“Pets” Tops Weekend With $103 Million; Five Quick Questions for It’s Director Chris Renaud – Animation Scoop

“Pets” Tops Weekend With $103 Million; Five Quick Questions for It’s Director Chris Renaud

Congratulations to our friends at Illumination. Their latest release, The Secret Life Of Pets, hit a nerve with audiences young and old and continues a blockbuster streak of major studio animation releases in 2016 – following on the heels of Disney’s Zootopia ($340 million) and Pixar’s Finding Dory ($422 million domestic total as of today). Playing in 4,370 theaters, the widest opening ever for an animated film, Pets earned a $23,609 per theater average.

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Five Quick Questions for Chris Renaud

1. The Secret Life of Pets is an original story – not based on a book. Where did the idea for the film come from?

Chris Melandandri came up with the one-line concept: What do pets do when we’re not home? That’s how it started. We had no story, no characters. The concept was so big, it could go in any direction. One of our challenges was to figure out which story to tell.

A decision we made early on was that we wanted to feature all types of pets – not just dogs and cats – so that informed our rather large cast of characters. We also anted it to be a contemporary view of pet ownership.

When we started the film we thought about 101 Dalmatians and Lady and The Tramp – which I love – but how we perceive the animals in our lives has really changed over the past 20 years. We keep photos of them on our phone, share photos videos of them on You Tube, and so on.

2. Did the celebrity voice cast guide direction of the characters?

Absolutely. Louis CK was the first person we wanted, I knew of his bits about his dog and I knew he could relate to the story we were trying to tell. The line “I don’t know anything about numbers” came from Louis, gravely informing the character. His demeanor, his dry sarcastic personality, which was a unique choice for a main character – as opposed to your typical heroic, stoic temperament.

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3. I’m loving the new trend of “cartooniness” in the animated features such as this, less computer “puppets”… more a cartoonists point of view, the poses…

That is definitely something we, as a studio, have set out to do. The word “cartooniness” became a dirty word – and I just don’t see it that way at all. Me and Pierre Coffin love the old Warner Bros. cartoon sensibility – and we are tapping it. Chuck Jones is one of my artistic heroes. We have tried to embrace what he and Avery, Clampett, Freleng tried to do.

In this particular movie I had much that cartoon with the bulldog and the kitten (Feed The Kitty) and many of the Tweety and Sylvester – the ones where they keep the camera low – from the knees down. That as something we tried to re-enforce intros film.

4. The art direction on this film is particularly beautiful. Is that an initiative at the studio?

My co-director Yarrow Chaney came from production design (Despicable Me 2 and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax) and Collin Simpson, our art director were very influenced by the New Yorker cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé. That’s the fun of animation, we can create a world visually, that has distinction. Otherwise you can photograph the real New York, but what fun is in that? To create stylized reality is such a tremendous opportunity – I’m delighted to have a chance to do that.

5. Albert Brooks has such a great voice – who or what was he channeling with his performance of Tiberius (the hawk)?

Albert said he wanted to do a “New York” thing with this voice – and he was going for something like Gary Marshall. It’s not quite Gary Marshall, but he wanted to do a different character – far from Marlin in Finding Dory.

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Jerry Beck

Jerry Beck

Writer, cartoon producer and author of more than 15 books on animation history. A former studio exec with Nickelodeon and Disney; currently on the faculty at both CalArts in Valencia and Woodbury University in Burbank.
Jerry Beck
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