‘The Bad Guys’ Director Pierre Perifel On Creating A Redemption Story In “A World Of Heists”

With The Bad Guys, director Pierre Perifel found the perfect opportunity to blend together all of his childhood inspirations for a family-friendly animated heist film. Based on a children’s graphic novel series, the film follows a group of animal criminals, Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson) and Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos). After getting caught, Mr. Wolf makes a play to escape prison time by claiming that the group wants a chance to reform themselves into good guys. Though it starts as a ruse, Mr. Wolf soon finds himself excited by the opportunity to become a good guy. While the book series begins with the group having already decided to be good guys, Perifel wanted the film to be an origin story of how they came to that choice.

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THE BAD GUYS, from left: Mr. Shark (voice: Craig Robinson), Wolf (voice: Sam Rockwell), Mr. Piranha (voice: Anthony Ramos), Mr. Snake (voice: Marc Maron)
THE BAD GUYS, from left: Mr. Shark (voice: Craig Robinson), Wolf (voice: Sam Rockwell), Mr. Piranha (voice: Anthony Ramos), Mr. Snake (voice: Marc Maron)

DEADLINE: Where did the idea from for The Bad Guys come from?

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PIERRE PERIFEL: It came from a series of books by Aaron Blabey. He’s an Australian author who wrote a whole series of children books about those legendary animals, that are considered bad guys or villains, that decide to change and become good guys. So, they wrote a first draft of a script that was actually exploring a bit of what happens before the first book, and why Mr. Wolf, who’s the big bad wolf, decides to become a good guy. I got involved in 2018 and reading that first draft, I was immediately sucked into the story. It was a whole story about second chances and redeeming yourself and not judging a book by its cover, which was so attractive, but at the same time it played in a world of heists and animals robbing banks and driving cars.

The first page of the book really is Mr. Wolf talking to the reader and saying, “You know me, I’m the big bad wolf. Well, no more. Now I want to go good.” And then, you see all of their attempts to become good citizens, and they’re really bad at it. But for the film, we really wanted to explore what came before that and what led Mr. Wolf to make that decision of going good.

THE BAD GUYS, from left: Mr. Shark (voice: Craig Robinson), Mr. Wolf (voice: Sam Rockwell), Mr. Snake (voice: Marc Maron), 2022.
THE BAD GUYS, from left: Mr. Shark (voice: Craig Robinson), Mr. Wolf (voice: Sam Rockwell), Mr. Snake (voice: Marc Maron), 2022.

DEADLINE: How’d you arrive at the animation style of blending 2D and 3D elements?

PERIFEL: That’s something that’s been cooking in my head for a long, long time. It was something that I always wanted to see growing up in France. France is a big nation for animation, of course, but it was also a junction between so many influences. So, I grew up being influenced by US cinema, US animation, with our own animation and our own cinema culture…  Also, there was so much graphic novels that I grew up with and I collected, which led to being fed tons of anime TV shows and anime movies.

I also wanted to explore CG, but CG animation was always very coded. The tools and the computers were very much geared towards one kind of look that we’ve always seen from Pixar and DreamWorks and Disney. I think in recent years there’s been a push to change this, starting with Sony Animation, so we decided to embrace this new direction a little bit. A lot of the artists on the team and in the studios have always wanted to push it further, so this was the chance to do it. And the studio responded so well to that proposal.

DEADLINE: You mentioned this confluence of anime and heist movies and so much more. What were your big points of inspiration for this film?

PERIFEL: It really started with the cover of that first book in the graphic novel series. It’s a simple drawing of the main characters and they’re all wearing suits, so immediately Reservoir Dogs came to mind, with that slow-motion scene that was just so ingrained in my mind. So my first thought was, “It’s going to be Tarantino for kids, with a bit of a Blues Brothers twist to it.” And then you start diving a little deeper and you realize, obviously, Tarantino is not really tailored for children, so we had to adjust a little bit. So, it stopped being like a gangster movie, and it became more like thieves, with Ocean’s Eleven classiness, and the complicated type of plot became a lot simpler for us to adapt, and make it a gateway for kids into these kinds of films.

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