While the housewives of a Wisteria-like lane are busy chewing scenery, a host of crazy critters are chewing their trash. That's the setup for DreamWorks' latest CG animal escapade, which is based on Michael Fry and T Lewis' long-running comic strip of the same name. ''We've all had a possum or a raccoon get in the garbage or seen a squirrel on a wire when you go out in the morning, or a skunk under the house,'' says producer Bonnie Arnold (who broke CG ground with Pixar's Toy Story). ''We thought those would be fun characters you'd want to spend time with.''
Two worlds one rural, one suburban collide when RJ the raccoon (Bruce Willis) teaches a menagerie of wilderness-dwelling creatures how to forage for man-made goodies on the other side of a tall hedge that marks the border. Even more than in the Shrek movies, a decidedly antic, PG tone prevails. ''When Bruce saw an assemblage of scenes,'' Arnold recalls, ''he said, 'I get it it's an action movie!'''
Between chase scenes, the actors were given free rein to follow their inner beast. Steve Carell turned his Hammy the squirrel into an ultra-high-strung, helium-voiced version of his dim weatherman Brick Tamland in Anchorman. ''I based him on all the other hamsters I've heard talk,'' he says. ''I'd say 80 to 90 percent of them have exactly that pitch.'' And Carell has even bigger dreams. ''I would like to do Hamlet, but in the voice of Hammy the squirrel. Gielgud actually did that and it was spectacular.''