The Bad Guys, currently dominating the box office, took a roundabout route to big screen dominance. At this year’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, Director Pierre Perifel and editor John Venzon shared with attendees how they created this masterful animation. The NAB Show, an annual gathering of broadcasters and creatives from around the world took place April 23–27 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Hollywood Reporter Tech Editor Carolyn Giardina hosted the session titled “Good is No Fun at All: The Making of The Bad Guys.” She talked with Perifel and Venzon about their process and experience. If you’ve ever made, or read about the making of live action films, what she found out will turn everything you know on its head. Animations come to life differently.
The story comes from the New York Times best-selling book series about a talented criminal crew made up of a wolf, a snake, a spider, a shark, a tarantula, and a piranha. These animal bad guys attempt their most challenging caper yet, convincing everyone they are model citizens.
For most movies the script goes through many iterations, then camera work, and finally editing. Perifel and Venzon began editing, using quick storyboard like sketches right at the start of the creative process. They showed clips of the work in various stages to the NAB audience.
Giardina asked Perifel if there were any influences on his vision for the story.
Perifel explained, “When John and I saw the book covers with those scary animals dressed in suits, we realized we could do a heist movie for children. We couldn’t wait to see a bad-ass wolf in a suit driving a car. It reminded me of something that we had in France when I was growing up. We wanted to blend Scorsese, Tarantino, and Soderbergh mashed up in a Japanese anime style.
Venzon added, “We were also inspired by Heat by Michael Mann, LA Confidential and Chinatown. Also, we love The Blues Brothers. We thought that here’s a chance to cut an animation in a way that they don’t usually get cut. We went all Baby Driver with it”.
The first clip shared with the audience showed a beginning of the film in which the entire gang conducts a bank heist and ends up in an extended car chase with the police.
Venzon said, “It started good, but 20 minutes into the film we realized it wasn’t working. The characters were not likable. We needed to develop the relationship between Wolf and Snake.”
Perifel shared, “We decided to start by introducing Snake and Wolf having lunch in a diner before they rob the bank.” They then shared another clip with this beginning.
Venzon added, “We thought by starting with one long clip in a diner would be the most Tarantino thing we could do.”
Giardina asked what the collaborative process was like.
The filmmakers explained that they were able to go through this iterative visual process because they weren’t doing final animation quality and, for the most part, the actors who would ultimately provide the voices were not yet involved.
The process took two years. Every three months or so, they would put together a cut of the entire movie, show it to the team, and give each other notes.
Usually, actors are called in one at a time after the animation is complete to record their voice. An exception occurred during The Bad Guys process.
Venzon recalled one time when Sam Rockwell, who played Wolf, and Marc Maron, who played Snake, were in the room at the same time. The chemistry of having them playing off one another was a bonus. Venzon said, “We even used a bit where they were just talking to one another.”
A note to parents: Although the inspirations for the filmmakers seem rather negative and film noir, the ending is definitely positive and is OK for kids to see, with its PG rating. You can watch a trailer below.