We’re calling it now: One of the biggest movies for kids this summer is bound to be The Secret Life of Pets 2, which is out June 7 and which we recently previewed. Clever writing, skilled animation and smart messages (a warning about helicopter parenting is a theme woven throughout) make you forget that you’re sitting through an animated film. But the celebrity voices are what really make it fun—Patton Oswalt as dog Max, Eric Stonestreet as another dog friend Duke, Harrison Ford in the role of Rooster and Lake Bell, who returns as the sardonic cat Chloe. The Local Moms Network sat down with Bell, a mom of two little ones, to talk about parenting styles, funny memories with Pets stars like Stonestreet and Kevin Hart, the realities of playing a cartoon cat and other topics.
You’ve garnered praise from critics for traditional acting roles in movies like It’s Complicated and No Strings Attached. How did you prepare differently for voicing Chloe?
It’s more about your vocal preparation. Also, when you’re acting and you have a cold, you can usually wing it. But the microphone can’t hide the vocal discrepancy. Otherwise, there’s not a vast emotional delving into this character when you’re arriving to play a cat!
Ha! How else is it a different experience?
Recording for an animated series is really kind of improvisational. It is a truly interesting experience to be in a major movie with incredible people and never meet them.
So you didn’t show up a studio with co-stars like Kevin Hart and Harrison Ford?
No—but I did press with other cast members. I remember for the first Pets doing a live Telemundo talk show with Kevin Hart and Eric Stonestreet and I don’t speak Spanish so it was like being on a rollercoaster. I’m not sure Kevin spoke Spanish either, but he was running the show regardless! The host was speaking rapid-fire Spanish and it was just kind of amazing. I was like I don’t even need anecdotes…I’m just smiling and nodding.
Too funny. You have described Chloe as a feminist—can you expand on that?
She is very independent and I respect that. Cats don’t dole out their affection to anyone so when they do it’s magical. It reminds me a little of when I was on the dating scene when you like the person who won’t call you back—which probably sounds dysfunctional. But she’s like a strong women who doesn’t have to kowtow to any affection coming towards her. In a playful way, I’d call her a fierce feline feminist.
My favorite line from the movie, as a relatively new mom, is when Max the dog says something along the lines of “I can keep [baby] Liam safe from everything” and Rooster basically say “You’re wrong.” Where do you stand on helicopter parenting?
I am actually a Rie parent. It’s not for everyone. Broad strokes, it’s a way to give your child the space to discover the world safely but independently. It’s the opposite of helicopter parenting. You give them safe environments and allow them to explore in those environments without intervening all the time. You [also] narrate what you’re doing to give them the benefit and respect of letting them know what you’re doing. Even if they don’t understand the words they know the routine by the sounds and tone. It empowers them. [Ed note: To learn more about this independent parenting style, click here.]
Our mission at The Local Moms Network is to “give moms the gift of time”. What’s your biggest time-saving mom hack?
We support a CSA [community supported agriculture]. We get a farm box and it’s a big source of excitement every Sunday. The kids get into opening it up and seeing the colors. You start cooking with foods you don’t normally buy and your kids are exposed to foods they’ve never tried.
What do you look for in a mom friend?
The perfect mom friend means your kids are virtually the same age so you’re having shared experiences and developmental stages. It also helps if they’re in a similar age bracket as you. The biggest factor, though, is having the same parental philosophy.
What’s your favorite place to take your kids?
In LA, the Kids Space Museum is a lifesaver…it is a magical place. It’s a wonderland where kids can get dirty and have experiences and texture and science and climbing.
Sounds great. Do you have any other parenting tips you love?
Kids get really excited about the new thing. So when you’re walking around, even at the grocery store, it can be [a constant refrain of] Mommy can I have this? There’s a lot of no, no, no. But now if they say Mommy can I have this …I say Let’s take a photo…hold it straight…I got it…Now I know what you want at Christmas. It’s acknowledging that you heard them and then the need goes away. Plus you have the most amazing photo essay of your kids holding these items in a needy nature!
So do you ever end up buying these items?
Yes! Sometimes when I’m looking for gift ideas I look in the folder or when my mom asks what [my daughter] wants I’ll send it to her.
Any other mom moves you pull out again and again?
We love to make popsicles. I take ice trays in fun shapes like hearts or Legos. I make popsicle bites and put fruit juice in them and they think it’s fantastic. We make our own ice cream…I use coconut cream and add agave and vanilla. If you use frozen hot pink pitaya fruit, you don’t need to use food coloring for bright hot pink pancakes and popsicles!
Genius! Last question—any strategies for traveling with kids?
Obviously we’re all aware that the iPad is the magical ticket when they’re around three but, if they’re younger, my best advice is to advice is to go to the dollar store and buy cheap toys that you can wrap up in old Christmas wrapping paper and put them in a canvas tote for the trip. In case you need it, you have brand new items to introduce. Also, something as easy as Post It notes that you can stick anywhere and draw funny faces on them can be entertaining. Finally, you always want to bring an extra clothes for everyone—including yourself!
Natalie lives in Houston with her family of four!
Cooking healthy meals that are delicious and satisfying can be hard work for us moms! Lately, I’ve been struggling to curate a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner that include all of the important nutrients and vitamins, only to have my kids come to the table with a stubborn palate.