Humphrey is an Omega wolf, and Kate is an Alpha wolf. They must work together to get home to restore the peace after being taken by park rangers and shipped halfway across the county. But first, they have to survive each other.
What makes for the ultimate road trip? Hitchhiking, truck stops, angry bears, prickly porcupines and a golfing goose with a duck caddy. Just ask Kate and Humphrey, two wolves who are trying to get home after being taken by park rangers and shipped halfway across the country.
Humphrey is an Omega wolf, whose days are about quick wit, snappy one-liners and hanging with his motley crew of fun-loving wolves and video-gaming squirrels. Kate is an Alpha: duty, discipline and sleek Lara Croft eye-popping moves fuel her fire. Humphrey’s motto – make ’em laugh. Kate’s motto – I’m the boss. And they have a thousand miles to go. Back home rival wolf packs are on the march and conflict is brewing. Only Kate and Humphrey can restore the peace. But first, they have to survive each other.
Even though they belong to the same wolf pack, Kate and Humphrey, two wolves in Lionsgate and Crest Animation’s animated adventure, ALPHA AND OMEGA, couldn’t be more different. Kate is an alpha wolf, a strong, serious leader in charge of hunting and finding food for her pack. Humphrey, on the other hand, is an omega wolf, always ready to crack a joke. His job is to keep this things fun. So when Humphrey and Kate find themselves on a dangerous journey to get back home after being abducted and relocated to Idaho, the last thing Kate expects is that Humphrey will be of any help to her.
“Kate and Humphrey are faced with the daunting task of traveling hundreds of miles through the wilderness to get home,” explains actor Justin Long, who provides the voice for Humphrey. “It’s the adventure of a lifetime.” “And a rite of passage,” adds Hayden Panettiere, who stars at Kate. “The journey forces them both to grow in ways they don’t expect.”
Screenwriter/creator of OPEN SEASON and Idaho resident Steve Moore was inspired to write about wolves after reading an article about a federal program designed to resuscitate the wolf population in the Idaho wilderness. “They were capturing wolves up in Canada and releasing them in Idaho so they would mate here,” he says. “And I just started thinking, ‘You know, what if they really screwed up? What if they captured this mated pair – a supposedly mated pair – and they hated each other. Like Humphrey Bogart and Kate Hepburn in AFRICAN QUEEN, just exact polar opposites, and they haul them down to Idaho and they let them go.”
“Kate sees Humphrey as a fun loving omega,” explains co-director Anthony Bell. “Humphrey prides himself on being the pack comedian. Kate on the other hand is being groomed for bigger things, the future leader of the pack and being paired off to the rival pack’s Alpha wolf.”
Despite their differences Kate and Humphrey work together to overcome the challenges that are thrown their way throughout an incredible action filled journey to make it home. It’s an adventure that brings them together and gives them the courage to challenge the law of the pack that strictly forbids alphas and omegas from marrying.
“When I first read the script, I really responded to the themes about family and breaking down barriers,” says co-director Ben Gluck. “I thought they were sophisticated for an animated film. In addition, the script was emotional and had a lot of comedy.”
Adds producer Richard Rich, “We spent a substantial amount of time working on the script so we knew that our structure was sound, where every ‘tug at the heart’ would be, and that we had action and comedy throughout. During the production, we continued to refine each of these elements so in the end we knew our story was tight, funny and heartwarming.”
“We wanted this project to appeal to everyone, the whole family, and this script had all the right elements,” explains producer and Executive Vice President of Family Entertainment at Lionsgate, Ken Katsumoto. “Young kids love the animal world, boys love the adventure and physical comedy, girls love the strong female character and heart, and adults relate to the family dynamics and the general sophistication of the story. It hits every aspect necessary for an entertaining family experience.”
With the script in place, Bell and Gluck focused on securing a talented, charismatic cast to breathe life into the characters. “We wanted to make this a picture where the performances – both the actors’ voices and the animation itself – stand out,” says Bell. “The actors bring a certain nuance and subtlety to their performances that we’re able to incorporate in the animated characters.”
In their search for the voice of Humphrey, the filmmakers turned to Justin Long, known for his comedic, low-key turns in films like HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD and DODGEBALL. “I would say Humphrey is a rapscallion,” explains Long. “He’s a provocateur. And he just loves life. He’s a genial, fun-loving guy.”
“Justin Long came in and brought this character to life,” reports Gluck. “He’s amazing at improv comedy and he riffed on his lines and brought something totally new to the character.”
As Kate, Hayden Panettiere balances her character’s hard determination with a gentler, warm side. “Kate’s the daughter of the pack leader,” she says. “She’s strong and tough. She’s a hunter. And she takes her responsibility very seriously.”
That responsibility also involves marrying Garth, the son of a rival pack’s leader, in an effort to unite the two packs and resolve their territorial conflicts – something Kate is willing to do even though she doesn’t love Garth. Explains Panettiere, “She has that conflict of, ‘Okay, I have this responsibility for my pack to do the right thing for them, but it’s not something that I want for myself.’”
“Hayden came in and really brought Kate to life,” reports Katsumoto. “She made the character strong but also relatable, and transformed her into a truly inspirational character for young girls. She also brought a lot of depth and subtlety to the part.”
Known primarily for playing provocative characters, Christina Ricci relished the opportunity to play Lilly, Kate’s younger, shy sister who, like Humphrey, is an omega wolf. “Lilly’s not at all like me,” admits the actress. “She’s quiet and a little bit scarred and naïve. But I really liked playing her.”
During her first recording session as Lilly, Ricci and the directors found that her voice sounded too similar to Panettiere’s. A change had to be made, so Ricci began experimenting, settling on what she calls her “baby voice,” which she jokingly uses when talking to her family. Says Gluck, “She brought a spark of innocence to the character, an introvertedness, making the character very charming and unique.”
While Kate and Humphrey try to make their way back to Canada from Idaho, Lilly is charged with keeping alpha-wolf Garth – the rival pack leader’s son – company until Kate’s return, resulting in another unexpected romance between opposites.
“Garth finds her silliness and her ineptitude very charming and he starts to fall in love with it,” explains actor Chris Carmack (“The O.C.,” “Related”) of his character. “It’s a nice story about what can spark and sustain love. It’s not about whom you’re supposed to be with or who you look right with. It’s about who you feel right with. And this sort of love story takes time to develop.”
A pair of veteran actors, Danny Glover and Dennis Hopper (in one of his last roles before he passed away on May 29, 2010), complete the cast as the two leaders of the rival wolf packs. As Winston, Kate’s father, Glover brings an authority that’s imbued with a sense of compassion. “He’s noble and charismatic and all the things that I’m not,” says Glover with a laugh.
Hopper’s Tony manages to walk the fine line of being simultaneously villainous and sympathetic. “He was brilliant at capturing that duality and making that character believable,” says Bell.
Without any kind of visual reference for their acting, the actors faced an unusual challenge: to communicate everything necessary about their characters’ thoughts and feelings through their voices alone. Says Gluck, “If you have a line that expresses emotion, then it has to come across in your voice. So that becomes very, very challenging but something each actor was able to deliver.”
Since the actors record their scenes line by line in a recording booth, they also had to adjust to working without a scene partner. “I’m used to working with other actors and in the studio you don’t have that. You’re doing it in a vacuum,” explains Carmack. “So you’re doing a bunch of different variations and you’re really hoping and trusting that it’ll come together right in the editing room.”
Despite these challenges, all of the actors appreciated the relative ease of voice work compared with being on set. “You get to come in and be totally out of hair and makeup and in your own clothes and just do your performance,” says Ricci.
“It’s a very freeing experience.” says Glover. “You can be silly. And I like being silly.”
“It’s a total collaboration,” adds Panettiere. “The directors and I would just go back and forth and goof around. A lot of the times you get to experiment more and be a little more out there than you would be when you’re on camera.”
That freedom to experiment became a key factor in the development of the film’s comic relief duo, Marcel and Paddy, the French Canadian goose and the British Columbian duck who argue constantly about their ongoing game of golf. Bell and Gluck were unsure about which direction to take the characters until actors Larry Miller and Eric Price came into the studio. “They arrived with a very different twist on the characters and started ad-libbing together,” recalls Gluck. “We rewrote both characters based on what they did. We were laughing so hard we couldn’t keep up.”
Alpha and Omega (2010)
Directed by: Anthony Bell, Ben Gluck
Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci, Justin Long, Dennis Hopper, Danny Glover, Vicki Lewis, Chris Carmack, Brian Donovan, Kevin Sussman, Christine Lakin, Marilyn Tokuda, Maya Kay
Screenplay by: Chris Denk, Steve Moore
Film Editing by: Scott Anderson, Joe Campana
Art Direction by: Donald Towns
Music by: Chris Bacon
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor and some mild action.
Distributed by: Lionsgate Films
Release Date: September 17, 2010