By JACKIE MOE
Actor, producer, and comedian Adam Sandler’s new coming-of-age animated musical comedy “Leo” premieres on Netflix tomorrow, Nov. 21.
“I really do mean this, this movie’s one of the most memorable and favorite things I’ve ever had in my entire career,” said Sandler in a recent press conference interview moderated by Emmy-nominated voice artist and actress Carla Renata.
The musical comedy tells the story of jaded 74-year-old, Florida-living class pet lizard Leo (voiced by Adam Sandler) who realizes he is coming close to the end of his life. In an effort to get the most out of his final days, he plans an escape – but finds that his anxious elementary students need his help more than his need to cross off his bucket list.
The film’s star-packed voices include various actors and comedians – Bill Burr, Jason Alexander, Cecily Strong, and Joy Koy are on the roster – as well as Sandler’s wife Jackie Sandler and his two daughters Sadie and Sunny Sandler.
Sandler wrote, produced, directed and starred in the film alongside directors Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, and David Wachtenheim. All three directors and Sandler joined the Zoom interview on Nov. 17 to discuss the film in advance to the premiere.
Some memorable quotes from the press conference interview:
Sandler (on his inspiration behind the film): I just connect really hard with this, going to school, being with your friends, having private concerns that you don’t let anyone else know and then finding somebody to say, “This is what’s making me upset or nervous or scared,” and having someone just kind of relax you and say, “All right, everyone feels that. You’re not alone. It’ll come and you just go with what you’re instinctually thinking of going with.”
Smigel (who wrote the film’s score): They (the songs) were very influenced by Adam’s style of songwriting. ‘Cause I have written songs all my life too, but Adam’s made these amazing albums, and he has this skill of, like, making it as long as it needs to be. In his standup act, he does it now. And so a lot of the songs sorta start, but they don’t overstay their welcome, I hope.
Smigel (on how his sons also became voices behind the characters): My boys are not actors. They’re not even interested in it. They’re interested in the NBA 90 percent of the time. But what they did was, we had to deliver scratch tracks, which are like temporary tracks for the animators. The early stages. And I had subconsciously heard Ethan’s (Smigel’s son) voice as Anthony the Bully. And Roey’s (Smigel’s son) voice which is very sweet, kinda like Linus in Charlie Brown cartoons, as the sweet kid who has the drone. So I just used them, because they said if you use your kids, it’s free. So I was like, “Okay.” And then Adam heard it and he was like, “Keep them in the movie. They were great.”
Wachtenheim (on the film being his and Marianetti’s first film as feature directors): Well, we have worked with Robert Smigel for many, many years on the Saturday Night Live cartoons, TV Funhouse. And so we developed a relationship with Robert Smigel. And then we were brought on to ‘Hotel Transylvania 2’ to work on it also, which is where we met Adam. And just kind of developed a relationship there. And Adam started to trust us and our sensibilities.
Marianetti: I just want to say, like, when we got involved in this project, Adam was referring to us as “the fellas,” or “the kids,” or “the guys.” “Wait till you meet the kids.” Or “the fellas.” And we finally met executives. In walk two middle-age guys. The look on everyone’s faces, you know? (laughs)
Sandler (on the film’s topic of children’s anxiety): We were all just so excited about the topic. The kids, what kids go through when they’re growing up. What the kinda painful moments they can go through, whether they keep it to themself or you can see it. The premise of the movie was so exciting, to actually address that stuff. Address parents’ mistakes. Address, you know, an outlet for kids, what Leo becomes somewhere that they can actually talk and say what’s going on with them. And we knew that was real. And we wanted to be thoughtful about that.
Sandler (on the musical’s humor): We also are all people who believe in comedy and getting that as funny as you can make something. And when we slide that stuff in there, we don’t want to overstate anything. We just like to hit, run, and get to the next piece of information that hopefully we can make you laugh.
Premiere: November 21, 2023
Directors: Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, David Wachtenheim
Producers: Adam Sandler, Mireille Soria
Executive Producers: Barry Bernardi, Allen Covert, Paul Sado
Writers: Robert Smigel, Adam Sandler, Paul Sado
Original Score by: Geoff Zanelli
Cast: Adam Sandler, Bill Burr, Cecily Strong, Jason Alexander, Sadie Sandler, Sunny Sandler, Rob Schneider, Jo Koy, Jackie Sandler, Heidi Gardner, Robert Smigel, Nick Swardson, Stephanie Hsu, Nicholas Turturro
To stream “Leo” on Netflix, visit: www.netflix.com/leo