He can't come to town and not chat

'Aliens in the Attic,' directed by Raleigh's John Schultz, opens today

Staff WriterJuly 31, 2009 

John Schultz was just looking to spend some time with his family in Raleigh this week, away from the wheeling and dealing of his current home base, Hollywood. But his sister put a kibosh on those plans when she called and alerted us that her brother's new movie, "Aliens in the Attic," is coming out today.

"Every time I've had a movie come out, my sister calls everybody," explains the "Like Mike" and "The Honeymooners" director. "She always, like, gets excited and starts telling anybody who will listen."

The 40-something Schultz took some time from his vacation to talk about the kiddie sci-fi flick, which has Disney princess Ashley Tisdale and several other youngsters fending off diminutive space invaders who have perched in their summer home with plans to take over the world.

Q. So, you shot this movie in New Zealand. Why?

Well, they give big tax credits to the filmmakers. And also we were shooting in the middle of winter, and the movie takes place in July. And so in the middle of winter here, it's summer in New Zealand. So it looks like July. We pretend we're in America in the movie, but we shot it in New Zealand.

Q. How was it shooting this movie?

The original concept was doing a movie that kinda felt like "Gremlins" or even "Goonies." As we were going into making the movie, [Fox] had a huge hit with "Alvin and the Chipmunks." And so, it suddenly became a cross between "Gremlins" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks." It's "Gremlins" meets "Alvin and the Chipmunks." [giggles] Because the aliens -- they're funny, they speak English, but they still wanna take over the world. So it's definitely a comedic take on the whole situation.

Q. Hey, do you have any Ashley Tisdale stories?

Do I have any Ashley Tisdale stories? [laughs] Well, I gotta say, she actually really impressed me. Like, the work she did in "High School Musical" was very broad, and I didn't know what she was actually gonna bring to the table. But, you know, she's amazing. I mean, she just was such a pro and [had] really good comedic timing. And she had to choreograph a whole fight with an alien that wasn't there, and she just picked it up so quick. And she was working with a lot of kids who just adored her, but she fit right in and was really nice to everybody. ... The most shocking thing about her was the fact that there was nothing shocking about her. She was just like one of your friends coming in working. It was great.

Q. Your previous movies have been light-hearted and low-key, not just story-wise, but also in their direction. Did you feel it was time to get into something a bit more fantastical and special effects-heavy?

It's more like it's a great time to get into this blend of live-action and CGI characters. Because right now our characters really push the technology, where their eyes are so expressive. I mean, we decided to make the aliens feel organically real, like they're really there and they're real creatures. I mean, the technology -- we couldn't have done that three years ago.

Q. You just mentioned "Alvin and the Chipmunks" being a big hit. "G-Force" was the No. 1 movie last weekend. And now, there's this movie. Did you ever think you'd see the day where the only way for studios to appeal to kids is to have cuddly, foot-long, CGI creatures do cute shenanigans on the big screen?

But ours are different. They're two feet in size. [laughs] Well, I think it's more that CGI is a useful tool to try to show the audience something new. There's a lot less limits with what the characters can do, physically and what not, that you can try to do something that no one's ever seen before. Or in our case, we've created four aliens that didn't exist -- brand-new, kinda type of creatures. You haven't seen anything like it before. So, there's always that element of the new and the different. I think CGI's the means to that end.

craig.lindsey@newsobserver.com, 919-829-4760 or blogs.newsobserver.com/unclecrizzle

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