You wanna see Drake Bell turn from teen idol to geekboy fan? Say the name Jerry Lewis.
“If you came to my house you’d see posters on my wall of everything Jerry Lewis has ever done,” says the titular star of Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh. “For instance, I have movie posters from The Caddy, Partners, You’re Never Too Young and about everything Martin and Lewis had ever done. Everything! I’m just one of his biggest fans there is.”
So when the opportunity to star in a film with his idol came up, there was no way the way-too-busy star was turning that opportunity down.
“I like doing voice work,” says Bell. “Honestly, I just love cartoons. I still watch cartoons like crazy. I’m a huge Disney fan. Whenever there’s voice work available, I tell my agent to book me.
“What happened is the opportunity to play in The Nutty Professor came up, I told my agent to get it, especially when they told me that Jerry Lewis was going to be in it. That’s when I knew they weren’t going to butcher it, hire terrible actors or anything else. When I read the story, I thought it was pretty cool. I knew I would enjoy watching it when it was finally done.”
That said, the Direct-to-DVD animated feature, also entitled The Nutty Professor was released today through Genius. Based on the original 1963 movie starring Lewis (not the Eddie Murphy version), the venerable actor recaps his role of Dr. Julius F. Kelp/Buddy Love. Drake plays Kelp’s genius grandson Harold, whose inventions have a habit of horribly misfiring. Also like his grandfather, Harold has all the social graces of a can of opened mackerel on a hot day in July. That’s when the younger Kelp discovers gramp’s infamous secret formula and the literal genie is out of the bottle. In this case, the genie is a red leather-clad biker named Jack.
A product of the Rainmaker Entertainment (formerly Mainframe) studio, the glory days of the studio that once gave us mindblowing shows like Reboot, Beast Wars, Scary Godmother and the MTV version of Spider-Man are behind them. The story is a strange mix of Speed Racer: TNG and some of the more kid-oriented material Mainframe used to do like Dot’s Bots. If it fails, it ain’t for lack of trying.
Not that Bell cares. Even though he did his recording sessions over a year ago, he is still buzzing over meeting his idol, Jerry Lewis.
“I got to meet him,” Bell recalls. “As it turns out, his daughter is a big fan of Drake and Josh. So I did a concert in Vegas and she invited me over to meet him. He actually invited me to his offices the next day and we hung out for 4-5 hours. His whole office is like a museum, it’s just jammed with memorabilia. He has scrap books of every single write up he’s gotten, even to the stuff he did before Dean Martin. On some of them, the print is so small you can barely see it. He’s just has to keep every scrap on him. It’s mindblowing.
“It was 4-5 hours, and it really was just the whole experience. For me it was like meeting all four Beatles. He told me he understood it was the same for him when he met Charlie Chaplin. The things this guy has seen and done!”
Another person Bell developed an extreme respect for was voice director Charlie Adler. For those who don’t know, Bell’s been quietly doing voiceover work for nearly his entire professional career. He actually did time on Rugrats. This would lead to recurring roles in shows like Danny Phantom. Most recently, he did another Genius D2D, Jim Henson Presents The Tortoise and The Hare, with Jay Leno and Danny Glover. One could say Bell has an idea about what to do.
“It’s something that whenever it comes along, I like to do,” says Bell. “As for Adler? The best way to define him is Energy. Adler is full of tons and tons of energy. He was non-stop and a lot of fun. He could do all the voices in the room. He also did his voices from Cow & Chicken, Tiny Toons and all the other ones that he did. He taught me a lot about how to do voice. To top it, anything he did was just so perfect. In a way he was pretty intimidating. I definitely picked up some tips on doing voice.”
Probably the biggest tip was learning how to be both the young Kelp and the rough and ready Jack.
“It was tough,” says Bell. “That’s when Adler really stepped in and had to work on helping me make them distinct. It’s not easy doing two completely separate characters. In the end, the challenge was what made it all fun and exciting, especially when I finally delivered what the directors wanted.”
As for the final product? Bell admits he’s pleased with it.
“I think that was just the coolest,” says Bell. “As it was that is one of my favorite of his performances. You can hear how his whole demeanor changes when he changes.”
You can see for yourself starting today.
HORTON HAILS MACY’S PARADE
On Thursday, November 27, 2008, Horton the Elephant will make his world premiere as a brand new balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. For the first time ever, the lovable Dr. Seuss character comes to life as an enormous balloon to help celebrate Thanksgiving in one of the world's most exciting and colorful parades.
The balloon was done in celebration of the upcoming DVD release of the movie Horton Hears A Who, starring Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey (not the immortal TV version by Chuck Jones). It will hit the shelves on December 9.
NEXT COLUMN: We start carving into those holiday specials.