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Director & Producer on the Pups’ Appeal

ComngSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie director Cal Bunker and producer Laura Clunie about the animated family movie. The duo discussed the wide-reaching appeal of Paw Patrol and the film’s Chris Rock cameo. Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie is now available digitally and will release on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, December 12.

“When a magical meteor crash lands in Adventure City, it gives the PAW Patrol pups superpowers, transforming them into The MIGHTY PUPS! For Skye, the smallest member of the team, her new powers are a dream come true,” reads the movie‘s synopsis. But things take a turn for the worse when the pups’ archrival Humdinger breaks out of jail and teams up with Victoria Vance, a meteor-obsessed mad scientist, to steal the superpowers and turn themselves into supervillains. With the fate of Adventure City hanging in the balance, the Mighty Pups have to stop the supervillains before it’s too late, and Skye will need to learn that even the smallest pup can make the biggest difference.”

Tyler Treese: The first movie had a focus on Chase. This is very much Skye’s movie. We go into her backstory, and she serves as the emotional crux of the film. I’m a dog owner, so I really enjoyed the movie. Can you speak to changing the focus?

Cal Bunker: We love all the pups, but we wanted to focus on Skye. We felt that we had a great story to tell for her, so she came to the forefront. From an emotional standpoint, that’s something that we really feel strongly about — making these movies and trying to really build a connection with these characters. It’s great to hear that it worked for you. It works for us, too, so you’re not alone.

Each of the pups has their fans. It has to be really great to have so many different pups where each of the individual ones could carry a movie and be the main focal point while still feeling natural. Having such a great ensemble of pups with different personalities must be a big advantage.

Laura Clunie: Yeah, there’s somebody for everybody, and we know from doing the series for 10 seasons now that you have certain kids that have the affinity to the one they love [and] the job that they love. We do know that Skye is up there as one of the most popular, and we felt the need to give her her voice in a movie just all for herself … well, it’s not all for herself, because it has the other pups, but to really celebrate her because our viewers are really pretty much even — boy [and] girl. So it just was time for Skye, but we always make sure to have a moment with the other pups because they always come for everybody. We could never choose. [Laugh].

The idea of the Mighty Pups was in the television show before this, so it’s not completely new, but what was the challenge in adapting that to a full-blown movie?

Cal Bunker: I think, for us, the most exciting part of a superhero story, at least for me — I’ll speak for myself — is always watching the origin. If you think about that moment when the characters get their powers for the first time, you as the audience member think, “Wow, what would that be like to discover I had this power that I didn’t have before?”

So starting from the beginning of the Mighty Pup story and telling the theatrical version of that was really important. Rather than picking up after this really magical moment had happened, we thought, “No, no, no, let’s start from the beginning, and we can do our theatrical version of how this comes in.” Because of the time we have to work on the movie and the budget, obviously we can blow a lot of things up and make it a big screen event. So certainly, that’s why we approached it from going back to the origin moment.

Laura Clunie: We knew from the series that Mighty played really well as a theme for our core viewers in the TV series. The theatrical experience always gives you so much more to delve into, so we felt there was enough time that passed, and we really felt that kids love superheroes. It’s kind of key for them to access it. At a young age, you’re not quite ready for Marvel, so it just felt like the perfect opportunity to bring it back in for the movie.

When I saw Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie in theaters, part of the fun was seeing the reactions from all the kids. I’ve seen parents say, “This was my kid’s first movie,” and that has to be so exciting — to be a part of a really formative experience of going to the movies for the first time. How special is that when you work on these types of movies?

Laura Clunie: Yeah, of course. We love it. It’s just so special to see kids connect, and the brand has a huge awareness globally. So again, we knew, when we first started off into the theatrical space, that there would be an appetite. We were, understandably, a little bit nervous because we’ve always been in the safe space of TV and, like I said, it’s a little bit more limited in storytelling, so we’re a bit nervous … we were worried. Is it going to be too much for them? But the first one was so well-celebrated and loved, [and] the second one, it seems, even more so. We feel like we’re really onto something.

Typically, even as a parent of kids, my kids are now older, but there’s not a lot of opportunity for young kids to go to the movies, so it really is something special. I actually feel like we’re paving the way for other preschool brands to bring movies to the screen, and we’re really happy about that, because we think, “The more, the merrier,” because we want to make sure preschoolers are served across the board.

I was looking up the Paw Patrol mythos, and it was so fun to see there are all these different variations. There are dinosaurs. There’s the super cat group that comes in — when you’re looking forward to more films in the future, do you see where you want to look for inspiration? What’s your approach to that?

Cal Bunker: Well, we’re already hard at work on the next one. I can’t say a lot more than that, but in terms of speaking to the inspiration … we work together, our whole creative team. We get in a room and we pitch through a lot of stuff. As Laura can attest, we’ve got multiple branching trees of different ways this could go. One of them rises to the top and we go, “Okay, that’s the next story we all want to tell.” And we chase that excitement and inspiration as far as it takes us.

There are a lot of great celebrity voices in Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie. I was not expecting the Chris Rock cameo — that really cracked me up. How did that all come together? Kids love this show, so I’m sure you get a lot of parents who want to be involved. How did Chris Rock come about?

Laura Clunie: Chris Rock came about … I think he was the last one we had and we knew that that line was a big moment, and we felt like we were racking our brains because, for us to make it work, it had to be a voice that you’re saying, “Wait, was that so-and-so?” Chris Rock has such a recognizable voice. He’s so funny. He was just perfect for the role. Because the brand’s so well-known, I can’t say it’s easy to cast — it’s always a challenge — but there are a lot of stars who are like, “Oh, I know that! My kids love it,” or, “My niece or nephew,” or whatever. So there’s definitely always a connection, which helps for sure.

Cal Bunker: I’ll add that when we wrote that line in the script, from the very beginning, we were like, “This would be the funniest thing in the world if this cat opened its mouth and it was Chris Rock’s voice.” Then, a year later, Laura called and was like, “We got him!” [Laughs]. So yeah, that was a dream casting come true.



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