This Aaron Blabey interview asks one important question: What was it like for the author to see The Bad Guys come to life on screen?
Just within the last decade or so, DreamWorks has had plenty of hits on their hands, from How to Train Your Dragon to Kung Fu Panda and Trolls, and it seems like The Bad Guys might be joining them at the top.
You’ll hear no complaints from author and executive producer Aaron Blabey. Seeing his book series of the same name be turned into a film is a dream come true, and DreamWorks was the only studio he’d trust to get the job done.
We spoke with Blabey about his experience as an executive producer, what it was like watching someone else play around in his sandbox, and what other projects he’s got on the horizon.
Aaron Blabey interview for ‘The Bad Guys’
Once upon a time, you were an actor yourself. What was it like being on the other side of the table as an executive producer for The Bad Guys?
I can say without a trace of false modesty that I was a terrible actor, so being on the other side of the table is exactly where I needed to be. I started acting just because I love movies so deeply, and naively wanted to get inside them somehow, but I simply chose the wrong job. Creating the movies from scratch was what I was meant to be doing.
It can sometimes take years for books to be adapted for film or TV once the rights are sold. What was your experience like with The Bad Guys? Were there a lot of ups and downs?
It was a relatively smooth six-year journey. I was deeply protective of The Bad Guys, and when a number of Hollywood studios became interested, I was somewhat hesitant to hand the books over. The only studio I trusted with The Bad Guys was DreamWorks. They just got it. They got the tone. They understood what I’d created and knew how to expand upon it in a way that would preserve the spirit of the source material in the best possible way.
As an executive producer, what role did you predominantly take on during the development of this film?
I was across each draft of the script and each cut of the movie. I gave extensive notes each time and, to my delight, these were always considered and/or incorporated by Pierre and the team. They were utterly respectful and inclusive. I’m a very lucky author.
Adapting a book to film always comes with changes and differences from the source material. Were you particularly excited about any of those changes? Did any of them improve the story in an interesting way?
The movie is based very loosely on the first four books of the series, but I was always completely open to new story concepts because it’s an entirely different medium. Etan (our screenwriter) and the story team created a new Soderbergh-style heist plot, but to my astonishment, they also retained huge amounts of material from the books. It’s a beautiful marriage of old and new material, seamlessly blended. As long as the comedic tone and the character relationships were carefully preserved, I wasn’t fussy about story mechanics. The DreamWorks team is VERY good at what they do. I was never worried about that.
There’s a lot that goes into making an animated film, from character and background design to voice acting and music. What part of this process got you most excited?
All of it. I’m a movie fanatic. Being inside this process was a dream come true.
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There are a lot of big names in this film! Was there anyone you were particularly excited to have on board and work with?
Every single one of them. Is this not the coolest cast ever?
Is there one actor you’d love to work with in the future?
I try to see every movie that gets released. I eat, sleep and breathe movies, and I always have. Accordingly, the list of actors I’d like to work with would fill a very large book.
Your other series, Thelma the Unicorn, is also being adapted, this time for Netflix. Has that process differed from this one at all?
Again, I think being highly protective of your work yields good things. Once again, I was talking to multiple studios, but once I was introduced to the wonderful Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite), I just fell in love with him. His exquisite sense of comedy was evident immediately, and he knows his music, too. Accordingly, when it came to creating a big animated musical of Thelma, Jared and his wife/co-creator Jerusha were a no-brainer. They were born to adapt Thelma.
What other projects do you have coming up that you can talk about?
I have a new, upcoming book series called Cat On The Run (about the world’s #1 Cat Video star being accused of a crime she didn’t commit and being forced to go on the run a la The Fugitive). It is already in development at a major studio (they haven’t announced yet, so I can’t say which), and I’m very excited about it. Meanwhile, Pig the Pug will ultimately be a TV show, but due to all the other projects, I’ve been holding him back so I can give that adaptation the huge amount of attention it deserves. More on this soon…
What’s one dream project you’d like to work on in the future (it can be anything!).
I have four projects in various stages of release, production or development, and a slew of others on the back burner. That’ll do for now 🙂