This probably won’t be a tough sell for Universal, since the 1991 video release of the 1960s series was a success. Likewise, bringing the animated characters to the big screen was easy. A little green screen here, some ILM-designed shadows there, and suddenly the animated moose and squirrel were walking tall in an otherwise live-action landscape with real costars. Turning their old nemeses to flesh and blood was a whole other story. ”It’s really challenging playing these particular cartoon characters,” says Russo, who brings Natasha Fatale to life. ”The original series was cheaply produced and the animation wasn’t great. Natasha only had three basic poses, and since we wanted to be faithful to that, I had to play things pretty stiff.”
De Niro, meanwhile, loosens up as the diabolical Fearless Leader, even mocking his ”You talkin’ to me?” routine from ”Taxi Driver.” ”I thought it would be funny, but I was incredibly nervous to present the idea to Bob,” says McAnuff. For his part, De Niro insisted on watching the ”Taxi Driver” scene again and again to get the dialogue.
The voice of Rocky is provided by the original vocal artist, June Foray. Foray also lent her talents to Natasha in the series, and Russo found her presence a bit intimidating during production. ”I saw her at the script read-through and I was panic stricken,” says the actress. ”I said, ‘I can’t believe the real Natasha’s here and I have to read.’ I said, ‘Could you just read a couple lines for me?’ It was all smooth sailing from there.”