When I was in California for The Geekly Retreat, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Directors Nick Bruno & Troy Quane, as well as the Production Designer Michael Knapp of Spies in Disguise. It was such a privilege to be the first audience to see the entire movie, and then get a chance to chat with the people who created it!
Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is … not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo are forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise – transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic… pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. “Spies in Disguise” flies into theaters this Christmas.
The Directors created the role for Will Smith. When creating a sly, smooth, know it all detective, the directors thought Will Smith was the perfect person to bring that character to life. Nick Bruno shared “When we started this, we knew we had to create a new spy, right? We were really searched inward to like, who are the heroes we had growing up? And we’re like, Will Smith. Will Smith, right? And the entire time we’re like, there’s no way we’ll ever get Will Smith. And we forget that honestly, because we’re a bunch of nerds back at a studio with our crayons, making movies. You forget that you’re making a real movie and then you have a shot of meeting somebody. So the day they said let’s actually bring him in. Let’s see what he wants to do”
Troy Quane continued “Yeah, let’s bring him in! You think- this is gonna be great, this is gonna be easy. But then you hear that big voice, high fiving people as he’s coming down the hall, and I look over at Nick who’s grabbing his knees, bent over, like…oh, I’m gonna be sick!”
Nick Bruno: “You know, I think I think what we were fortunate enough is we had a good philosophy to speak about on this movie and a message so and so you know, Will lit up right away with it. And he was very excited because if you were to know Will, it’s very important that his movies say something. And particularly when we’re talking to children, it’s very important that we have a strong message.”
Creating a Pigeon with Eyebrows is no easy task. Believe it or not, animating a pigeon with eyebrows that moves was a challenge. Lance has so many expression and portraying that through his eye brows was essential, but difficult. There are many pigeons in the movie, but he is the only one with eyebrows.
Thought and detail went into every shape and color you see. Mike Knapp explained “We started looking at shapes that made us think of stealth- and so you think of like stealth bombers, stealth planes, sort of polygonal-shaped language you see. And we started exploring Lance’s design and he had some of that polygonal-shape to it, it evokes a martini glass that we loved.”
Color plays a huge part in the making of this film. You will notice that the agency is one color, kind of cold and turquoise, Walter is all about the warm tones, and Lance has the cool blue tones.
The Directors themselves appear in the movie. How cool is that to have an animated version of yourself in a film?! So cool. Now, they didn’t tell us this before we saw the movie, but after heating them intro it, we quickly recognized the voices.
“It was us! Nobody else would cast us. It was a silly joke we put in for the crew and people kept laughing at us to the point we kept it,” said Troy Quane. “I don’t think they were laughing at us, but with us?” laughed Nick Bruno. For the record, they were really funny!
The message they hope you leave with is “let’s get weird” You will hear that message in the movie loud and clear. The directors really wanted to say something with this film.
Troy Quane explained “It’s really about perspective. It really is up to up to the heroes to decide who they want to be and how they want to carry themselves the world which we felt was a really timely topic.
So all of those pieces have sort of come together to sort of say, it’s easy to say you’re one thing or another thing. It’s really just about shifting perspective as to what that is and it’s about being true to who you really are in the world.”
Nick Burno shared “You know, when we kicked the movie off, we felt by making what will probably be the first spy movie for many kids. We felt a real responsibility to say something with it. When you spend all this time, money and just passion creating every frame, in a movie, you want to make sure you’re saying something important with it. And we thought it was a good opportunity to tell kids as you move forward in the future, it’s how important it is to work with one another despite how different you may be. And if you’re going to be a good person, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard and that’s not easy. But it’s important.”