Director Chris Miller has been involved with the Shrek franchise since it’s inception as story artist, writer, talent and director. Now, he’s bringing us a spin off of sorts with Puss In Boots.
Recently, we got a chance to sit down and talk to Chris regarding the solo debut of Puss as well as challenges in making the film, how the concept for the movie came about and much more.
Check it out below.
Chris Miller: Did you see the movie?
We Got This Covered: I did. As I told Amy [Sedaris] earlier, I hate cats, but I loved this movie.
Chris Miller: (laughs). Terrific.
WGTC: What was the most difficult part in making Puss In Boots?
Chris Miller: Look, so much of the movie was really joyful to make, but honestly, the hardest thing to do came down to the ending of the film: making a real, believable brotherhood story and making that feel real and earned. That was tough, because at the end of the day, we’re conscious about it. We knew that we had a great driving story about Puss. Here’s a guy who saw the light really early in life. He’s got these boots. He had things set out for him, a really strong path in life and it was all taken away from him.
So, he’s spending the rest of the movie determined to get that back. He’s got a really cool drive. He’s got this great goal, but the reality is emotionally, he’s not going through some great, life-changing event, but he’s affecting change on everyone around him. There’s sort of this idea that everybody deserves a second chance. It’s never too late to do the right thing. Kitty learns that from him. She gets a new perspective on what’s important to her after betraying Puss.
And Humpty does the ultimate betrayal, heading into the last part of the movie. That was the hardest part of the movie. It was like “He’s kind of our bad guy, but he’s a good guy with Puss.” We knew we had to redeem him in some capacity to make that brotherhood story work and make Puss’ effect around him work. It really made the ending of the movie work. That was a tricky thing to find a balance for. We tried a ton of things before that sort of golden egg ending. Finally, settled on the one that just felt right. Here’s a guy who did something for his brother, completely about his brother and for his brother, but it still comes at a price.
WGTC: How did the concept of making Puss In Boots come about?
Chris Miller: It was just a desire and an interest to find out what this interesting character’s story was. Where did he come from? Where did he get the boots? Why is he speaking Spanish? What’s his deal? He seemed to be this character that had all this history to him. He’d sort of been everywhere and done everything. Half lover, half fighter, total ladies man, but had a bit of the devil in him. He was a bit roguish and a bit of a troublemaker, but he’s got a huge heart. He was just such a complex and interesting character. You just wanted to hang out with him and find out his story.
WGTC: What part of the movie did you like seeing the most after it was completed?
Chris Miller: My favorite scene in the movie, and it changes, is the cat cantina scene. I like the dance scene, just because that really embodies the style of the movie. It embodies the musicality, the energy and the humor of the film. It was a chance where we experimented with different types of cinema like the split screen stuff. It’s really a great, irreverent atmosphere.
WGTC: You’ve been with Shrek since the beginning. Did you ever think it would come to all this with several movies and now a spinoff?
Chris Miller: It’s pretty amazing. A lot of it is that I love the people that I work with on these movies. It’s been a pretty joyful time. I wouldn’t have thought that I would’ve done a Puss In Boots film, but thinking about it seemed too good to pass up on. It was a chance to take a great character that I knew and do something very different with it.
It was very liberating in that way. I knew the challenge in it was what’s great about it. It could be a really dynamic film. It could be a different tone, a different type of storytelling, a different type of approach to humor. Let the humor come from the characters and the situations. Just a dynamic approach that’s epic kind of legendary film that’s fun.
WGTC: How are you able to approach things as both a writer and director with a project like this?
Chris Miller: I think the first thing you have to understand is that there’s no idea not worth rejecting or throwing out at any given time even if it’s a good one. Over the course and evolution of a movie coming together, some ideas that were great suddenly don’t fit anymore. You have to be able to dump stuff in a moment’s notice. Potentially, sometimes that stuff comes back in later on when it fits. I got started as a board artist on Shrek and the way that system was set up was great. We had good writers, but we also had a lot of liberties as board artists. We’d get the pages and it was great.
WGTC: Is that a common practice?
Chris Miller: That’s definitely how I work. I think it’s the only way to make animated movies. We would get pages. We knew what we had to accomplish in the scene from point A to point B. We were constantly writing dialogue and coming up with new situations, staging stuff differently. If it was better than what was on the page, then we’d ultimately go with the boards. Ultimately, that’s what you’re doing. You’re taking the boards. You’re cutting it in editorial in the Avid. You’ve got all your temp sounds and your temp voices on that.
That essentially becomes your screenplay. At any given moment, what you see cut together is your screenplay, your writing tool. You make changes with storyboards. You’ve got to have a good writer and a writer that can hang with that situation, because it’s a tough thing. Stuff is constantly changing, so you need a writer to be really sharp and can stay on top of it. That’s how we did Puss. Tom Wheeler is our writer and the best writer I’ve ever worked with in animation, because he can add and adapt stuff on the fly, much like a story artist does. Most stuff that’s memorable came from our story department. Every memorable moment in the film that’s visually comedy of the character stuff.
WGTC: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to get involved in animation?
Chris Miller: In the animation world, as a writer, if you can draw, I feel like being a board artist on a film is a great place to develop your craft.
WGTC: What’s next?
Chris Miller: We’ll see what happens with Puss In Boots. That really will dictate a lot of my future and my ability to eat (laughs).
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Chris very much for his time. Be sure to check out Puss In Boots, now in theatres.