Interview with Hugh Dancy, the voice of Albert

Category: Press Pack Article

What is the story about?

A small, sleepy town called Blackbury is suddenly buried in snow. My character Albert is the town caretaker and a bit of a worrier who has to handle the fact that he has an extremely excitable and exceptionally energetic granny. Just as he's dealing with that, this “Abominable Snow Baby” arrives on the scene and everyone apart from granny takes it to be a very scary thing.

What appealed about the story?

It reminded me of Christmas specials from when I was a kid, so there was something nostalgic about it and about the animation, which is very straightforward, simple and beautiful. There is always room for pure escapism, optimism, joy… Those things are valuable and important for everyone, not just kids.

Are you a worrier as well?

Aren't we all? It just depends how well we've buried it or learnt to exorcise it. I have my moments, although not to the degree that Albert does.

Are you a Terry Pratchett fan?

I am. Not a superfan, but I've read plenty of his books, probably all in the wrong order. I didn't know this one, though.

What do you enjoy about voice work?

I’ve always liked reading aloud to my kids. I remember all the grandkids would sit around while my grandfather read Just William and Winnie the Pooh with incredible panache. Plus, I would probably not have been cast in this part if it was a live-action movie, so I’m getting to do something I might not get to do otherwise. And you can stretch things a bit further: sometimes you have to give a performance that would seem basically over the top in person, to make it work.

Is Snow Baby one for your kids, something they can watch that you've done?

That did factor into it. Massimo [Fenati, director] sent me a rough framework of what it might look like and of the general tone, and it was a lovely story. I sat and watched that with my kids, saying, I'm gonna do this! Of course, being kids, they were totally unimpressed.

It's very easy to underestimate children in terms of what they can pick up on.

That's right. Kids love a good fart joke, but they will also completely pick up on those themes that adults take for granted. For a child, those things are real because the possibility of a snow monster is also real to them.

Is there a message behind the story?

Yeah, the message is about bravery and overcoming immediate fear, as we all have to do in life, and not judging a book by its abominable cover because we're frightened about what we don't know. Has that ever not been relevant? I don't know. It's certainly relevant now.

Do kids want kind of different things from their entertainment these days, or do the basic principles hold true?

I don’t think it's changed much. What makes a good story for a kid is exactly the same as it always was. There might be trends in tone – my eldest son is into Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which has a witty, snarky quality to it and I can see that informing his sense of humour. Tellywise, my eldest loves animation but he doesn't like it if he thinks it's been done by a computer. He likes to see the evidence of what feels like a human hand involved in the process, so he would like this.

What are your Christmas plans?

We’ll be in New York this year and I will be gathering the family around to watch Snow Baby – they won’t have a choice! Otherwise, I do the cooking and I like it, I'm quite a military planner. I'll be mostly doing that, then running back into the room where they're all opening presents.

As your wife is American, are there American Christmas traditions you've adopted?

Not really – it's more about adopting interfamily traditions. You open your presents when? You call Santa what? So that shifted a little bit, which I was resistant to initially, and then realised that was ridiculous…

Do your children have an understanding of what you both do?

Our eldest does. Pre-pandemic, he kind of grew up on film sets, so he could sit on the director's lap and call action. Not that he understood what was going on, but he enjoyed it. My youngest son told me the other day that he and his cousin are both really good actors! I should make it clear that we don't sit them down and tell him what we're really good actors. I don't know how he absorbed it, but he did.

What’s next for you?

I don't know, honestly. We spent the first half of this year in England, both of us filming, which was lovely although bittersweet, because obviously it was a strange time to be there and it took quite a while before I was able to see family. Having got back to some version of reality now, I’m very happy being a homebody.