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Dragon dog

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 30th, 2010

photo by Jon Stinnett The Evans family: Paco, Tammi, Brynlee and Ted.

Local Chihuahua voices characters in newest Dreamworks film

Paco talks to his family every night before bedtime. But he probably never expected to be taken this seriously.

Cottage Grove’s newest film star recently joined a growing cadre of talent discovered on Youtube. In his video, he didn’t dance or sing or rant about current events. Paco just talked and talked, in a cute, throaty little growl fit for a dragon. Or, obviously, a five-year old Chihuahua.

That video, which has enjoyed over two million views online, became an audition tape last summer, and a sound technician with Skywalker Sound Productions, Nia Hansen, came to record Paco’s communications at the home of his owners, Tammi, Ted and 1 ˝ year-old Brynlee Evans of Cottage Grove. His unique voice can now be heard in the biggest box office draw of the weekend, ($43.3 million) Dreamworks’ 3D film “How to Train Your Dragon.”

“Paco always makes funny noises and acts like a goofball,” Ted Evans said. “So I made a Youtube video of him talking for friends and relatives. Then we got a call last summer from Nia Hansen with Skywalker Sound. She said she’d been looking for a dog that made exactly those sounds.”

Hansen drove up from San Francisco last August and spent a day recording Paco in his bedroom. Then, for a while, the Evans’ heard nothing more.

“I thought it was going to be some kind of direct-to-DVD anime thing,” Ted Evans said.

About a month later, Hansen called to say that Paco’s voice would indeed be used. The family signed a release form and was paid a small amount, but they still didn’t know how big the movie would be.

“We went to Wal-Mart and there was a huge selection of clothes, toys and pillows from the movie,” Tammi Evans said. “That’s when we realized how big a deal this was. But it’s so surreal. He’s just a little dog.”

Paco weighed one pound, three ounces when he came to live with the Evans family. Dad wanted a larger dog but acquiesced to get a Chihuahua. These days, Paco follows sister Brynlee around and acts like a normal dog, but his parents say he’s not territorial or shaky like many Chihuahuas. So how has Paco adjusted to his newfound fame?

“He doesn’t care,” Tammi Evans said. “He’s still just Paco.”

“How to Train Your Dragon” tells the story of a young, gangly Viking, Hiccup, who is the son of the village chief. But Hiccup is weak and decides to catch a rare dragon to prove himself. Hiccup eventually befriends the dragon and begins to learn dragon secrets.

In one scene, he uses these secrets to subdue several small dragons, called Terrible Terrors. Anyone who knows Paco will recognize the Terrors’ voices.

“We’ve watched clips and you can totally hear that it’s Paco,” Ted Evans said. “They didn’t tweak his voice at all.”

Evans said his family hasn’t seen the film yet, but that friends have told them “it’s awesome.” Those who do miss Paco’s debut haven’t totally missed the boat, though. While taping for “Dragon,” Hansen also informed the Evans family that Paco’s talents will be used in another upcoming Dreamworks film, Air Bender, where he will play a lemur bat.

“It’s probably a one-shot thing,” Ted Evans said. “But who knows. He’s not on a contract or anything, but we were told that if anybody else asks about him, we need to get him an agent.”

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