COURTESY OF RON SLAUSON
Sal Masekela, Rob Machado and Kelly Slater had a blast doing the voices for penguins in the animated film "Surf's Up," set to be released in June.
Pros stoked by roles in 'Surf's Up'
Kelly Slater has ridden waves around the world and is an eight-time world champion. Now he can add animation to that list of accomplishments.
Slater, along with professional surfers Rob Machado and Sal Masekela, voice major roles in the animated movie "Surf's Up," which is set to open in theaters in June. Sony Pictures made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday at Turtle Bay Resort, in conjunction with the Pipeline Masters Surf Contest.
"The waves are so good in the movie, you want to get into the screen and surf it," said Masekela. "The depth perception is incredible. The ocean is a character in the film and doesn't play second fiddle."
Before they were assigned the voice-over roles, the three were asked to critique the animation. "They were excited to hear what we had to say -- from the beginning sketches to how the water looks and waves break," said Machado, who attended the screening with his wife and two children.
Slater said it was exciting to be part of a prominent project focused on surfing. "A lot of the guys working on the film didn't surf before, but managed to find a real passion for surfing."
"Surf's Up" sets a hero's trek among fun-loving penguins.
The film profiles a Rockhopper penguin, Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf), as he enters his first surfing competition. He meets Chicken Joe (Jon Heder), legendary surf promoter Reggie Belafonte (James Wood), surf scout Mikey Abromowitz (Mario Cantone) and a washed-up old surfer dude named Geek (Jeff Bridges) during his travels. In the end, he realizes that a true winner is the person having the most fun.
"It's all about soul surfing," said producer Chris Jenkins. 'We liked the surfing penguin angle ... it turned into a documentary. Along the path of the development of the movie, we included true surfers who achieved great things in their careers."
Jenkins hopes the movie will appeal even to those who've never seen the ocean, much less a surfboard. "Anyone from a small town can relate to the hero's journey in the movie. He is like any teenager, with a lot to prove to the world."
Surfer Masekela plays the sports commentator for station SPEN. "I play an over-the-top version of myself," he said. Machado and Slater play themselves, although transformed into penguins.
Slater said he had so much fun, there were times he wasn't even concerned about getting paid.
"It's been a blast," added Machado.
They described their time in the recording studio as comic relief, with Masekela in the limelight.
"It was hard to get the sound right with all of the laughing and snickering," said Slater. Masekela kept the crew entertained with his phone calls to his home in Africa, which would end in songs and silly antics during recording sessions.
"It was great to feed off each other's energies," Machado said. "It was so natural for us, because we are such good friends. We would read through the script and then just go for it."
Slater said he hopes the story will reach out to all sorts of people. "A great story can be about anything in life as long as it has a universal theme people can identify with."
Slater and Machado have been catching waves on the North Shore during the Pipeline surf competition.
Masekela, though, was flown in for a day to attend the press conference.
"I feel like a sinner and a half coming to the North Shore for one day," he said, noting that he loves spending time in the islands.
"The world has a lot to learn from the Hawaiian culture. They make you feel so welcome -- and you don't get that anywhere else in the world."