Definitely this writer needed some stress relief or, as I came to find out, anger management. Not the typical kind associated with temper control and therapy. This was a very special type, compliments of Sony.
In preparation for the upcoming Angry Birds Movie, Sony sent nearly 100 members of the press – ranging from technical publications, to radio/television reporters, general outlets, and “mommy bloggers” – to paradise (in our case, Maui, Hawaii) for their spin on anger management therapy. And, you know what? It worked. I am completely devoid of stress and strain (at least for the moment), and hooked on this unique form of anger management. And the movie.
The press junket, aka therapy, was held mid-April, about a month before the movie’s release. Why Maui? Well, it is the human version of Bird Island, where the movie takes place. So, why are the birds so angry? Rovio’s The Angry Birds animated feature film, distributed by Sony, is based its mega popular mobile game. How Rovio managed to make a full-length feature story out of a simplistic mobile-game concept is a feat unto itself. But it did.
On Bird Island, flocks of flightless birds live blissfully, with a few exceptions. Red (Jason Sudeikis) loses his temper easily. In therapy, he meets Bomb, a large bird that has a tendency to blow his stack, literally, and Chuck (Josh Gad), whose jumpy, speedy movements seem to have an adverse reaction (more so on others). One day a stranger (a green pig) in a large boat visits the island and becomes fast friends with most of the island population. Red is suspicious, but no one listens to him because, after all, he is always angry. That is, until more and more pigs invade the island and are eventually caught poaching the birds’ precious eggs before scrambling to their boats and sailing away to their home on Pig Island. This certainly did not fly with the birds.
Not about to be permanent empty-nesters, the birds hatch a plan and set sail to retrieve their beloved eggs. But first they need to get angry and then channel that anger into saving their eggs. Red and his friends lead the charge, launching an attack using a huge slingshot (remember, these birds cannot fly on their own). After the birds and their eggs return safely back to Bird Island, it’s up to Red to help teach them that sometimes being a little angry is not always a bad thing.
Anger Management for the Press
It goes without saying that flying to Maui from Boston is a grueling process for human and bird. But, it was well worth the trip. I left a dismal 50-degree Boston and landed in bright, sunny 81-degree Hawaii. Sony transported us from the airport to the Four Seasons, our new home for the trip, where we were greeted by none other than Red.
After enjoying the pool for a few hours, I was later whisked away with my colleagues to the Regal Maui Megaplex, where we were all treated to a screening of the film, complete with popcorn and a soda. Joining us on the ride was Red. Afterward, we were taken back to the hotel, where many enjoyed a tropical drink, while others were beckoned to their luxury rooms following a day of travel.
First, let me say Thank you, Sony, for selecting Maui as our substitute Bird Island for the trip. And, the Four Seasons Maui was quite the nest! It was, without a doubt, paradise for this human.
Day 2 started off with an awesome breakfast (the coconut syrup was a nice change from the typical maple flavor). Next came the Anger Management Yoga Session on the oceanside front lawn of the hotel. Needless to say, the presence of Red, Bomb, and Chuck here, and throughout the trip, attracted quite the attention from guests, particularly those under the age of 10!
Next, we were divided into manageable groups, where we were encouraged to “fly like an Angry Bird” via zipline. Here we gazed at some of the most breathtaking scenery ever! From the top of the first platform stood a majestic landscape with steep green-laden mountains and deep crevices. Our instructor, a native, filled us in about the land above us and below us from our vantage point on the platform. The area above is one of the rainiest on earth, she said, with a staggering amount of daily rainfall.
Our band of a dozen press members spent time – more so at the start than at the end of the adventure – encouraging one another to channel their inner bird and take to the sky. Some had never ziplined before. I had done so a few years back with mixed results: That adventure involved traversing difficult rope courses to reach a zipline. So there was far more climbing than zipping. (Confession: The rope course did me in, and I dropped out not quite halfway through.) Thankfully, here, there were no rope courses in sight. All I had to do is focus on overcoming my fear of heights....
The first line was the scariest. And, I was told, the easiest. Scary, because stepping off the platform was not natural, but it was exhilarating. I now know how Red and the flock felt when they were flung from the slingshot through the air! The zips became longer and higher, but were somehow easier to conquer after that initial shock. By the end, I even freed my hands from the death grip on the zip bar. Of course, our guides/instructors were obviously very comfortable hanging by a cable what felt like thousands of feet in the air (but was more like 50 to 70 feet).
Because I was in the first group, I was back at the hotel by early afternoon, ready to swim like a bird. I hung out at the pool and enjoyed the sun for a bit. Soon it was time to get ready for interviews followed by a luau. The science and tech press roundtable was last, but the talent – Josh Gad, Maya Rudolph (voice of Matilda), and Jason Sudeikis – was still in peak form. They were comedic with their responses, as one would expect from the two SNL veterans, though I have to say that Gad held his own in their company!
After the roundtable, we headed into the luau/pig roast. We were the last group of interviewers, and there were only a handful of us, so finding an open seat was difficult. Three of us assumed an open spot and sat down. A few minutes later, the stars joined us. We were nervous. Should we move? Are we even allowed to sit with them? No one seemed to notice or care. I even managed to casually (and, hopefully, unnoticeably) snap a photo of the actors who shared our table. All of us enjoyed the food as well as the local dancers. They provided amazing entertainment, from the fire twirling to the hula dancing.
Red, Chuck, and Bomb seemed to enjoy the evening as well, taking advantage of many photo ops and even meeting three local birds – real parrots that got plenty of attention from the guests, including me.
Reality Sets In
The next day was time to depart. Luckily my flight was not until late that evening, so I had the entire day to take in the scenery –this was my first trip to Hawaii. (East Coasters like me head to Caribbean, which lands us on a tropical beach in half the time.) Because my internal clock was running abnormally, I awoke at 6 am. Instead of just lying in bed, I headed to the beach. (I can still hear the surf and the feel the rush of the cool water.) Across the blue water I could see the peak of Haleakala rising from the horizon. (It is a fixture in many of my photos.)
As the afternoon wore on, I took a walk along the Wailea pathway winding between the ocean and the various hotel grounds. It was lovely! What a way to end the day.
On the downside, I faced a long plane ride back to the East Coast. I hate red-eye flights, but if it meant an extra day in paradise, so be it! No doubt, this was one of the best press junkets ever. And there’s more to come. Soon everyone will get their own vision of Bird Island come May 20, when the movie is released. And all will be entertained by the antics of Red, Chuck, Bomb, and the gang – not on the personal level that I was, but on one that will put a smile on their face similar to the one I sported throughout the trip.
Meanwhile, look for a behind-the-scenes look at the technology used to create the animation for The Angry Birds Movie in the May/June 2016 issue of CGW.