Talking animals are hotter than ever in animation thanks to the huge success of films like Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets, yet even among all these hits, it still seems a bit of a stretch to hang a movie on the almost-forgotten idea that babies are delivered by storks.
Storks' writer/director, Nicholas Stoller, who's mainly known for live-action comedy hits like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Bad Neighbours, admits it's a pretty silly myth, but says the film nevertheless reflects his own life more than any other that he's made.
"It's probably the most personal movie I've made," Stoller tells TimeOut. "My first child, in a way, was easy to have, and our second one we had a lot of trouble and we ended up having to use a lot of science to make it a possibility. It made me really appreciate parenting more than my first kid when I was like 'My baby ruined my life'. When I experienced how hard it was to have one a second time, I started to realise what good luck it is."
The grand conceit of the film is that storks have long since given up delivering babies, and now transport packages all over the world for a giant Amazon-like online store. When young boy named Nate, an only child neglected by his workaholic parents, sends a letter requesting a baby brother, a stork named Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg) accidentally processes it and finds himself with an actual human baby to deliver.
Junior very much comes across like an animated version of the actor who's voicing him.
"Well it doesn't hurt that it's a character with a big ol' beak," says Samberg. "I think a lot of these animated movies now, they put a little video camera in the booth and they record us while we are doing stuff and Stoller really encouraged us to put our spin on it and add and improvise. So I think it definitely veered in that kind of direction, it took on more of our comedic personas."
Samberg's boss in the movie is a big scary stork named Hunter, voiced by Kelsey Grammer (Frasier), whose soothing intonations are probably best known for providing the voice of Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons.
"Whenever I do a voice performance it's always kind of based on someone I know," Grammer tells TimeOut.
"Sideshow Bob is based on Ellis Rabb, an old classical actor who's not with us any longer, very famous in his time, mostly in the New York community. I used to paint his apartment, and at night he would regale me with stories. So for this one I did Rip Torn [from The Larry Sanders Show and Men In Black], it's pretty much my version of Rip Torn. It's kind of like, you go big early with an animated performance, and you hope it works out and two years later the film comes out."
Storks will undoubtedly instigate many awkward conversations about the reproductive process, and Samberg (who, like many of us, learned about the birds and the bees from Peter Mayle and Arthur Robbins' best-selling picture book Where Did I Come From? - "That book is my jam") says that's a good thing.
"A buddy of mine watched it," says Samberg. "And he has two young kids, and he was like 'A lot of parents are gonna have to have this conversation sooner than they wanted to because of this movie'. I'm really glad to hear that, especially in my experience, in America, it's not talked about enough and it's made to be way too taboo, like younger kids and teenagers need to be told about it a lot more so that they have more control and power over it."
Who: Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer
When: In cinemas today