Walkden Entertainment (aka Peter Walkden) had the honour and pleasure of chatting with Director Ricard Cussó, along with lead actors David Wenham, Ed Oxenbould, Grant Denyer & Elizabeth Cullen, during the Queensland premiere of Combat Wombat: Back 2 Back (2023) at the Brisbane International Film Festival aka BIFF2023.
Peter Walkden & Ricard Cussó – Photo Credit: John Cooper (Instagram: johncfilms)
Firstly, congratulations; not only are we celebrating the Queensland Premiere of Combat Wombat: Back 2 Back, but you also have another one of your films showing in cinema today known as Scarygirl.
Thank you! It’s crazy! We work on these projects for years and years, and then suddenly, they both release in the same week, so it’s been unreal!
Were you anticipating bringing back Combat Wombat to the big screen?
It was always a dream of mine to bring them back, but you never know, right? You never know what will come back, but we were so lucky when I got the call, “Hey, we are doing Combat 2.” I said, “Oh yes.” It’s giving us an opportunity now to push everything up a notch- more comedy, more fun, more drama and visually, it’s just taking it to the next level.
It’s been three years since Combat Womat was released. Has a few things changed visually for the better?
Definitely. We’ve been very lucky that we are almost using the same team, so everyone’s been growing and learning so much. It’s incredible talent from Queensland, so everyone is just putting in their 200%, and it looks incredible.
For this sequel, there are some new additions among the cast, particularly David Wenham. What was it like getting him on board, and did you always aim to get him and have a character for him in mind?
We’ve been lucky that we’ve been working across many amazing talents in Australia, but David was on my directorial bucket list. I needed to work with this man, which was a true pleasure and honour. He gave me everything. He plays a surreal technological chameleon. He was just Steve Jobs, and he portrayed it with perfection.
In your opinion, why should the people of Australia see Combat Wombat: Back 2 Back?
It’s 100% Australian-made, and it has an incredible cast and talent from a small studio in Queensland Brisbane, so just come and support our stories and our voices, and it’s just a bloody good time.
Peter Walkden & David Wenham – Photo Credit: John Cooper (Instagram: johncfilms)
Welcome to the Wombat family; how does it feel?
Wombat-fantastic, it’s great! It was a fun little project to work on, and I’m proud to be involved in the movie.
Do tell me, is your character in Combat Wombat: Back 2 Back a “goodie” or a “badie”?
I don’t want to tell you. Suffice to say if he’s one turns out to be the other at the end; without giving away the ending.
It’s no secret you have been doing a lot of animation lately, Peter Rabbit, Mortal Kombat: Snow Blind, a few, to name. Do you enjoy a lot of voice work at the moment, or would you prefer to show your face more on-screen?
A little bit of both, really; they are completely different skills. The voice acting I love because it gives me the freedom to be absolutely ridiculous, which is something I enjoy doing. You can do stuff with animation that you can’t do with live-action film; yeah, it’s good to mix it up.
As we come to a close, why should the people of Australia come to the cinema and see Combat Wombat: Back 2 Back?
Because it’s really fabulously written and it’s beautifully made. Funny, moving, brilliant, family movie that’s perfect for the summer movie-watching season.
Peter Walkden & Ed Oxenbould – Photo Credit: John Cooper (Instagram: johncfilms)
When Combat Wombat first came out back in (2020) were you ever expecting to see a sequel?
No, oh my god, I mean you, you always think about it, you always go hopefully, but when that call came through, they’re doing a second one, it was like “Oh my god!’ It was so cool! And you’ve already done a lot of the groundwork, and I knew the whole team, and I love the whole team, and the idea of coming back to do more and get even sillier with it was so good.
What is it like playing a superhero character that will inspire younger audiences?
It’s a really odd feeling having an animation that had a very profound effect on me as a kid, and to think that one or two kids might like Sweetie as a character or find some kind of joy and empowerment in him pulls my heartstrings and it’s very lovely, it’s really sweet.
Regarding past films, you have done a lot of horror/Disney, etc, and when it comes to different genres, is there one you would like to, such as romantic comedy in Australia, etc?
Yeah, definitely a rom-com. I love a good rom-com, and I think we’re pretty shy of Aussie rom-coms as well. But I think what I’d want to do more than anything is essentially a live-action adaptation of Combat Wombat; I would love to do a real super-hero action film; you know I want to get in front of the green screen, and I want to be on wires and do all that!
Why should the people of Australia see Combat Wombat: Back 2 Back when it arrives in Australian Cinemas?
People should see Combat Wombat: Back 2 Back because it is a distinctly Aussie beautifully animated film, and we’re very deprived of that in a world of Pixar and big, over-bloated so-so kind of animation. Combat Wombat: Back 2 Back is made with heart and love, and you can see it in every frame of the movie.
Peter Walkden & Grant Denyer – Photo Credit: John Cooper (Instagram: johncfilms)
You played a Quokka in a previous animation film for Ricard- Daisy Quokka: World’s Scariest Animal– and now, apparently, you are a Quokka in this film. I’m curious to ask: are you playing the same character?
Yeah, a slightly amplified version of that character. So I was playing Dad Quokka in Daisy Quokka: World’s Scariest Animal and they seemed to like Dad Quokka so much that they wanted to write him into the next movie, which is Combat Wombat: Back 2 Back. He’s kind of dialled up to one hundred; he’s a late-night TV host who thinks he’s a big deal. He likes to think he’s a premium interviewer, but he’s too much of a nice guy, so not very good at it, but he’s a super hyperactive, high energy, high vibe kind of a dude, and it’s cool. I think I found my calling. I love this!
What’s it like being part of the Wombat family?
Well, I’ve been in television my whole life, and I’ve been lucky enough to do everything, but I’ve never been in a movie. I’ve never been in an animated movie, so when this came along, it’s like, oh my god, I’ve got children; they don’t think anything I do is cool; none of my television shows have appeared on their radar. But this finally came along; it’s like suddenly, Dad, you’re the greatest.
What’s it like to work with Ricard again and working with the cast?
When they first reached out, it was like an organization that was just kicking off trying to make a mark in animation, a small little Brisbane-based studio, and now they are prolific, this enormous studio that’s putting out, well, I think they’ve got like another three animated movies on the way so it’s incredible to see the success story. I didn’t expect the level of quality when I saw the final products. I thought I was involved in something small, and you know, like, not budget but just a nice small domestic size product, but this is proper Hollywood scale quality, and that’s blown me away, and I think that’s why these guys are shooting for the stars.
Peter Walkden & Elizabeth Cullen – Photo Credit: John Cooper (Instagram: johncfilms)
Firstly, I would like to personally congratulate you on joining the Wombat Family; how does it feel to be part of the franchise?
Honestly, it’s such an immense pleasure playing Skylar and being part of this world. It’s something I’ve never experienced, and it was such a wonderful experience. I had the most amazing time.
What can you tell me about this new character Skylar? Is she a goodie or a baddie? What can you reveal?
Skylar seems like she might be a bad person on the outside, and she’s a bit spiky and a bit stubborn, but on the inside, she has a heart of gold, she cares about people around her, and she’s full of love, hope and passion. She’s also full of energy, and I see a lot of me in her, and I connect with the character. She’s such a good person and very artistic and very optimistic.
For clarification, is this the first time you’ve done voice work for an animation? If so, what was it like compared to working in short films and TV?
It is my first time doing this kind of thing. It was super exciting. I loved being in the booth was so free. I just wanted to try so many variations, just screaming and crying and laughing; with this character, it really felt like I could become her fully. And the fact that my facial expressions were used to inform the animation, which is such a wonderful concept, I’m so excited to see it.
Tell me what it was like working with the cast and the director, Ricard Cussó.
It was wonderful working with Ricard, and Tanya was fantastic in the booth. They were so helpful, and they gave me so much direction, and they let me play, which I think is one of the most important things, especially in that space, because of as many variations as possible. In terms of the rest of the cast, I haven’t actually met a lot of them until today, which is so interesting. And I feel it all going to come together so beautifully, and that’s the magic of it all.
You mentioned before that you were allowed to play. Are you referring to ab-libbing, etc, and just having a bit of fun?
Yes, absolutely. I got to ad-lib and also add a bit of my own spice into the character, which I loved; it was fantastic.
Having had this experience, would you love to do more voice work?
Absolutely, sign me right up. I had the most amazing time; it was so much fun. It’s really a freeing form of the craft. I would love to do heaps more if I can.
Were there any challenges you faced while making the film?
I suppose working solo is the hardest bit; I know it will come together, but not having someone to play off, apart from the Directors who were fantastic for that- they really did step in as characters themself, which was wonderful. Not having that collaborative environment was a little bit restricting at times, but I still like that it’s so freeing and other respects that you won’t be able to tell the difference.
1st November 2023
Written by Peter Walkden
Photo Credit: John Cooper (Instagram: johncfilms)