Under Wraps director

Under Wraps Director Alex Zamm on Remaking the First Disney Channel Original Movie

Under Wraps, a remake of the first Disney Channel Original Movie, will premiere Friday, October 1 on Disney Channel before arriving on Disney+ a week later on October 8. The film follows three students that come across an ancient reawakened mummy that they quickly become friends with. Directed by Alex Zamm, it stars Malachi Barton, Christian J. Simon, Sophia Hammons, and Phil Wright in the main roles.

The story follows three 12-year-old friends, Marshall, Gilbert, and Amy, as they happen upon and awaken a mummy, which they affectionately name Harold, and must rush to return him to his resting place before midnight on Halloween,” says the official synopsis. “Along the way, the team narrowly escapes a nefarious group of criminals who are intent on selling the mummy to the highest bidder. When Harold is inevitably captured, Marshall, Gilbert, and Amy must band together to stand up to the criminals, face their fears, and rescue their new—but rather ‘ancient’—friend.”

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Under Wraps director Alex Zamm about the film, how he chose to update the original, and what went into the grunt language that Harold speaks.

Tyler Treese: What was the process like updating this film and choosing what story beats to keep? Because it’s very faithful, but you do update the story in some really smart ways.

Alex Zamm: Thanks so much. I’m really happy to hear you say that. My first and foremost intent was to be faithful to the original and to honor it because I loved it and I grew up with it and I feel very privileged to introduce this story to a new generation. I’m a huge fan of monster movies, but I wanted to really find more and more moments to humanize Harold. So the whole Roomba sequence and the honey and him in the mirror were chances to find new colors for Harold to play. So instead of him just grunting. He was always gonna be a fish outta water, but it was really fun to have him be at odds with the modern world in different ways. We kept certain beats like him being a fish outta water and going into the world.

I love what the first one did with the hospital sequence, where they used the paddles on him, and he goes to the fast food restaurant window. Love those sequences. But we wanted to also say, “They did those well, what can we do?” So we gave Harold agency when he sees the picture of the princess, we say, “Oh, why is he after finding out about her?” It gives him a mystery to follow and it gave us a fun sequence for him being dragged by a bus.

Another one was Kubat’s fantastic in the first one, I love that he disappeared and then he pretends he’s dead. Then he shows up in the first one. In this one, I thought let’s make him more present. Let’s just try something different where he’s actively trying to find out who stole his mummy, tracking down the inhaler clue, tracking down the kids, finding out that they’re at the carnival. So it makes him a more present antagonist. Another one was, Harold is just a fantastic dancer. Phil Wright, who plays Harold, is just a world-class gifted choreographer. So leaning into his abilities to express movement and to dance. Why not use that? So that gave us a chance for him to take his 4,000-year-old creaky bones, start to stretch him out a little bit, and then to become the life of the party and to finally belong.

I thought Phil Wright was so great as the mummy and it’s an interesting role for him because he grunts, but it’s largely a nonverbal role. It’s so much about his movement and giving context through that. As a director, what challenges come with one of the main characters, not really speaking in a way that we can understand?

It’s almost like doing Harpo Marx. You watch the Marx Brothers and you go, this guy communicated so much through [body movement], or the great silent comedians. So Phil and I watched a lot of Harpo, the Marx brothers. We watched Buster Keaton. We watch a lot of Chaplin. We watched some of the great scenes with Lucy and Harpo Marx in the mirror and her doing the candy conveyer belt. I think the biggest challenge for me was I wanted to humanize a mummy and to do that, there was a lot of elements at wanting to build the character. I thought if we humanize the mummy, everything’s gonna come into place for this movie.

So we spent a lot of time with the prosthetic special effects makeup department to make a suit that moved fluidly with Harold. So he could play stiff, but then he could become fluid and comedic. Then we made sure that he had prosthetics that weren’t latex like the one 20 years ago, but silicone, which wasn’t available back then, so that all his performance comes through. Every facial expression comes through that silicone and it moves with him.

Then the grunt language was important. So I would go through with Phil on every line of dialogue and write subtitles for him. So he’d say, okay, so the kids are saying this and you’re grunting here. You’re saying something specific. You’re not just going [grunts], you have something in your mind that you’re saying. So every line of dialogue was written out for him to a interpreting grunt language. We would spend a lot of time figuring out which sounds would make the most sense for those emotions.

We did that, not just in production, but all the way through post. Like I was doing them in the microphone, in the editing room, just so we would have reference. Then we’d say, oh, that’s an opportunity. There’s comedy here. There’s drama. There’s emotiveness here. We did that throughout, even right up through the end of post, like little things. I’ll give you an example they’re in Buzzy’s shop, and she tries to look at his amulet and he is very protective because without the amulet he deactivates completely. So she tries to touch it, and he snarls at her and then he gets admonished by the friends who say, listen, she’s a friend. Instead of him saying nothing, we had him go like [grunts sadly]. Like my bad, I’m sorry. It made such a difference in humanizing him that he feels bad about his behavior, as opposed to you can’t tell me what to do or whatever you could interpret from those grunts. So we were very specific and I was really proud of what we all built together, the whole team.


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