Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 04/22/22

Redeemable deplorables. For his first full-length feature, award-winning French animator Pierre Perifel (Bilby) has chosen DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys debuting in theaters this Friday. Based on the Scholastic book series by Aaron Blabey, the DreamWorks Animation family-friendly caper comedy is sort of a madcap parable about both being careful about not being too quick to write people (or talking animals) because of past mistakes. My review followed by my conversation with Mr. Perifel follows the film’s trailer.

The all-star voice cast The Bad Guys includes Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Marc Maron (GLOW), Craig Robinson (Hot Tub Time Machine), Anthony Ramos (In the Heights), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), Richard Ayoade, Zazie Beetz (Joker), Lilly Singh (Bad Moms) and Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).

INHO: The Bad Guys is a fast-paced tale (tail?) of a crew of animal master thieves attempting to go straight. Said crew includes dashing pickpocket Mr. Wolf (Rockwell), seen-it-all safecracker Mr. Snake (Maron), chill master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (Robinson), short-fused “muscle” Mr. Piranha (Ramos) and sharp-tongued expert hacker Ms. Tarantula aka “Webs.” (Awkwafina).  So points for species diversity.

As for the plot, The Bad Guys plays like an animated/animal version of an Ocean’s Eleven-style caper comedy. It’s certainly colorful with lots of action that should keep the kids enthralled even if they have trouble keeping up with all the twists and turns in the plot. To be honest, so did I. It’s sort of unusual for a kid’s film to require the attention of a Mission: Impossible movie but the humor and action should keep everyone fully entertained even if they’re not quite following along. There are nice messages sprinkled in about not being too quick to make assumptions about people (or animals) by their appearance or even their past actions – and on not giving up on anyone. For better or worse though, those themes take a distinct backseat to the plot and humor.

Bottom line: The Bad Guys is good family entertainment.

Animated ideas. As mentioned above, I had the opportunity to briefly chat with The Bad Guys director Pierre Perifel who spoke with me about how his inspiration both for this film and his choice of career.
JWK: You’re a very successful animator but this is the first feature film that you’re directing. What led you to choose this particular project?

Pierre Perifel: That’s a great question. It’s one major thing, frankly, and I tell the story a lot because it made such an impact on me. The first time I saw Aaron’s book – the cover of his first book – I think in like two seconds I was like I got the whole thing so clear in my head because the idea was there. It’s such a big idea and a great idea of inclusion and stereotypes of those scary animals…At the same time, you could tell that they were gonna embark on this crazy journey of turning good. On top of that they were wearing those suits and it was all about…these heist movies and these gangster films or whatever that I grew up with, loved watching and always wanted to explore.

So, it was quite a few things mixed together. A big story, a big idea, a reference to movies that I love and animals that I love to animate as well. So, I was like…this is exactly for me.

JWK: What animated films have inspired you in terms of becoming an animator?

PP: I will tell that the one that kind of made me want to become an animator was Tarzan. It was 1997 or something like that, I believe. I was in high school. I didn’t know I was going into animation but…Glen Keane who animated Tarzan was actually in Paris. That’s where the Disney studio was. It was animated there (so) he was animating there. So, there was a big thing around him and (that’s when I fist) discovered (the art of) line tests (or) pencil tests – basically, his drawings being animated on paper. There would be like videos of him just flipping the pages and just making Tarzan come to life. It was such a magical process. It made such an impact on me. The movie is great, by the way, but it’s everything around it that mostly made me just want to go into animation. Then, of course, there are many, many other movies that are influences but this one particularly just changed everything.

Flash FORWARD to NOW. By popular demand the application deadline for the 2022 FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference (June 1-3) has been extended to May 1. With corporate sponsors that include Disney, AMC Networks, Paramount, A+E Networks, Roku, Yahoo, Vevo, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, Premion, Spectrum Reach, Spectrum Networks, MNN, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment, NAMIC and Pride Global among others, the event is an opportunity for young people with a passion for making a positive impact through media to access vital information, contacts and opportunities.

Founder and CEO Margaret Kim, a former programming and production executive known for producing Peabody and Emmy Award-winning shows for The History Channel, launched the first FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference in 2017 because she found that young people starting out in the business were having the same sort of first-rung issues she faced when she graduated from college and first embarked on her ultimately successful career. Her goal is to use her own experience and connections – as well as modern technology – to help a new generation of content creators find their way forward in a complex and highly-competitive industry as well as to increase diversity in front of and behind the camera. “Our mission,” she says, “is to build future leaders coming into the media and entertainment industry. We work with college students, college universities, recent graduates as well as graduate students. So, if you’re pursuing your MBA or your JD or some other degree we want to talk to you!”

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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