Given his close association with "The Lord of the Rings"
films, Sean Astin thought he knew all about how to handle crowds at
But all that changed last month when Astin put in an
appearance at the D23 EXPO. When Sean came out onstage at the Disney Channel pavilion
accompanied by a walk-around version of the character that he voices for "Special
Agent Oso," Astin suddenly found himself being upstaged by a 5-foot-tall,
bright yellow bear.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"That was kind of hilarious," Sean admitted. "All those
little kids who walked right past me so that they could then get at the theme
park version of Oso. Or - better yet - the kids who then used me as a human
shield. All because they were suddenly freaked out to find themselves standing
in front of a giant, real-life version of that bear from Disney Junior."
But Astin - being a father of three girls - knew exactly
what to do in this particular situation.
"I just ceded the spotlight to the guy in the Oso outfit. More to the point, if
the kids asked who I was when they came up onstage, I didn't say 'I'm the voice
of Oso.' I just said that 'I can do the voice of Oso,' " Sean explained. "That
way ... Well, I'm not shattering someone's childhood by accidentally revealing
that their favorite cartoon character isn't real. I'm just that amusing adult
who can somehow mimic Oso's voice."
I got to chat for a few minutes with Astin last month after
he spent an hour or so signing autographs & posing for pictures with "Special
Agent Oso" fans. And for an actor who's starred in three of the top grossing
films in Hollywood history, Astin's a surprisingly down-to-earth guy who seems to understand what events like the D23 EXPO are really all about.
"Look, when you come out for an event like this, you have to
know it's really all about making the kids happy. I mean, look how proud the
parents here are that they found a way to actually get their kids together with
their favorite Disney Junior character," Sean said. "Besides, all of the
grown-ups here - after they finish getting that picture of me, their kid and
the Bear -- always made a point of saying how much they enjoyed my work in 'The Goonies,' 'Lord of the Rings' or '50 First Dates.' So trust me. I'm getting my
ego stroked plenty here."
Mind you, it wasn't just the theme park version of Special Agent Oso that Astin
was sharing the spotlight with. As he worked the press line at last month's D23
EXPO, Sean also made a point of introducing his 15-year-old daughter, Ali to all
the members of the media.
Ali and Sean Astin. Photo by Angela Ragno
"Ali's thinking about getting into the family business. She's
done some regional theatre as well as begun auditioning. So I thought that I'd
bring Ali along today. Let her see what working at an event like this is like, how
an actor has to handle themselves when dealing with the public and the press,"
Which isn't to say that Sean is making it all that easy for
Ali to pursue a career in acting.
"Given her Oscar-winning grandmother and the fact that her
Dad did the 'Lord of the Rings' movies, I actually think that my daughter's
going to have a tougher time than most actresses when it comes to auditioning.
That people are going to expect that much more from Ali. Which is why she needs
to be that much better right out of the box," Sean stated. "Which is why I keep
talking with her about how actors need to prepare. I've given her books to
read. Movies to watch. I've even asked her to write little essays in direct response to the stuff that I've made
her read & watch. And Ali's done it all. She's a great kid. A straight A
student too. Did I mention that before?"
Wilmer Valderrama, the voice of "Handy Manny" and Sean Astin, thevoice of "Special Agent Oso." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.All rights reserved
And speaking of great kids and actors preparing for their
roles ... Astin shared this great story about the "Handy Manny / Special Agent
Oso" crossover episode that he recently recorded. Where - for the first time
ever - the big yellow bear sings
"In all the time that I've been acting, I think maybe once -
possibly twice - people have paid me real money to sing. Which is why I was
kind of nervous when I found out that I had to sing a song as part of this
Disney Junior special," Sean said.
So the producers of this "Handy Manny / Special Agent Oso"
crossover send Astin home with an MP3 of the song that he has to sing in this
Sean Astin in the recording booth, working on "Special Agent Oso." Photo byHarper Smith. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"So I wait 'til all my kids have gone upstairs to bed. The
house is dark. I'm downstairs, playing the song over & over again, trying
to get the hang of the melody," Sean remembered. "And then - from upstairs - I hear
my 7-year-old singing the song. And I'm like 'Hey!' And Isabella is like 'Come
on, Dad. It goes like this."
So - in a way - Astin struggling to learn the song that he
sings in that "Handy Manny / Special Agent Oso" crossover has become a real
bonding experience for he and his daughter.
"I'd be driving Isabella to school. And I'd say 'How does
Oso's song go again?' And she'd then sing it back to me. Or we'd sing it
together. It was a pretty special time," Sean said.
And speaking of special times ... Now that he's finished
recording the second season of "Special Agent Oso" as well as gotten a chance
to interact with some of the fans of this Disney Junior show, Astin has been
enjoying doing some on-camera acting.
"That's actually why I've got this beard right now. I'm
playing the mayor in a western," Sean concluded.
But before Astin could elaborate on what the title of this
western was ... There was another reporter that Astin needed to introduce his
daughter to. And a 5-year-old who wanted an autograph. Or maybe just wanted
Sean to get out of the way so that they could then get their picture taken with
a 5-foot-tall yellow bear.
Whatever the case, Astin was always upbeat & gracious
with whomever he dealt with that day at the Anaheim Convention Center. Which is
why a lot of D23 members walked away from last month's EXPO thinking that Agent
Oso wasn't the only one who was special.
Lovely interview! I love how Sean both teaches and learns from his daughters. By the way, the western he is working on is Hallmark's "Love's Christmas Journey," airing in November.
Dang. I was hoping he was talking about the Lone Ranger. i need more info about that movie!
Sean seems like a REALLY good guy, but Special Agent Oso is hands down the lamest show on Disney Junior, and I'm not a Disney Junior hater. I have four kids (8, 5, 3 and almost 1) and I watch most of Disney Junior with them but I avoid Oso like the plague.
Sean was one of the highlights of the D23|Expo for me. Thanks for posting the interview.
i heard you mention allie not ali