Back to the Outback: Chat with Filmmakers

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I sat down with the filmmakers of the new Netflix movie Back to the Outback, Clare Knight & Harry Cripps. Check out what they had to say about this fun film.

What made you guys kind of choose the animals that you’re featuring in this animation?

Harry Cripps – That was one of our producers. Our producer Greg Lessans came to us actually with the idea. He took his children to see a butterfly exhibition at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. And all they wanted to do was go see the snakes and the spiders, they couldn’t care less about the butterflies. And he came up with this idea of making a film where the heroes are the deadly and dangerous animals. And so, Australia was sort of a natural fit because Australia’s famous for having some of the cutest animals like koalas, but it’s also very famous for having the deadliest and most poisonous animals in the world. Most of which are very gentle little creatures. Like Maddy, the Taipan snake has some of the deadliest venom in the world, there’s not one record of death from a Taipan because they’re extremely shy, gentle animals. Very, very misunderstood. So that’s where the idea came from.

I love that it kind of pushed kids to maybe look at how perception versus reality or first impressions versus reality might be a little bit different. Is that something you thought about? Thinking about kids watching this movie?

Clare Knight – It was really the core of the message, you don’t judge a book by its cover this, it’s what is on the inside is the most important thing. Also, you know, who your family is, who you travel with, is, who your family is, and where home is. So there was a lot of those core messages that we felt very strongly about, and we felt like these animals that are totally misunderstood, do get to evolve, and you know, blossom as we go through the journey.

Harry Cripps – Yeah, it’s also embracing, it’s not being scared of other people’s differences. It’s really about embracing the fact that we are all different and being proud of the thing that makes us different. Maddie, this snake is told at the beginning, she should be ashamed of herself because of the way she looks. And she comes to understand throughout the journey that this is something to be proud of. This is a strength that sort of, so it’s really hopefully sending out a message to kids, ‘love who you are, and take the time to get to know other people for who they really are as well, not just how they present on the surface.’

Chaz Hunt gives me mega Steve Irwin vibes, so I’d love for you to describe the character for me.

Harry Cripps – Well, Chaz looks like Steve Irwin, but Steve Irwin is a hero of mine. I grew up in Australia. He is one of the nicest people was, unfortunately, one of the loveliest people, and his work with animals was genuinely about a genuine love of animals and respect for them. Chaz Hunt is none of those things. He may wear the tight shorts. But he’s not Steve. He is a bully, and you discover later in the film where it comes from. But he’s trying to do his best as a dad as a single dad to raise this son, but he’s a guy who’s constantly giving out the wrong messages and clinging to these old ideals that you got to be tough, you got to hit the other guy before we hit you, you know these things. So the relationship with Chaz and his son, we wanted to say, the message here is these lessons start at home. About tolerance and about seeing beyond the exterior. And so Chaz as a character does evolve. Throughout the movie. He does learn a lot of these lessons as he goes on this journey with his son. When he starts off, he’s this posturing guy who would love to be that Outback legend. But that’s, he’s not qualified.

Clare Knight – Both of them evolve. I mean, all our characters do. He feels he has to bolster himself up to be this glorified image of an Outback legend. But I think not to give anything away. I think when you have… I have a son Harry has sons… when you have children, they kind of put you in the present of what’s actually going on with you. And so in their relationship is really fun to watch throughout the movie. Yeah.

 

Harry, you grew up in Australia, and you got to see some of these creatures on the regular but I’m curious if when you were growing up if you ever had creatures or reptiles like this as pets?

Harry Cripps – I didn’t have them as pets because my parents were very antsy, keeping things as pets like that. But you didn’t have to because in both in Sydney, and in my grandparent’s house in the Blue Mountains, particularly the Blue Mountains, they were everywhere. And you would regularly go to sleep with those great big hairy Huntsman spiders above your bed. And you’d freak out be like, ‘just ignore, ignore them.’ I’ve had one in my mouth [while] riding a horse, I went over a log and a giant Huntsman went into my mouth. There were snakes everywhere. My brothers put a snake in my bed once as a joke, but a dead snake.

They were physical members of our household. And I was horrified by all of them, but I actually was like your family. I was incredibly proud of them. And particularly when I came to America, I was very proud that I knew all these animals growing up with them. So there was a big, there was a strong relationship with a lot of these guys. Much more so than the koalas and the kangaroos who I didn’t really care about that much at all.

Clare Knight – I think I’m connected to snakes because I grew up in Ireland, where apparently St. Patrick drove them all out. But I don’t even know if that’s true or not. But we never had snakes so it was a really exciting idea to bring, particularly an animation. There’s not that many snakes and a lot of questions about whether our lead should be a snake because they’re not as huggable. So it was a challenge for us to make the most appealing version of these animals.

Harry Cripps – One of my favorite characters in there is the shark in the harbor and the sharks terrified me growing up. But she’s such a beautiful [character], you just want to wrap your arms around and hug. That was a beautiful character design. I actually it’s one of my favorite designs in the movie.

Clare Knight – I think we wanted to make it a family adventure, and, you know, a road movie comedy, there was so many aspects to it, to give a message within a comedy is just like, a lovely thing to do. Because I think everyone wants to laugh now. And I think we’re coming out of the gloom, and also to be on Netflix, where it’ll go out to a global audience, and also be fun to be found later on as well. So it’s great all around, great thing for us.

Back to the Outback will stream on Netflix on December 10th.

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Meghan Cooper is a writer, content creator, movie critic, and geek living in Atlanta, Ga. She loves movies, traveling, and lots of coffee. Member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association, Georgia Film Critics Association, and Atlanta Film Critics Circle.

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