How actors ‘fail’ to give animators the perfect source material

Aaron Blabey wrote The Bad Guys for his son. Then Pierre Perifel came in to direct the cinema adaptation. When porridge meets fiction…

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Through the mid 90’s and early 2000’s, Aaron Blabey was a film and television actor in his native Australia. But when I sat down to talk to him via Zoom, it was as the author of a best-selling children’s book series. Bad People, which was recently turned into an animated film. How does one make that jump?

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“It was an easy transition,” Blabey said cheerfully. “Because I’m a bad actor [and] I have to find another job.”

He continued: “I have tried many, many jobs over the years. And they all feel like clothes that don’t fit.” Her childhood love for movies first propelled her into acting, but when she had children of her own – one of whom hated reading – she decided she had found her true calling.

“He came home from school with a lot of really boring books,” Blabey recalls. “And that only spoils the chances of him wanting to read. And I thought, I have to do something about this.”

He had contemplated prejudice, and characters were judged by their appearance. And he also remembers his love for Quentin Tarantino’s films. “And I thought, is there a way you can just take all that and stir it up and connect it somehow to a child? And the two things go together. And Bad People It is there.”

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French director and animator Pierre Perifel really loves that Tarantino vibe. The film’s opening sequence, for example, features a familiar-looking restaurant…

“That’s right from Pulp Fiction, he emphasized. “I don’t know Aaron, but that’s what I saw when I saw the first book. You know, that’s Tarantino’s scream, that’s Scorsese’s scream, that’s a scream The Blues Brothersit screams all the heist genre movies – with animals!”

He continued: “I’ve never seen a heist movie for a family, you know, especially not in animation and not on that scale. So what Aaron is trying to do really gets through.”

The animation style is computer-generated, but not standard CGI, which tends to be very clean with lots of sharp edges and sharp focus. Bad People it looks rough, a little gritty, a touch of painter, with elements that seem to be lifted from the traditional hand-drawn style. Perifel added it because it was influenced by various styles growing up, including French and Belgian animation as well as imports from America and Japan. “France is very interesting because it’s kind of a crossroads,” he said. “Sort of like a melting pot.”

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Perifel honed his skills as an animator in films such as Kung Fu Panda franchise, Monsters vs. Aliens and Rise of the guards.

“In animated films, especially big productions like ours or Disney/Pixar, they always tend to look a little bit like the same thing, rendering wise and character design wise,” he said. “So how can we solve this? The overall look is all about undermining the perfection of computer-generated images, which tend to be too perfect. I wanted a world that was a little rougher, a little more lively, but very poetic at the same time.”

Bad People featuring a voice cast that includes Sam Rockwell, Awkwafina, Zazie Beetz and Richard Ayoade. Animated films usually shoot each voice actor separately, but Perifel wanted to try doing sessions with more than one person at a time. Ironically, the pandemic helped make it happen.

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“We’ll all be logged in on Zoom [and] each has their own microphone or home studio,” he said. “And we can record them together without fear of overlapping their voices. They can be isolated, yet talk to each other and interact with each other so smoothly. It would feel very organic, very live-action, and they could improvise. So the pandemic really helped us.”

Blabey had just finished writing books 17 and 18 in the series, which was always planned for 20. “I could see the end of the tunnel, but it was very interesting,” he said. “And as for the film…”

Perifel jumped in: “Well, we crossed our fingers. I think all of us here and Aaron included would love to spend more time with these characters on screen. It is always a complex set of circumstances. Hopefully the film is good enough so we can do a lot more.” With a solid 86% on rottentomatoes, and a respectable $24 million last weekend to top the North American box office, the odds are all the more likely.

The Bad Guys is in theaters now.

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