This is the first of many virtual press conferences the cast and creatives of Disney+’s upcoming film The One and Only Ivan had to deal with in the new age of COVID-19. Veteran actress Dame Helen Mirren, who voices Snickers the talented Poodle in the film, said in the virtual press conference of this new experience, “That’s the amazing thing about our job is that we’re always constantly exposed to completely new experiences, as this is this digital press junket. It’s a first for all of us.”
Based on Katherine Applegate’s bestselling book The One and Only Ivan, the film follows Ivan (Sam Rockwell), a 400-lb silverback gorilla who lives in a communal habitat in a suburban shopping mall with his fellow ‘circus’ pals — Stella the elephant (Angelina Jolie), Bob the dog (Danny DeVito), Henrietta the chicken (Chaka Khan), Frankie the seal (writer Mike White), Murphy the rabbit (Ron Funches), and Thelma the macaw (Philippa Soo). Ivan was raised by Mack (Bryan Cranston) since he was a baby, but longs for freedom after the arrival of a baby elephant named Ruby (Brooklynn Prince). The film also stars Ramon Rodriguez as mall employee George and Ariana Greenblatt as George’s daughter Julia.
Directed by Thea Sharrock, the hybrid of CGI and live action film is based on a true story of Ivan, a gorilla who lived in a shopping mall show and his eventual integration back into a wild-life sanctuary. The film focuses on Ivan’s feeling of enclosure and his need and determination to return to his life in the wild. Like the feeling of many during the pandemic, quarantine has been difficult for some.
“We’ve all been sort of indoors,” said Rodriguez. “I think it’s allowed for a lot of introspection, right, which is, I think, really similar to what Ivan goes through in this-in this beautiful sort of, coming-of-age experience where he gets to really [explore]. I love the message that you get to find yourself even later in life. You know, we’re continually on this journey. And ,here we are, in this very interesting time where you get to sort of be home and whether you’re baking bread of I’m cooking. I’m almost like a botanist out here. I can like plant and doing all these things. But also just looking within and-and what’s going on, whether it’s with yourself, country, it’s just a really interesting time. And I think these moments actually allow us to hopefully come out of it may be a bit more evolved.”
While many projects have been on hold, the cast has found other ways to deal with life on the indoors. Cranston has become a sourdough baker. Jolie has just been spending more time with her children and reading up on current events. DeVito has been doing a lot of Zoom chats and planting trees. Each and everyone have been doing their part to stay sane during this difficult time.
DeVito revealed that Ivan and the relationship with his group of friends were the real lesson they could take from the film to reflect the current situation. “I think your relying on your friends, that’s big. Being in that circle of the closest circle that you have, especially we’re all in the pandemic. You’re always looking for you family or friends that are the people in your social distance from you that are the safest.”
The One and Only Ivan premieres exclusively on Disney+ starting August 21!