The comedian gets down on all fours to talk about the new Disney film
Tim Allen has had great success by concentrating on family friendly films. He's struck box office gold with Disney and is really committed to their projects. Tim talks at length about working with Disney and how the remake of 'The Shaggy Dog' came together. He wanted to make a better film than the original without relying on special effects or cheap gags to make it work. He had a great time, but turns out to be a cat person after all.
How did you find your inner dog?
Tim Allen: My family's had pets all my life and I had one that just passed away. Her name was Spot; my four year old named her. I don't know what the dog's thinking, but I had such a good time playing with that dog. It was dumber than a box of rocks, but I felt like the dominant species on the planet around that dog.
How did the tongue scene come together?
Tim Allen: I talked to Gene Simmons of 'KISS'. (Laughs) I'm lucky because I've been in special effects movies and I knew how that effect was going to be. We did that elevator scene in an elevator with Danny Glover who's as serious as you can imagine, and I have to do that panting next to him. I watched the scene a couple times and it worked because the actors knew how it was going to be.
Would you like a CGI tongue?
Tim Allen: (Laughs) I would have a line of women outside, woo!
Do you like cats?
Tim Allen: I'm actually more of a cat guy than a dog person because I travel so much. I love cats. I got a cat named 'Joe' that I picked up on the set of 'Joe Somebody'. It came under my tour bus, I told my daughter to stay away from that cat. You don't find cats, they find you. Sure enough, she's says she'll take care of it, cut to my house with cat. I like cats because they crap in a box and won't eat until they explode. Dogs will eat till they die. Cats will leave food in the dish, incomprehensible to a dog.
Are there any dog traits you wish you could have as a human?
Tim Allen: Dog's listen, or appear to listen. I think they hear blah, blah, blah, FOOD, blah, blah, blah. They appear to be listening to you. This last three years, because I heard that people don't listen for more than 15 seconds without interrupting, I've been listening more. Just pausing to not break in, but I don't think dogs have any idea what you're saying.
Did you see an animal behaviorist?
Tim Allen: No, we've always had dogs and always mimicked them. We always think they're hysterical. I went to archives at Disney. I have a group called 'TAG', Tim Allen Group, within Disney. I look at all sorts of content form them. I have a development deal for many things with them. That movie [the original Shaggy Dog] made such an impact on me as a kid. I think that was the first special effect dog movie that I had ever seen. You go back and see it now, with all due respect, it's terrible. It looks like they just put fur on a broomstick. How did that fool anybody? It's not a particularly good story. There's voodoo involved. It's a peculiar story. I just love dog behavior and I didn't want this to be dogs talking. That is the biggest fight I had with the studio. We had a first draft where the dogs didn't talk and I never had a bigger fight. They wanted the dog to drive a car. I said, sit a dog in a car and see if there's any way the dog could drive. There's no opposable thumbs! The studio, they listened. The only thing I lost on was I wanted no special effects. We didn't want any morphing because we've see than. I thought it would be funnier to instantly be the dog. I won the battle with Disney and this is about what dogs actually think. The other dogs in this are not smart.
How about running around on all fours?
Tim Allen: The only way we could do that was on this incredibly huge rig. It was amazing how big that machine was. It was a huge crane, way up in the air, 150 feet on a pendulum. There's a harness on me that goes up 100 feet that's balanced by a bunch of weights and there are seven guys in a truck driving along with me.
What about running into the old lady?
Tim Allen: That was my gag. We are sick human beings. Disney was worried about hitting an old woman in a walker. I was adamant; you have to knock her out of frame. They saved it by cutting to her in a tree. She's okay. But we had so much fun in that grass scene. I improved a lot of the gags. It was so much fun because you could run and jump forty feet. It was a delicate balance. I have two big knots on my wrist. It was really hard to run and make it look real. Your body doesn't do that.
What other dog behavior did you study?
Tim Allen: What I like to do is all the cocking off the head. We did so much of that. They'd mimic my behavior. The only special effect they had to do was my eyebrows. Dogs don't have any kind o f eyebrows. Cole [the actual dog] was amazing. They had an animatic dog that we didn't even use. Cole was so good about stepping into scenes and grabbing stuff. It was literally freaky how good that dog was, but he couldn't move his eyebrows. We put in my eyes, like we did in the poster. That's really how this whole thing got started. We just merged that poster by putting my eyes on a dog for six bucks. My daughter said it was the creepiest thing. The original poster of that is not very handsome. Everybody at Disney thought it would be a cool idea if we got the script right. It's an homage really to Disney's lat fifties movies. There's nothing objectionable about this. It's tough to do this, forgive me, without a bunch of balls licking. The original drafts were all about butt sniffing. There's a little of that, but I didn't want this to be about the odd things that dogs do. It's hard not to do that because it's a cheap joke.
How did you stay composed when that dog was sniffing your butt in the elevator?
Tim Allen: I tried to avoid the kiester jokes. (laughs) That wasn't easy because that was a German Shepard and I'm not fond of that breed of dog. I'm not sure what they're thinking and they're mean looking dogs. They put meat smell on the inside of my thighs. Is that really a good idea? But then the dog didn't leave my crotch alone. His nose came all the way though. I'm an actor so I trust these animal trainers, who I don't really trust. They say stuff like, "They don't usually do that. That hardly ever happens". They don't ever say "won't". The worst one was in the car. I had a spider monkey named Dorothy, a chimpanzee, a rabbit, four rats, and then a snake. The animals don't like each other. Dorothy and I didn't like each other. Dorothy, I don't want to be rude, was in her female cycle! She was right by my eyeball. I kept visualizing (makes popping noise)...get his eye, get his eye! They had to quite her down with soft candy. Is that a good idea getting her hopped up on sugar? She's also chained to the back of my neck so she won't go out the window.
What about the animal rights issues brought up in the film?
Tim Allen: It's never black and white to me. If in fact experimenting with animals is the only way before experimenting on human beings, if you have someone in your family with Parkinson disease, you're going to argue for it. My family is pretty healthy, so we tend to be for animal rights. I can't be so black and white. If my father and mother had Parkinson's disease I would want something to help them. If it starts with a white rat, unfortunately in that process, rats do die terribly. Anytime you work with animals, you begin to see more humanity in them. It became more confusing to me.
How did this great cast come together?
Tim Allen: One fell in after another, Jane Curtin, then Danny Glover. They were in a certain age group where this meant something. And Robert Downey Jr., what a find that was. He's an interesting guy. I didn't think of him as being funny, but at times he's funnier than me; which isn't a good thing. (laughs) He's an unbelievable mimic. He's really quite brilliant.
You've worked a lot with Disney. Talk about that relationship.
Tim Allen: I grew up watching The Wonderful World of Disney. I've been really fortunate, and so have they, in this relationship. I think I've pulled in a couple billion dollars in the projects I've done with them. I love the company. I love the theme parks. I'm fortunate to have four employees in the secret skunk works and all we do is drum up ideas. A month ago I had a marching band come through the studio, playing Disney tunes, with a big sign that said 'Tim Allen made us do this'. It's the most creative, fun place on earth. They really want to make things fun. It really is one of the happiest places. It's hard to say that in today's world without being syrupy and coming off as pompous, but there's such a commitment to entertainment in its purest form.
Are you still doing 'Father Knows Best'?
Tim Allen: That idea is still sitting there. I wanted to redo it and save the integrity of the original idea. The original concept was with Tivo, where my world would become mixed with theirs. I would have liked to interact with that family. This was a terrible time with racism and all that stuff, and they're wearing sweaters, and worrying about whether the kids come in at 9:30. This is a weird time of life, it looked better than it was. This is what I wanted to do, but they're like, not so funny.
What about the Cher and Brittney Spears project?
Tim Allen: That's about the first male Mary Kay salesman. My team was originally Cher and Brittney Spears and Wanda Sykes. That was a year ago. They had to get permission from Mary Kay. We flew down there. They wanted to get adjustments to the script. There's stuff like lesbian bikers and some rough language. They didn't want to look like villains. They were never villains, but it is a pyramid scheme. That's how they guy looks at it. But it's not black and white; a lot of women have gotten great lives because of that. It's a huge organization. They have a shrine to women who have made a million bucks. I'm a comedian, so to me it's creepy. The project has left Revolution and it's with my company. We're just waiting for permission from Mary Kay. I don't want to do it without their permission. I don't want to facetious and take shots at them. But they have to be okay with the lesbian bikers, and nuns, it's really a big road movie.
The Shaggy Dog is in theaters this Friday.