An Aug. 29 TV Week article about the animated series "Father of the Pride" incorrectly said that Cameron Diaz voices Foo-Lin the panda. The voice is done by Lisa Kudrow. (Published 8/31/04)
Larry the lion is feeling frisky. The fat cat is ready to go, and his lovely lioness Kate is in heat. The kids are away, the house is quiet, and he's even gone to the bathroom, he tells the less-than-impressed Kate.
Such is foreplay in this new half-hour animated TV series brought to life by DreamWorks, producer of the "Shrek" movies.
Larry and his family live in Las Vegas, behind the neon lights of the strip and the Mirage hotel, home of Siegfried and Roy's magical extravaganza. The lions are just part of the menagerie whose daily antics are the focus of "Father of the Pride." The animals star in Siegfried and Roy's show and reside in a tropical oasis -- based on the real Secret Garden set up by the magicians.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, 53, creator of "Pride" and a partner at DreamWorks, said he's been friends with the illusionists for years and has seen their show 14 times.
About two years ago -- knowing NBC was interested in airing an animated show that used computer-generated imagery -- the idea for "Father of the Pride" came to him.
"I started thinking, sort of daydreaming, and the idea just popped in my head about these animals and their world," he said. "Roy [Horn] has done an extraordinary thing with these animals. He's taken cats that would literally be extinct if it weren't for his work. His love and care for them, and how he creates a world for them, is really spectacular and inspiring. All this together had left an impression for me about what it must be like living in Las Vegas, raising a family, and working for Siegfried and Roy."
The show was already in production when Horn was mauled by a tiger and then suffered a stroke in October 2003. After a period of uncertainty about the show's future, it was Horn who persuaded Katzenberg to go on with "Pride."
"From the moment he was conscious and able to communicate, he was for it," Katzenberg said. "I saw him every day in the hospital for three months. And every day he wanted to see what we'd done [on the show]. It was something for him to be excited about, to root for."
On screen, the animated Siegfried and Roy are parodies of the real pair. They bicker back and forth, finish each other's sentences and have over-the-top, humorous moments.
"Pride" executive producers and writers Jonathan Groff, 42, and Jon Pollack, 37, helped develop the characters and worked with the actors who do the voice-overs.
"Once we found Dave Herman [the voice of Roy] and Julian Holloway [Siegfried], and they had such chemistry, we started to conceive them almost as superheroes, who want to save the world through magic," Groff said.
Groff and Pollack spent time with the magicians, learning their mannerisms and watching their interactions. They also got to hear firsthand a few of Siegfried and Roy's adventures over the years, some of which became plots for the show.
Katzenberg said the two are quite humorous in real life, even though they aren't always aware of it.
"They're funny, generous, self-effacing and have a wonderful sense of humor -- an amazing characteristic for two Germans," Katzenberg joked.
The magicians are hardly the only crack-up characters in this motley crew. John Goodman lends his voice to Larry, and Cheryl Hines ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") is Kate. Carl Reiner ("The Dick Van Dyke Show") is Larry's live-in father-in-law Sarmoti. The name -- an acronym for Siegfried and Roy, Masters of the Impossible -- comes from the first lion that starred in their show.
Other famous faces will lend their voices to guest spots on "Pride." Eddie Murphy will return as the donkey from "Shrek." Cameron Diaz voices Foo-Lin the panda. And Danny DeVito is a political-activist lobster.
Working with a high-caliber cast and in animation allows Pollack and Groff to write things and tackle subjects live-action sitcoms can't. And while the show uses the CGI-animation seen in films such as "Shrek" and "Toy Story," this lions' tale is hardly family fare. Its mix of sophomoric and saucy humor is meant to appeal to adults.
"We've definitely discovered that you can push it farther, and it really is liberating," Pollack said. "And, yes, some of the things . . . that come out of Carl Reiner character's mouth might not be funny if it was a human being saying it." But because those lines come from a lion, they work, he said.
Katzenberg said he picked Groff and Pollack because the show needed strong writing.
"In the end, no matter how special the animation and technology, and how amazing it is to look at, that stuff gets taken for granted about four minutes into the show," he said. "The success and failure of the show singularly rests on great stories, great characters, a lot of emotion and being really funny. If it doesn't have those four things, all the other stuff means nothing."