Exclusive Interview with Michael Rooney- Disney Muppets by Aleksi of Style Music TV
How did you get hooked up with Disney and the Muppets?
The director James Bobin was pretty familiar with my work and he liked my choreography in the movie “500 Days of Summers”. And he called me into his office and we had an interview and hit it off and I was hired in the next couple of days. But it was James Bobin that pretty much brought me in.
How was working on the Muppet Set?
I was so excited because again this was going to be human dancers, also working with the Muppets and the puppeteers. I was very excited. I had a couple of weeks of prep that they gave me at Universal Studios and I had to work out the logistics of making the Muppets hands move in time with the dancers. Keeping in mind that most of the movements of the Muppets had to be from their waist and up and lots or arms and dealing with their limitations. So that was challenging and fun. I think the best thing about working with the Muppets was making them come alive. Just not making them dance but come alive with their facial expressions and making them feel like one of the living human bunch. So it was fun!
What was the difference between working with human dancers and and puppets dancers? What were the challenging and exciting parts?
To expand on my last question and to answer your next question- if you visualize your hand, like a sock puppet, like your fingers tapping, hitting your thumb back and forth- that is what most of the puppeteers do- they have their hand inside the puppet- so I had to at some point, go ahead and choreograph my fingers and my thumbs, clacking together and going left and right and around especially for the chicken number that we did, for the clucking number. So that was the first time I did “Hand Choreography” like that. It was a bunch of “Hand Choreography”.
Where do you get your creative inspiration?
Well, what I do is listen to the piece of music over and over again, as long as I can, and I try to think in big, broad strokes. So, as oppose to doing syncopated small movements, which I think confuses the viewer-I work in really broad, broad strokes. I try to stay more on the solid counts and the less syncopated counts and that seemed to help with the puppeteers as well.
Advise for aspiring dancers- that are just starting in their careers?
Don’t ever be disappointed by the word “No”- because no just means not at this time or maybe it wasn’t your turn to get the job. Take nothing personally. Don’t ever, ever let “No” discourage you. Always, always have tenacity, move forward and see where your luck and chances lie. But never be disappointed by the word “No”.
Lauded by critics and viewers alike, Rooney's work with directors has been turning heads and moving feet over the past decade. He is the only choreographer in history to have won five MTV Awards for Best Choreography. Rooney has assembled some of the most original staging and conceptualization for the entertainment industry and its major celebrities. Rooney’s “come to life” dance sequence in the smash hit film “500 Days of Summer” kept the film fresh and alive; his hard work behind the scenes with the animators of “Shrek 4” helped bring the film to greater heights.
Rooney continues to be successful because he has the artistic ability to see the script and design the choreography bringing the story alive, as seen in his most memorable videos for "Fatboy Slim" (starring Christopher Walken), Gnarls Barkley’s “Run” (for which he won his 5th MTV Award for Best Choreography) and Kylie Minogue's sexy and controversial piece "Can’t Get You Out of My Head",
Rooney worked with Spike Jonze on numerous MTV award-winning music videos that have been seen by millions of viewers. Rooney/Jonze have also worked together for the funny dance sequence in the feature film “Jackass 2.” Rooney and Jonze first teamed up for the now infamous Bjork video “It's Oh So Quiet.”
In addition to his film and video work, Rooney has acquired a long list of commercial credits, including his work with Queen Latifah and Taylor Swift for CoverGirl, Target commercials featuring John Legend and a huge campaign for Nike featuring Charles Barkley. Other commercial work includes GE, Ford, Old Navy and McDonalds.