Jesse Tyler Ferguson is a limber llama in new ‘Ice Age’

Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in Voice-Over | 0 comments

Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s moment of zen revelation about his animated Ice Age counterpart came when the actor figured out just how bendy the Shangri Llama is.

“Me being someone who can barely look at my toes without feeling an incredible stretch, I envy him for his limber nature,” the Modern Family TV star says about the extremely colorful yoga-loving animal he voices in Ice Age: Collision Course, the fifth big-screen installment of the cartoon franchise in theaters July 22, 2016.

In the new film, the beloved herd from the Ice Age movies — including woolly mammoths Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah), saber-toothed tigers Diego (Denis Leary) and Shira (Jennifer Lopez), and lovable sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) — have to leave their homes to save themselves when cosmic events threaten their world. And one of the places they wander into is an exotic, fantastical locale where Shangri Llama is the spiritual leader of sorts.

“He’s just brilliant to look at,” producer Lori Forte says. “He’s so funny and his attitude is so out there. Jesse just brings it home.”

Ferguson gives life to one of many new inhabitants in the Ice Age landscape, joining a growing voice cast in Collision Course that also includes Adam DeVine, Nick Offerman, Max Greenfield, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Rauch, Carlos Ponce, Michael Strahan, pop star Jessie J and popular scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who plays Neil deBuck Weasel.

Shangri Llama exudes peace and serenity but is also a little pretentious about it, according to Ferguson. In fact, the animal is so intensely laid back, it’s almost an aggressive calmness.

“He’s sort of that yoga teacher who can do anything and tells you you should go at your own pace but will show you up in front of the class,” says the actor, adding that his character moves in incredibly insane positions. “He has a way of life that he feels is the most pristine, clean way of living, and bubbling underneath all that, he just really wants to uncork and unhinge. And he eventually does.”

Shangri Llama is actually a little manic and can quickly go from tranquil to ridiculously stressed out, so Ferguson — a first-timer when it comes to animation voiceover work — had to take him to quite a few different mood levels.

Halfway through his first four-hour session, Ferguson was getting into some of his louder dialogue when he accidentally blew out his vocal cords.

“I tried to push through, but it sounded like a completely different character,” the actor says. After taking a couple weeks off to recover, he was back in action: “We made sure we kept all the yelling stuff at the very end, and I was doing my vocal warm-ups that I learned in theater school to make sure I was properly supporting myself. So that was a challenge.”

Even though he hasn’t read a full script or worked with any of his co-stars, Ferguson says he has complete faith in Collision Course — mostly because he’s already a big fan of the Ice Age movies’ clever humor and beautiful animation.

“It’s fun coming into a franchise this far into its run because they’ve really figured out the world,” Ferguson says. “You just get to hop into the deep end, and you’re in good hands with the animators and the creators.”

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