An interview with Robert Irwin.
The world gasped when the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin held onto his newborn whilst doing a live Croc show at the famed Australia Zoo. Now pre-teen Baby Bob is a certified star in the making himself. Already the focus in a young adult series of dinosaur stories, he is now appearing on the silver screen as a seagull named Kyle in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.
Having met Robert, his sister Bindi and mum Terri at the Puss in Boots premiere in Sydney some years back, they were a joy to interview and a naturally confident breath of fresh air. Down the line from Queensland HQ, Terri gives me a wonderful greeting and says Robert is ready to go.
Shane A. Bassett: Hello Robert, how has your morning been so far?
Robert Clarence Irwin: I’m probably the luckiest kid in the world living right in the middle of Australia Zoo. My alarm clock this morning was the tigers, they started roaring really early so I arrived at the classroom we have got on the property here.We did a little bit of school, now I get to talk to you and I’m excited.
Thanks mate, likewise. How were you approached to do the character voice of Kyle?
Paramount Pictures called us up and just asked if I was interested in being in the next Spongebob movie. I was literally just jumping off the walls, over the moon to be asked. It was a fun experience doing my first animation.
How did you feel first hearing your voice coming out of the speakers in the cinema as Kyle which did not sound exactly as you do now talking with me?
Haha you’re right, it was really funny. Well Paramount was so nice and gave us a private screening, Kyle is a bit younger than I am and has a little bit of a speech impediment so he can’t quite say his L’s or R’s. He’s a very cute and mischievous character.
Did you say the lines with the images of the movie in front of you or alone in a sound booth?
We recorded in a very nice studio we’ve worked in before so I knew most of the people there. It was helpful because I could see a screen just above me when my lines came through with the animation, made it so easy.
Kyle spends the entire film with Antonio Banderas. Did you record with him at all or done separate?
Most of it done separate, but my Dad did do a lot of work with Antonio. They were good friends, he is a really nice guy.
Were you familiar with the Spongebob universe and cartoon growing up?
Definitely, I’ve grown up around these characters. They are positive and love everything in the world. Another great aspect of Spongebob is that he is a sea sponge and sea sponges are not exactly the most popular animal in the ocean, so after watching Spongebob, he empowers you to love even the less popular animals under the sea and he’s funny.
Do you have a favourite character overall?
I have to say Kyle. But before watching the movie, in the series Spongebob is irresistible but I also like Patrick and especially Gary. He doesn’t say much but he’s really cute.
Would you like to do more films in the future – maybe live-action or another animation?
Certainly, I want to do more movies, even if they may not be directly concerned with wildlife or conservation. You can build up a platform to get out our message to more people worldwide. My sister Bindi has done a little bit of movie work, I’d really like to do a bit more of that with her. Even another animation would be exciting, the fun of doing Spongbob was fantastic and the fact no matter what happens to him, the next scene he’s perfectly fine again with a smile on his face. I like that personality.
How many times have you seen your dad’s film ‘Crocodile Hunter Collision Course’? I assume you like it very much?
Oh of course, I’ve seen it dozens or hundreds of times, I’ve lost count. It’s a really great movie, it’s amazing because not only was it fun to watch, it also has a great message. I hope to convey that with Spongebob to love all animals under the sea. Maybe even get the next generation of children to learn more about nature.
Other than school or being part of Australia Zoo, what do you do for fun. Go to the beach, see movies?
Living here is the most incredible life ever anyway because we have over 1,200 animals, something new is always happening. Recently we have added Limas to a new island display we have called Bindi’s Island. Wildlife conservation has always been my greatest passion but I really do love photography, paleontology and mountain bike riding, a mad keen mountain biker actually. I’ve been to tracks at Whistler and Queenstown, so much fun.
Your books are very popular. Do you enjoy doing those and are there any more upcoming?
My Robert Irwin Dinosaur Hunter books are a really fun series for kids. They discuss more unusual dinosaurs and animal life. Hopefully there will be some more coming out soon, they are a good time to work on because I’ve always loved dinosaurs from 2 years old when I visited my first museum in Paris of all places. I spent the whole afternoon in awe of the massive creatures who lived millions of years ago. From that day on, I’ve been fascinated and passionate with prehistoric history. Living here I am surrounded by the evolved creatures such as crocodiles which have survived the way from then to now. The new Jurassic Park movie is going to be really exciting, very much looking forward to that. It could be scary but still fun.
What is something you haven’t done that you would like to participate in?
More animation. Filming Spongebob was a wonderful experience being Kyle, so pursuing more animated characters would be fun like my dad who did a few. He was in Happy Feet and would like to carry on in his footsteps. In the meantime, I hope everyone enjoys Spongebob!!
Shane A. BassettSydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.