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Erik Estrada talks about his role in 'Planes: Fire & Rescue'

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In “Planes: Fire & Rescue,” when Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) finds out he has a damaged engine and might not race ever again, he volunteers to help out a crew of veteran fire and rescue helicopters and vehicles to battle some wildfire at a national park. had to chance to speak one of the many voices from the movie, Erik Estrada, about the initial idea for his role and learning Spanish as an adult.

I read through the production notes that helped bring the “ChiPS/Chops” element to this film. Was it your idea initially or was it someone else’s idea to bring you on?

Erik Estrada: It was Disney’s idea. There’s a character named Blade Ranger (voiced by Ed Harris) and he has a partner named Nick “Loop’N” Lopez because I do these incredible in my helicopter. I used to do it with the motorcycle on “Chips” and now I do it as a helicopter. The whole cast of the animation is watching a television show because they are telling the story of Blade Ranger, who is now a firefighter, but he was on a television series and his co-star was me. My character is basically the same thing as Ponch and this what they wanted to do. I saw the screening of it at DisneyToons Studios, and when that came on and I saw it I was blown away. For me it was like a flashback, and suddenly it hit me that “Chips” had such an impact. When I was doing “Chips,” I was just happy to have a job and get my mother out of Harlem. That’s all I cared about was taking care of her. They created that segment for the movie, threw it in and called me to see if I was interested. It was cool and it was a lot of fun, but I’ve done animation before. I did “Family Guy” and a I had series for three years on Adult Swim called “Sealab 2021,” in which I played Marco.

I read that you’ve learned Spanish as an adult. I wanted to know how come you didn’t learn it as a child and what motivated you to learn as an adult?

Estrada: I was born in Harlem Hospital and raised in Spanish Harlem. At the age of five, I was on the street. My first job was selling Piraguas with my grandfather, then I shined shoes and because of that era (1950′s and 1960′s), I had to deal in English all the time. My mother kicked my father out when I was four because he was a heroin addict. My mom started dating a cop later on, and that’s where my love for cops came from. That’s why I’m a cop today. I’m actually an ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) investigator captain in Virginia. My goal is to have internet safety education put in every school across this country. I want to get it mandated. I’ve already got nineteen schools participating and I’m working on many more. I’m also the spokesperson for the Safe Surfin’ Foundation. All my life, I was interested in being a cop. Anyways, I was in Mexico doing a movie called “Juana la Cubana,” but I didn’t know Spanish and I didn’t even read in Spanish, but they were dubbing me in Spanish. The producer of “Dos Mujeres Un Camino” came to me and told me he wanted me for the role. I said, “Thank you, but I think I am going to have to turn it down. I don’t know how to read or speak Spanish.” He said, “Don’t worry about it. We will make it that you were born in San Diego and then came to Mexico.” I thought they meant that I would be speaking in Spanglish and I said I was agreeable with that. A couple of weeks later, I get the script and I couldn’t read it. It was entirely in Spanish. I went to Berlitz and grabbed me a beautiful woman teacher and we knocked it out for seven days straight for three weeks.

Isn’t it true that you signed up for a hundred episodes and it ended being 400-something episodes?

Estrada: 457. They got crazy. When we did the first hundred and got to 95 and 96, I said, “Four more and I’m out of here.” They said they wanted to do 160 more and I agreed to do more under certain terms of condition.

How long did it take to do your voiceover?

Estrada: The nice thing about animation is you don’t need to shave or shower. You go in, get in a booth with your mic and monitor, and you say the line how they want you to say it. You just have to be open to reacting and be a great listener.

Do they animate it after you do the voiceover?

Estrada: No. It is already animated. When I did the other series, I use to do it by phone. I never met anybody in the cast during the three years of I was doing “Sealab 2021.” Also, there was nothing to look at when I was reading my lines. Disney already knows what they want and they do the animation first and bring in possible voices for that particular character. It was great. We did a screening with the entire cast and crew and they loved it. I love the finished product. The movie is very exciting. It’s got a lot of color. I remember one distinct scene where it really reached me. It was a high shot where they’re bringing in a ranger who got hurt, and I just felt “Wow, this guy is hurt.’ The danger of the fire is very exciting. It’s an exciting movie overall, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m glad to be in it.

“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is now playing in South Florida theaters.


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