Agent Elvis: Presley and Matthew McConaughey make their animated debuts
Elvis, voiced by Matthew McConaughey, lurks in this animated Netflix series so meta that Baz Luhrmann plays the director of Presley’s final film.
“Agent Elvis,” Sony Pictures Animation’s hand-drawn adult animated Netflix series directed by Fletcher Moules (“Entergalactic”), imagines Elvis Presley as a super-cool spy in a wild, bloody, drug-addled alternate reality. It crosses “Archer” with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” putting King Square in the crosshairs of everyone from the Manson Family and Howard Hughes to Richard Nixon and Timothy Leary — all while retaining recognizable signposts from Presley’s life. , from the concert specials. for his hatred of Robert Goulet.
There are also a number of amusing cameos, including Stanley Kubrick filming a moon landing – guess who ends up in a spacesuit? — and a young George Lucas, who drew inspiration for the lightsaber from Hughes’ radioactive urine beam weapon. “Agent Elvis” is so meta that Baz Luhrmann even voices the director of Presley’s last film, “Change of Habit.”
In fact, the Quentin Tarantino-esque vibe was key to the pitch when creators Priscilla Presley (Elvis’ ex-wife) and rocker John Eddie first approached Sony in 2014. What they didn’t know was that the director was simultaneously starting the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” revenge fantasy for the massacre of the Manson family. As it turns out, Manson and his cult are central to the premiere episode (“Full Tilt”), in which Elvis is targeted as he prepares for his ’68 “Comeback Special.” Eddie, who was a showrunner with Mike Arnold (“The Archer”), specifically chose this pivotal moment as the starting point for the series because it was when they thought Elvis was the coolest.
“So we were like neck and neck (with Tarantino),” Eddie told IndieWire. “Who would come out of that Charlie Manson thing first? You know, Elvis was actually on Manson’s kill list, so it seemed like a natural jumping off point. However, the catalyst for the series was a bizarre meeting between Elvis and President Nixon in 1970, where the rock star offered his services as a federal agent to combat the illegal drug culture. This encounter made it into Episode 5 (“Maximum Density”), where Elvis tries to get hold of a secret file from the White House. This Elvis naturally regrets meeting Nixon after witnessing his ugly racism.
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Other bizarre aspects of Elvis’ life were also glimpsed, such as his obsession with martial arts and his favorite chimpanzee, Scatter, portrayed here as a disheveled, Hunter S. Thompson-esque sidekick (voiced by Tom Kenny). ). But the writers used historical revisionism cautiously. “At one point we debated whether Manson should die or not,” Eddie said. “And we thought no, because he has to survive to become a demon of the counterculture. So our history tries to stay true to real history while our crazy alternate history works behind the scenes.”
Although Elvis initially resists Agent CeCe Ryder’s (Kaitlin Olson) recruitment into the secret spy organization TCB, he relents when the Nick Fury-like commander (Don Cheadle) offers him a jetpack. Also joining Elvis in his law enforcement antics is good old boy Bobby Ray (Johnny Knoxville), who is adept at handling cars and planes. “The story had to focus on how it all plays out as Elvis slowly learns (how to be a spy),” Arnold said. “What happened to him, without him remembering, dates back to his time in the military. At the same time, we increase the mystery (of the big threat) and who is behind it.”
Self-proclaimed Priscilla has been involved with the absurdist comedy since its inception, appearing in “The Naked Gun” and saying Elvis was a fan of Monty Python and Mel Brooks movies. “The writers really pushed things to the limit and I think it was very brave of him to maybe let them go further than he himself would have liked,” Eddie added.
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Fortunately, Matthew McConaughey, who was always the first choice to voice Elvis, was not difficult to get. “How do we make this cool?” Eddie said. “We wanted the look of the show to be cool, and we wanted all of our energy to be cool with this unique character. And Matthew was so amazing. We were so lucky to have him because he has this lighthearted prank. And he found the music in Elvis’ voice, which he brought to every line. He worked really hard on it and it really worked.”
Initial character designs were created by renowned graphic artist/animator Robert Valley (short film “Pear Cider and Cigarettes”), and animation by acclaimed 2D studio Titmouse (“Big Mouth”). The show boasts saturated colors and the graphic, noir-like language of the era (’68-’73), driven by Valley’s signature geometric style. “He even said that Elvis was the most difficult character he ever designed,” Arnold said. “Because if you turn a corner or screw up one thing a little bit, it throws everything off. Elvis was such a beautiful man and so hard to catch. We actually had to make a 3D model of Robert’s designs to really get the character of Elvis.”
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Not only did Titmouse provide a comic-book cool factor to the martial arts fight sequences (studying Elvis’ dance footage of his concerts), but he also elaborated on all the environments and background props. “Of course the season finale was the hardest because we go to so many places,” Eddie said. “We’re in outer space, in a volcano (Elvis fighting Robert Goulet) and around Hawaii and flying in airplanes. And when you’re animating an episode like this, you have to bring a lot of different things.”
As for a potential Season 2, the showrunners are excited about casting Elvis in the 80s: “We’ve already started mapping out Season 2, and we want to see it go where people haven’t seen Elvis. where you have to figure out how to stay in the shadows and try to keep reality there.”
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