If you’re looking for a fun, fresh holiday special that you can watch with your whole family, ABC and Disney’s animated sequel to Prep & Landing is for you. Picking up the yuletide adventures of Lanny (Derek Richardson) and Wayne (Dave Foley), two North Pole elves with the job of getting every house in the world ready for Santa’s visit, Prep & Landing: Naughty Vs Nice introduces a brand new (star) power player in Mr. Thistleton (Chris Parnell), a technology genius who is the reason no kid gets left behind on Christmas. Unfortunately this holiday season, a piece of Mr. Thistleton’s patented, genius technology has fallen into the hands of a kid on the Naughty List-- a kid who plans to hack said technology to get placed on the Nice List. Mr. Thistleton can’t have that or his life’s work will be thwarted, Parnell pointed out when LA TV Insider Examiner had a chance to catch up with him.
“He runs, what you’d call a ‘database tree farm,’ which is sort of like a server farm in the North Pole, and he keeps track of all of the children in the world who have been naughty and who have been nice. There’s a lot of computer power up there-- he’s a computer genius-- he went to the Mistletoe Institute of Technology,” Parnell spoke of Mr. Thistleton, the only real authority figure (other than Santa himself, of course) in the Prep & Landing franchise to date. “He invented the Winternet, and he was very sad when they dropped the ‘W’ from the name,” he continued, laughing. “He takes himself very seriously; he’s a little cocky; but we also see through that tough veneer to the more human aspects. It’s a fun character to play!”
Mr. Thistleton has to send in a crack team to retrieve his technology from this Naughty Kid, so he teams Wayne up with a hotshot tough guy member of the Coal Elf Brigade-- who just happens to be Wayne’s kid brother. Though Mr. Thistleton certainly didn’t intend to bring these two back together in a brotherly bonding sort of way, his mission ends up having more emotional meaning than the straight-forward task at hand. But isn't that just what marks the best holiday films?
Getting into the holiday spirit is one thing, but for Parnell, a big draw to the project was the fact that it was Disney animation, which is so iconic on its own, but also holds a personal draw for the comedy veteran who may give Mr. Thistleton himself a run for his money in interest in technology.
"It was awe-inspiring. I got to go into one of the animation booths where one of the artists was working on his workstation, and they showed me some of what they had done, in the process of how the characters are created with the software, and having had a computer since I was eleven and being really into that, it was amazing to see that," he said.
"And then Michael Giacchino, who did the score, and who I've been a huge fan of since LOST...that was pretty awesome!"
Parnell, who picks A Charlie Brown Christmas as his top holiday film of all time, clearly has a love and respect of the medium, and therefore could be a harsher critic than most of the new shows and specials that step into the holiday spotlight late in the game. But Parnell didn't even seem to pause when this opportunity came about, knowing that if it was done by Disney it would be "of the highest caliber." So what's his verdict after having seen what his character looks like?
"I think he's perfect! The way he looks captures the character, amazingly. You know, I do maybe fifty percent of it, and the animators do the rest-- if not forty/sixty. I certainly bring my thing to it, but it's written so well, and the character is really fully brought to life by the animators. There are so many nuances in the face and movements, and just from an acting perspective, if I were playing the character on camera, I wouldn't have necessarily thought of to do that."
If you want to catch Parnell getting into the holiday spirit this year, you're going to want to make sure not to miss Prep & Landing: Naughty Vs Nice on ABC on December 5th at 8:30pm. He shared with us that sadly he is not in the Suburgatory Christmas episode, and of course, 30 Rock won't be back on air until January.