in 2011 about bringing the Angry Birds game to life on the big screen, he suspected they could have a hit on their hands.

After all, the game has been downloaded almost 4 billion times, and everyone from young kids to grandmothers love playing it, he said. Cohen is also no stranger to hit animated films, having worked on such movies as “Despicable Me,” “Ice Age” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

“We finally started working on it in 2012, and that’s when we all started thinking about, what will the movie story be?” he said.

The answer turned out to be simple. Why are the birds so angry?

Since opening June 5, “The Angry Birds Movie” has grossed nearly $300 million worldwide and remains in the top 10 movies at the box office, proving that audiences want to know why the flightless birds are so angry at the green pigs as depicted in the game.

“Normally, book series or comic series — something like that — so many details in the mythology and the world have been defined, so as you’re translating one of those properties into a movie, you’re trying to match someone else’s vision. With Angry Birds, we had more of a blank slate,” Cohen said in an exclusive phone interview with Upstate Parent.

“The Angry Birds Movie” follows Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), a bird with an angry temper, who gets sent to anger management, where he meets other angry birds, such as Chuck (voiced by Josh Gad) and Bomb (voiced by Danny McBride). When mysterious green pigs visit Bird Island, no one believes Red, who is suspicious of the pig’s motives. He enlists the help of his new friends to find out what’s really going on.

Cohen contributes much of the film’s success to the movie’s characters.

“I think for the great animated movies that do well and that end up finding a large audience, it often comes down to the strength of the characters,” he said. “Are there great characters at the heart of the movie that audiences get to know and fall in love with? I think we have that in the center of our movie with Red and Chuck and Matilda and Bomb and Terence. ... I think a lot of people have come to see our movie expecting to see a comedy, expecting to have a good time and a lot of fun in a family-friendly place to enjoy yourself for an hour and a half, but I think people are pleasantly surprised that the movie is unexpectedly emotional.”

Cohen said the filmmakers want audiences to leave “The Angry Birds Movie” with a strong anti-bullying message.

“Red, as a child, is picked on, and he becomes a bit of an outcast in the community of Bird Island,” he said. “The message I feel we have in this movie is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Red is picked on, he’s teased for his bushy eyebrows, but he’s a very smart guy and deep down he really longs for friendship and to be embraced by the community. ... Seeing the community band together shows that there’s real strength in numbers, even if it’s little voices coming together with great passion. That can lead to really great results.”

Cohen said he hopes to do a sequel, but no decisions have yet been made. As a lifelong fan of family films and animated movies, he believes animated movies have an amazing opportunity to reach audiences of all ages around the world.

“When I think back on the movies I loved as a kid, I remember coming out of the movie theater and feeling that a dream, a desire, a passion I had might actually be possible,” he said.

For those who haven’t yet seen “The Angry Birds Movie,” he hopes you’ll give it a chance.

“I think ‘The Angry Birds Movie’ is the perfect family film this summer,” Cohen said. “I don’t think there’s anything else right now that the whole family can go to together and enjoy. We have comedy in the movie that’s great for kids and comedy in the movie that’s great for adults. I can promise you this will be the most fun you’ll have with your family at the movie theater this summer.”