The Bad Guys director, Pierre Perifel, sat down to talk about the animated feel-good heist movie that brings laughs to the whole family.
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What was it like working with Aaron to bring his books to life?
Pierre – “Oh, Aaron is an absolute delight. He’s an incredible guy. We met maybe three years ago, three and a half years ago, when I kind of somehow got entangled into a little adventure called The Bad Guys because the studio had purchased the adaptation rights. And when I arrived on the project when I discovered the project; there was one draft of the script. And Aaron was attached as an executive producer to the film. I started diving in and designing and doing some sketches of the characters and the world and kind of just projecting my own vision, and then ended up showing him what we were doing. What I was doing, because it was still very small, it was just three of us or something like that. He immediately clicked, and we immediately clicked in such a great, first of all, clever, interesting, funny, you know, and a really thoughtful person.”
“Every month, we would meet, and I would present him what we were doing and making sure that he was okay with it because, of course, you take liberties when you make a movie like this. I mean, you’ve read the books; it’s not verbatim. We’re not telling that story. But we are really close to it in terms of the tone in terms of some of the elements of those books. And, but it was okay, no matter what it was, like, as long as you preserve the tone and some of the characters and the character’s personalities and features. As long as you preserve that, it’s good with me, so awesome, amazing guy.”
That’s awesome. That sounds like he was heavily involved, which is always good when an author wants to be involved.
Pierre – “It gives you as a creator, the whole team, having the approval of the creator of the franchise gives you wings because you’re like, first of all, you want to please him. And secondly, it is like, ‘Oh, I’m not totally wrong. I’m going in the right direction.’ We wanted him involved more than anything, and it’s an amazing partnership, for sure.”
I read that you created a heist trailer to help you to pitch the movie. So can you tell me about that, and the original vision, and how much that vision changed over time as you were working on the project?
Pierre – I was working with Damon Ross is a producer, right? We were working on different projects together. He had the book with him on his desk, and I just look at the book. And I’m like, ‘This is amazing. This is Reservoir Dogs with animals. And the big bad wolf wants to become a good guy.’
It was not exactly what the script was, but I was able to just isolate in the script, some moments. The idea was like, I’m gonna show them what I want to do through an effect trailer, a mock trailer, and but that trailer would be just storyboards because I don’t have a crew to do final images and animation. So I started storyboarding the fake trailer by studying how those action-heist movie trailers are built. You can actually find it on my Instagram if you want. You’ll see it’s there a lot of those ideas in the trailer that are still the same in the movie in the end.
I feel like animation is kind of going through a little bit of a revolution lately, with films like Into the Spider-Verse and The Mitchell’s vs. the Machines. And it seems like a lot of studios are really trying to pull some of that hand-drawn aspect back into their work. And I feel like I saw some of that a little bit in Bad Guys, where some of the animation styles were kind of hand-drawn. Can you talk about that creative process?
Pierre – “Yes. Yep. You’re absolutely right. Yeah, I think there’s a new generation of artists or creators or filmmakers, I think in a way myself, part of it wants to see a little bit of a change in how we do our big CG animation movies. Can I change those visuals? Can we just explore new avenues?”
“It was to go a bit more illustrated than classic CG rendering, and so it means going a bit more painterly. All those textures and surfaces are more like brushstrokes than actual photographs. We have linework in there. We have scribbles and whatnot. We have special effects that feel more hand-drawn as well. Some of them are actually hand-drawn, like literally traditionally animated. We have reflections in the car. We have speed lines that are much more reminiscent of graphic novels and 2d animation than CG films.”
“The animation style and character design are different. The animation style is going to be very reminiscent of kind of the old-school Miyazaki movie type. The point was to actually just break away from realism and get something that felt more characterized, more stylized, cuter, more traditional, as well, again, more illustrated. Now the challenge is, that the computer wants to give you something that is perfect, always. Let’s say you want to build a cube in 3D. That cube in your software will be a perfect cube, but this is not what we see in real life. It’s rare to have a perfect object. So none of the edges that were created are straight. It’s always broken down and broken up. It always feels like it’s textured in a way that feels not brand new. All of that work is a lot of work to do because you’re basically going against the computer impulse, right. So it’s breaking down some of the reflexes that we have as artists to kind of go with it. It feels different.”
The Bad Guys bring together such a killer cast. So what was it like working with this group?
Pierre – “Oh, my God, there they are the best. Honestly, incredibly lucky to have a cast like this. It was a lot of work because we want to just really have an eclectic cast. Their strengths were completely different. You have an Awkwafina or you have Anthony Ramos or Sam Rockwell; those are the guys we want just because it’s not your usual suspects also, because they’re super fresh and super, kind of cool at the same time, and so talented.”
“But what ended up happening is that they started bonding, which is not always the case because, in animation, you work in such isolation. You record one, and then you record the other. We ended up, thanks to the pandemic, actually managing to record them all together, and slowly that emulation started happening. And they started becoming closer and closer to the point where it’s a group of, I don’t know if their friends, but this group of people that love being together, and when it’s that kind of energy, you’re really getting the best out of [the] talents.”
Make sure to grab your copy of The Bad Guys on digital or Blu-ray on June 21.