How ‘Abominable’ Is a Different Yeti Movie Than ‘Smallfoot’

Abominable is not the first animated yeti movie in theaters. Smallfoot beat them two years ago. There’s room in Hollywood for two big yeti movies though, especially when they are so different. In Abominable, a Chinese girl (Chloe Bennet) meets a yeti named Everest. She and her friends Peng (Albert Tsai) and Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) help Everest get back to his home on Mt. Everest.

Everest and Yi in Abominable | Dreamworks Animation LLC

Writer/director Jill Culton spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet in Los Angeles about her journey to make Abominable. Here are the key differences between Abominable and Smallfoot. Abominable is in theaters Friday, September 27.

Kids could pronounce ‘Smallfoot’

Abominable is a mouthful for children. Culton has a way to help.

“We have a cheat sheet,” Culton said. “Someone on my crew came up with it. They said, ‘If you imagine a bomb in a bowl and then you say a bomb in a bowl, you’ll get it.’ Isn’t that clever?”

Abominable writer/director Jill Culton
Abominable writer/director Jill Culton | Eric Charbonneau/DreamWorks Animation LLC.

Maybe it’s better if you just let kids try to figure it out on their own. 

“It is incredibly cute to hear kids mess up the title,” Culton said. “I have to say, it’s adorable. I had it in my phone. My friend said, ‘Here’s my five-year-old trying to say it.’ It’s like, ‘Abomnimibnimal?’ They just totally mess it up.”

Everest doesn’t talk in ‘Abominable’

The yeti in Smallfoot spoke English and had the voices of Channing Tatum, Zendaya and Common. Everest is truly an animal and only makes animal noises.

“For me, he was never going to speak and I was dreading that the studio eventually would make me have to have him speak,” Culton said. “It was so personal to me that he wouldn’t speak just because I think for me it kept him more grounded as kind of an animal or creature which is important to me.”

Yi (Bennet) has a perfectly touching relationship with Everest without sharing the same language.

Yi and Everest in Abominable | Dreamworsk Animation LLC

“The other thing is it’s almost too easy,” Culton said. “I wanted a relationship between the girl and him that didn’t need the words like that, that was full communication. That was part of the concept, so luckily I never had to do that. That’s a good thing.”

Everest has magical powers in ‘Abominable’

The yeti in Smallfoot were just minding their own business living on the top of the mountain, hoping no smallfoots ever found them. Everest is trying to get back home, but he has the power to control nature along the way. 

Everest turns a field into a wave in Abominable | Dreamworks Animation LLC

“I got to create the lore, that he has these abilities to control nature and he’s got this musical kind of hum ability in him,” Culton said. 

Everest is a four-legged yeti

The Smallfoot yeti were humanoid. Everest needs all four of his limbs to scamper around.

“He doesn’t walk on two legs like all the ones you’ve seen,” Culton said. “He walks on four so he’s not typical. Hopefully this movie is a different kind of movie and doesn’t get lumped in.”

Everest on all fours in Abominable | Dreamworks Animation LLC

That’s not to say Culton wasn’t worried when Smallfoot went into production.

“We started this movie before that. This movie was originally written about seven years ago. The studio went through changes. Things happen and we weren’t doing it and then we came back and in 18 months they said, ‘Can you make that movie?’ So I’m lucky. I’m just happy that they let us, with the culture of more yeti movies out there, that we were allowed to do this. I think the studio just felt like this is such a different kind of movie than this other one.”

Jill Culton, interview with Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 9/12/19