Kristen Bell gets animated because of ‘Central Park’

Rick's Reviews

Kristen Bell is the voice fo Molly (far right) in “Central Park.” (Photo courtesy of AppleTV+)

LOS ANGELES (KGET) – Kristen Bell established her on-screen acting career with starring roles in programs such as “Veronica Mars,” “The Good Place” and “Heroes.” But, the Michigan native has amassed just as many credits where she has been heard and not seen. The most prominent examples are the two “Frozen” movies.

Other jobs where Bell has been a voice talent only includes “Astro Boy,” “Unsupervised,” “Bubble Guppies,” “Zootopia” and “The Simpsons.” She adds another voice talent credit with the new AppleTV+ series “Central Park” scheduled to be available on the streaming service staring May 29.

The new animated series follows the Tillermans, a family that lives in Central Park. Park manager Owen (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Paige (Kathryn Hahn), his journalist wife, raise their kids Molly (Bell) and Cole (Tituss Burgess) in the world’s most famous park. This is complicated by a hotel heiress (Stanley Tucci) who would love nothing more than to turn the park into condos.

Not only has Bell made a living doing voices for animated characters, she’s also been able to learn a lot about acting where she has not been able to use facial expressions or body language. 

“I learned how vital it is to depend on the people in the room with you who are an extra set of ears,” Bell says. “And also, how important it is to go with your gut – even one time.

“It’s a delicate dance to allow yourself to drop all guard and say ‘I know you guys have it and it works perfectly for you but let me try two more and it is going to be way different and I feel it in my bones I should try it like this.’”

The people Bell leans on to make sure she’s given the best performance she can for “Central Park” includes series creator and executive producer Loren Bouchard who earned an Emmy for work on “Bob’s Burgers.” Also, Bell’s again working with Gad (the voice of Birdie) who was the voice of Olaf to her Anna in the “Frozen” movies.

“Central Park” is not only the latest animation work for Bell but it’s also another chance for her to show her singing abilities. She’s learned through voice work where music is involved that belting out a tune makes the viewer connect more with the production.

“You’re more emotionally available, you’re ready to go on a ride, you’re just there,” Bell says. “That’s proven. But I think they sort of went out of style for so long because there’s a way to do it where it is just a story and then you stop for a song, and there’s a story and then you stop for a song.  And that feels completely disjointed because you can tell that something’s off.

“But when you’re doing it right, you have not only the power of animation, but the power of music, and the audience doesn’t even know why they’re so interested in this, and it’s because you’re tricking them.”

Bell’s musical connections go back to her school days when she was starring in productions of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Li’l Abner” because she was too small to play sports.  She also was part of solo and ensemble competition where she mainly sang arias in Italian.

Her musical passions exploded when her voice teacher gave her “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” from “Sweeney Todd” to sing. It was the first time she had ever attacked a song in English.

“I was like, oh my God, my whole body was on fire. I could understand what she was going through, I was singing in English, it was unbelievable to me, and I said what was that, I want more of that, and she said, ‘Oh, it’s musical theater’,” Bell says. “Then I just started taking in every piece of musical theater I possibly could. I joined every play I possibly could.

“I am someone who experiences heightened emotions a lot of the day. And so that’s a very comfortable place for me to be. Like I feel like I’m singing most of my day, because my emotions are always 100% higher than everyone around me.”

 That explains why Bell jumped on the chance to host “Encore!,” the Disney+ series where cast members of high school musicals are reunited to recreate their performance years after they originally performed.

Being part of “Central Park” is just part of a very busy work and home schedule for Bell. The key for being able to do so much is planning.

“When I get home, it is the time I reconnect with my husband by sitting on the couch and just watching TV,” Bell says.

And now they can add “Central Park” to their watch list.

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