Carlos Alazraqui, voice of El Chupacabra (El Chu) in Disney’s PLANES movie, is a funny and inspiring actor. Via mobile phone, I was able to discuss the upcoming movie, this show-stealing character, and Latinos on the big screen with Alazraqui.
Of the summer animation movies I’ve seen, Disney has done the best job in featuring a Latino character in this film. No, El Chu isn’t the main character but I’d say he is one heck of a ‘good guy’. After this role, even the name El Chupacabra isn’t the same to me. I grew up with the myth or tale that El Chupacabra was a wild dog-like creature who would suck the blood out of animals at night. Something to be feared. However, in PLANES, that is nto the case. El Chu is loved by many and is a trust-worthy pal to Dusty (voice of Dane Cook), the under-dog main character in the movie.
Here's a few questions I asked the actor who lent his voice to make this hero come alive.
Why was it important for you to play El Chupacabra?
Alazraqui: First of all, it’s just fun. As we went along with the film, we realized that El Chupacabra is muy simpatico. He’s a lucha libre, a luchador … he has a lot of respect for other planes. That makes him likeable. And that makes him a true heroic character. He’s very positive. He doesn’t judge people; he’s full of passion; and he goes for his own dreams as well. He’s honorable and loyal. Those are really great qualities for any character.
I am waiting for a Latino hero to save the day in an animation film. Do you think we will see that soon?
Alazraqui: It will come sooner than you think. Thanks for the tip, Carlos!
El Chu is so popular. He cannot be put down. We already know El Chu will be in the sequel for next summer. I can tell you that!
In El Chu voice: They added more lines for me because I am so loveable and heroic. Soon there will be El Chu stores like Costco and we will have El Chu toys … okay, Alazraqui admits the part Costco-like store is his own fantasy.
What are your thoughts about needing more Latinos on the big screen and no more stereotypes?
Alazraqui: It was a great opportunity for me to get to play this character … I don’t always get to play the roles that Latinos get because I look very white and sound very American. (Alazrqui’s parents for from Agrentina. He is American.) So, the beauty of being a voice actor is that I can play any culture … I can play Rocko from Australia or play an American and that’s what’s wonderful and I hope it transmits that Latinos come in all different shapes and sizes and colors from Peru, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras, Venezuela. We can be all different shades and speak different levels and different kinds of Spanish. It opens up to a broad spectrum to who Latinos are.
And still there are those of us who are ‘here’ (like you and me).
Alazraqui: Yes, I get to play someone from Mexico. I get to play a telenovela actor whose Spanish is very neutral so the whole world can understand him. It’s not like speaking like my native parents (and he goes in to imitation mode)
And Gabriel Iglesias who is a Mexican-American gets to play two white guys and does the ‘what’s up bro’ (Iglesias is the voice of two PLANES characters, Ned and Zed) … That’s the beauty of what Latinos can do. Like I said I’m Latino but I play Rocko from Australia. I play characters so I can play a character from Mexico. Latinos have more than just the talent of (in a Speedy Gonzalez-esqu voice) “Si, señor! I can help you.” or “I’m a cree-me-nal”. We can be everything.
I agree. One reason I’m excited about El Chu is because he’s a good guy.
Alazraqui: El Chu is not trying to be anybody except when he is trying to woo Rochelle (El Chu’s love interest in the movie) He is who he is and that’s important.
Carlos, we are fans of Reno 911 and my boys are fans of your voice overs (He is the voice of many cartoon characters.) What made you decide to become a comedian?
Alazraqui: My mom was always a very over-the-top character. She still is. She’s Argentinian. She was a priest, an Episcopal priest, a Methodist priest … always wanting to entertain audiences. My brother was the one who read all the time. I watched television growing up. I had a very vivid imagination. I just thought in college, I‘ll try comedy. I loved it. I just want to entertain people. Now that I do voice-over, I really love that. Now that I have a kid and one on the way, I want to stay home more. I can still be crazy and I can still be funny (comedy in a way) and not have to travel.
I didn’t forget about my faithful readers … Here’s a shout out for YOU from El Chupacabra! Keep in mind, he is sending you a message over the phone. Nonetheless, I wanted to share something special with you.