Back in 2019, on a beautiful summer day in Vancouver, Canada, Flora & Ulysses was finishing up filming. Disney+’s latest film is based on the best selling book by Kate DiCamillo, and comes to the streaming service on February 19th. It was obvious within minutes that this was a fun set to be on. Everyone got along, cracked jokes, and even played games together during their downtime.
The day was spent watching scenes being filmed, and talking with much of the cast and crew. All of which had positive things to say about the movie, the script, and each other.
Alyson Hannigan, who plays Phyllis Buckman in the movie, couldn’t stop raving about Matilda Lawler, who plays her daughter, Flora. “As an actor, they say never work with children or animals. I have experienced the reason why that could be true – not on this. There is always that chance but oh my goodness, they hit the jackpot with her and her family. She is so professional and so talented and so amazing. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that she is just a kid. Certainly, I would never think that she hasn’t done this as long as I have. She’s got such a good focus. She has a lot on her shoulders and it never gets to her, and she’s always happy.”
Ben Schwartz, who plays Flora’s father George, also talked about how incredible Matilda is and how they have such great chemistry together. They would hang out for hours playing games and getting to know each other. “I [wanted to spend time with her] so when you see us on camera you can see the bond just from our words and shorthand. I think you feel the love between us and the happy times we shared.” Ben added that her parents are extremely supportive of her, and she is the one that thinks acting is her calling. It is clear she is just so happy to be there.
Alyson and Ben both say that the script is what drew them to the movie. Ben says, “The script is awesome! I knew I wanted to do family movies at some point, but it had to be great. I’ve seen a lot and passed on a lot. The script is funny and it felt adult – the best movies for families don’t feel like they are just for kids.”
Alyson has always been a fan of the book, and Kate DiCamillo’s others books as well, so she kind of fangirled meeting Kate and getting to be a part of this movie. She says that she has a lot of tricks up her sleeve to help her cry on cue but that she didn’t need to use them for Flora & Ulysses. “For this I just there in the moment. The idea of a cute little squirrel – that’s all I needed. That’s a testament to the script.”
If you have read Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures than you already know this is a story of family and hope. Alyson really hopes that resonates with families that watch this movie together. “I think that a lot of people will be able to relate to that overwhelming feeling of lack of hope and the question, is this ever going to get better? [I hope they takeaway that] it’s ok, and it will. As long as you believe that it can.”
Ben echoed this as well, “There are feelings of hopelessness with both parents and Flora. [This movie] shows kids this is a situation that others go through too – separation or divorce – and it is not just them. They can see someone else going through it and normalize it a bit. It shows you to keep your relationships tight, and find moments of hope in hopelessness.”
Matilda loved working with both Alyson and Ben, and claims she had a complete blast on set. “Alyson is awesome. She is so nice and so fun to work with! The fun thing about Alyson is she is very kooky and she treats us kids like we are adults. We have a lot of fun joking around together.” Matilda explained that the first time she met Alyson they made a trailer for Ulysses. They did a lot of crafting together on set as a way to help them bond. As for her and Ben, they have such a strong bond that it is even telepathic! On the set they came up with a trick that they claim is not a trick, where they can read each other’s minds. One of them is told the name of a celebrity and they can pass that name through the air and the other will guess it. This drove the rest of the cast crazy because they could never figure out exactly how it was done.
Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, who plays Flora’s friend William Spiver, talked about how much fun he had on set with Matilda. The two of them got to play at a water park after they finished wrapping a pretty emotional scene, and that is one of their favorite memories together. Little Ben, as he is so affectionately called, also said he was drawn to the film because of the script. He had a lot of fun playing a hysterically blind kid.
When you watch Flora & Ulysses it will be obvious to you just how well this cast got along on and off the set. Their chemistry is unmatched and it really translates to the screen. Flora & Ulysses comes to Disney+ on February 19th and you don’t want to miss it!
Tessa Smith AKA Mama's Geeky, is a journalist that covers geek and Disney culture on her own website, as well as freelances for other sites such as What's On Disney Plus and Screen Rant. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Marketing and loves all things geeky. She is a Disney Vacation Club member and a Founders Circle Member of Disney+. She is also an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes and a member of the Critics Choice Association. Tessa lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs named Sansa and Khaleesi.