Storks revives the ancient myth about avian baby deliveries

Filmmakers used improv actors during the recording process which was animated afterwards to give the film more of a live-action feel

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 9:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 9:01am

When did storks start delivering babies?

We’ll let noted social historian and actor Andy Samberg explain the origin of the legend.

“It’s this 1,000-year-old myth. But really it started when the first parent didn’t want to explain to their kid how a baby gets made. So they said that a bird brings it,” says Samberg. “The myth is [less prevalent] with young children right now. But not for long.”

The legend of the aquatic bird bringing baby joy to households will fly for a new generation when the animated Storks sails into cinemas this week.

The family film is borne from the most unusual of sources: Nicholas Stoller, the writer/director best known for raunchy live-action comedies such as the Bad Neighbours franchise.

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Stoller developed the idea as he and his wife struggled with fertility issues to have their second child. It made perfect sense to Samberg, who signed on to voice ambitious stork Junior, the heir apparent to a profitable, Amazon-like internet delivery service.

“Nick said to me that this is his baby,” says Samberg, who adds quickly, “Pun intended. You have to own your puns these days. No one does that.”

There were plenty of puns and gags for Stoller in the new Storks world, as Junior’s world fall apart when his company’s shuttered, unprofitable baby factory is accidentally reactivated under his watch. Stoller teamed up with Pixar-trained director Doug Sweetland on the project, taking four years from conception (pun intended).

“I’ve essentially been to stork college,” says Stoller. “They did make me promise, no stork-human love scenes.”

Stoller and Sweetland immediately tossed out any notion of avian realism in the project.

“They’re these grotesque, terrifying-looking birds that eat carrion,” Stoller says. “We said, ‘Our storks are not going to look anything like real storks.’ ”

Animation rookie Stoller didn’t deviate from his live-action roots, hiring improv actors to hone his existing script – including Katie Crown, who eventually landed the voice role for human orphan Tulip, who helps Junior deliver a baby.

The improv continued into the lengthy recording process. Samberg and Crown would put down whole scenes in the recording studio, with Kelsey Grammer as CEO stork Hunter and wolves voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. Animators worked with the evolving material.

“I had never seen anything like it – there’s a freshness you don’t see a lot in animation,” says Sweetland. The film’s “really organic, weird takes and offbeat jokes” were improvised on the spot. “It feels more like a SNL sketch than an animated film.”

Storks is a stealth box-office contender. Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, estimates it could fly as high as US$30 million in its opening weekend, spurring kids to ask parents a few tricky questions. Like where do babies really come from?

Stoller doesn’t shy away from answering.

“Storks don’t actually deliver babies, but they do deliver packages,” says Stoller. “Babies are actually delivered by cats, whole groups of cats.”

Storks opens in Hong Kong on September 29