The movie Napoleon Dynamite became an unlikely blockbuster when it hit theaters back in 2004. In the years since, it’s endured as an oft-quoted cult favorite and helped land it’s endearingly awkward star, Jon Heder, roles in such big-budget Hollywood comedies as Blades of Glory and School For Scoundrels. Despite his mainstream success, however, Napoleon – the nerd king with the killer dance moves – remains Heder’s most beloved role.
After nearly eight years of “Vote For Pedro” t-shirts and llama jokes, the popularity of the original film remains strong, and Fox has decided to lure Dynamite’s rabid fanbase to its Sunday night line-up with the Napoleon Dynamite animated series, premiering tonight at 8:30 pm. Jon Heder will, of course, reprise his role as Napoleon. Recently, he spoke to Pop on the Pop about the challenges of revisiting such an iconic character after so many years.
POTP: What is it about the Napoleon Dynamite characters that you think translates well to animation?
Jon Heder: They are all so very different and kind of cover so many aspects of this weird and quirky world that was created for the film. I think it will run well with animation because you have, like, the bully, you have the romantic lead, the best friend…They all seem to have different agendas within this world. It kind of lends itself to opening up lots of different story lines and conflicts within each of their own relationships.
POTP: When the producers approached you with the idea of an animated series, what were your first thoughts?
JH:I was excited. I mean, we had always talked in the beginning about doing something, whether it be a sequel or an animated, or a live action in terms of whatever, but I was excited because I’m finally able to tell fans, like, “Yes, we’re making more stuff.’ I was just really excited to kind of get back into the character and get back with everyone involved with the film…re-enter that world.
POTP: As an actor, how different is it to re-visit this character in an animated series, rather than a live-action film?
JH: For the lead character in an ongoing animated series, I’ve had to show way more emotional range in this role than I ever have in anything else I’ve done. I’ve had to explore all the different sides to Napoleon that I never knew were there. It’s kind of like there have been many times in the recording studio where we’re like, “What would Napoleon say here?” or, “How would he react? Well, let’s try this. Let’s try that.” It’s been a lot of fun.
POTP: The film had such a rabid fan base. Was your main goal in making the pilot to appeal to people who already loved the movie or to attract a new audience?
JH: I think it’s a blend. It’s like we didn’t want to just jump out of the gate saying all the old stuff that everybody knows, but we wanted to obviously keep it somewhat familiar. I think there is a lot of new stuff that people are really going to grab onto. We have new characters, new jokes.
POTP: Lastly, this a big one – are gonna see any awesome animated dance moves?
JH: (laughing) It will have to be motion capture. We’re going to break new ground in technology.