Animated role proves perfect fit for Tia Carrere

By B.J. Reyes, The Associated Press
Saturday June 29, 2002

HONOLULU — Tia Carrere, born and raised in Honolulu, says her latest role is particularly special to her — even if she’s nowhere to be seen on screen. 

Carrere provides the voice for Nani, the older sister in Disney’s new animated movie “Lilo & Stitch,” which is set on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. 

“I have this love for Hawaii and to be able to represent Hawaii — this is a big film and it’s all about Hawaii and ohana, ‘family’ — it’s the perfect fit,” said Carrere, 35. 

Nani — who must be both sister and guardian to the mischievous Lilo — is a far cry from Carrere’s role as Sydney Fox, the Indiana Jones-like history professor in the syndicated TV series “Relic Hunter.” 

“Lilo & Stitch” is the first animated film part for Carrere, whose roles have ranged from Mike Myers’ love interest in “Wayne’s World” to a secret agent opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in “True Lies.” 

She also has agreed to voice Nani for an animated TV series based on the movie, which is about a lonely little girl who, with the help of a mischievous space alien, helps rediscover her sense of family and belonging. 

Also lending his voice to the movie is Jason Scott Lee, who moved to Hawaii when he was 2 and lives on a farm on the Big Island. 

Carrere said it was important to both of them that Hawaii be depicted accurately, including the way the characters speak the local pidgin English. 

Q: Are you satisfied with how Hawaii comes across in the movie? 

A: Absolutely. I think it’s going to make people want to come to Hawaii because of how good it makes them feel when they watch it in the film. 

It’s the feeling of togetherness and family, and it’s so beautiful the way it’s hand-drawn — the watercolors and everything — it really gives you a feeling of how lush and gorgeous Hawaii is. 

Q:. How is working on an animated feature different from your other projects? 

A: It’s very different in that you have no idea what the finished product is going to look like. ... You’re really shooting blindly and trusting the directors to point you in the right direction — where you’re supposed to be and how big your (voice is) supposed to be, and calibrating the performance. 

Q: Would you do it again? 

A: Oh, absolutely. When it’s a Disney animated feature — and this is the way I sold it to Jason — I said, ‘You have to do it. It’s something that’s there for all posterity, and we’re representing Hawaii on top of it.’ 

It’s a history. It’s an archive of family entertainment from ‘Dumbo,’ to ‘Bambi’ to ‘The Little Mermaid’ — all these films are some of my favorite films and to think that I’ll be part of it forever and for my children, if and when I have them, and my children’s children, it will always be there. I’m sure that’s why a lot of stars do it. 

Q: What was it like hearing your voice coming from an animated character? 

A: It was unnerving. The first time I saw it, it was very distracting ... It’s weird hearing your voice coming out of somebody that doesn’t look like you. 

Q: What’s next in your career? 

A: If I could figure out a way to live in Hawaii and make a living, my life would be complete. To live on the beach in Hawaii and make a living — that would be my idea of heaven.