‘Central Park’ – Comedy, animation and song
There is music again in New York City’s iconic Central Park, at least as far as one animated musical series coming up on Apple TV+ is concerned.
“Central Park,” a half-hour comedy from “Bob’s Burgers” writers/producers Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith and Josh Gad that premieres Friday, May 29, follows the adventures of the Tillerman family, who live and work in the world’s most famous park amid the many visitors, wildlife and other characters.
Leading them is father Owen, the park manager (voice of Leslie Odom Jr., Broadway’s “Hamilton”), who is charged with keeping everything humming along; wife Paige (voice of Kathryn Hahn, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”), a journalist; son Cole (voice of Tituss Burgess, “Smurfs: The Lost Village”), a sensitive lad; and daughter Molly (voice of Kristen Bell, “Frozen II”), a burgeoning cartoonist.
Their nemesis is Bitsy Brandenham (voice of Stanley Tucci, “Show Dogs”), a Leona Helmsley type with an overpampered pooch and an obsession to develop the park into condos; and her long-suffering assistant Helen (voice of Daveed Diggs, “Hamilton”), who just wants to get in the will.
Telling their story is narrator Birdie (voice of Gad, “Lego Frozen Northern Lights”), a park musician who bears somewhat of a resemblance to filmmaker Michael Moore.
And it is the music here that stands out. Toward that end, the cast acquit themselves quite nicely as singers, especially Bell, an experienced vocalist who found singing in a studio much less stressful than for a live audience.
“One hundred percent,” she says, “because I get nervous about what my face is doing and what I need my posture to do, like there’s a lot of tricks that you can do in animation you can’t do on stage. If you need to hit a real high note, you can dip and you’ve got a lot more breath control. I’m all over that studio when I’m singing. But I can’t like get away with that (on stage). … There’s so much less inhibition when you’re singing in the studio for an animated character in my opinion.”
The series also mixes things up with regard to gender in the voice roles, having two female characters, Bitsy and Helen, being voiced respectively by male actors Tucci and Diggs. It was a temptation that Bouchard says was too great to resist.
“Animation just makes you want to take this voice and have it come out of this face,” he explains. “I can’t stop myself. Hopefully there’s something about it that makes sense with John Roberts on ‘Bob’s.’ He was Linda.
“You know, the very first time I ever saw him on YouTube,” he continues, “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that needs to be an animated character who’s a female.’ And with Daveed playing Helen, we knew it early on (that) it was going to be so fun to do it, so we couldn’t look away, once you imagine that. And the same for Stanley Tucci playing this little tiny lady with white hair. It’s like Margaret Thatcher glued onto a little dog or something. It’s just this strange character that, with his voice came together for us. Once you think of that, it is impossible not to get excited about it.”