Planes gig as Aussie character an 'honour' for Disney fan

By Caris Bizzaca

Jessica Marais during a live recording at Sound Firm studio at Fox Studios in Sydney. Photo / Gaye Gerard
Jessica Marais during a live recording at Sound Firm studio at Fox Studios in Sydney. Photo / Gaye Gerard

Self-confessed Disneyholic Jessica Marais is still trying to figure out how she scored a part in the mouse house's animated flick Planes.

Who knows, maybe Disney chief John Lasseter is a fan of Packed to the Rafters?

Especially considering since leaving the TV series and moving to Los Angeles, Marais has only been seen in one role - and it definitely wasn't the kind you would associate with Disney.

In US cable show Magic City, Marais played mobster's wife Lily Diamond, something she says was "particularly adult in its content".

"I'm pretty sure Lily Diamond in Magic City is not quite the character that would inform this kind of a casting choice," she says.

"She's not a Disney type, per se."

So when Marais got the call saying they wanted her to voice Aussie aircraft Rochelle in the Cars spin-off, Planes, she jumped at the opportunity.

"I'm a bit of a Disneyholic," she says. "I grew up watching Disney movies and we go to Disneyland every time we go back to America [so this] is such an honour."

But there were three other bonuses.

First, Marais had the chance to be in something for her children.

"I thought it would be a nice change to have something a little more Scout-friendly, for my daughter to be able to watch," she says of her 16-month-old.

Rochelle, the Australian plane in Planes, has the voice of Jessica Marais.
Rochelle, the Australian plane in Planes, has the voice of Jessica Marais.

The second factor was that despite it being a movie about planes, she didn't have to get on one.

Marais instead recorded the part from Fox Studios in Sydney, which fitted into her other filming commitments. And a third reason was for Marais, who had never voiced an animated character before, there was a bit of relief when she watched Planes for the first time.

"I think there's a huge amount of pressure taken off when it's not your face onscreen," she says.

"You can enjoy hearing yourself, but not have to critique everything about your entire performance visually."

But for audiences Downunder, the look of Rochelle is actually important.

She's designed specifically for Australia, there's even a kangaroo painted on the side.

"They changed not only the voicing of her but the look of her as well, so she was a go-getter Australian plane," she says.

Versions of Rochelle have been created for France, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Russia and the United States, with different actresses voicing the part. In the US version, Seinfeld star Julia Louis Dreyfus does the voice.

Joking that Rochelle maybe should have been named something more Aussie, Marais has a few suggestions.

"Rozza. Or Shelley," she says.

"There'd be a few nicknames."

Movie profile

Who: Jessica Marais (right), former cast member of Packed to the Rafters
What: The voice of Rochelle in Planes
When and where: At cinemas now

- AAP

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