Last month I sat down with the filmmakers to take a peek behind the making of Spies in Disguise, the new 20th Century Fox animated film opening on Christmas day. Directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane and Production Designer Mike Knapp shared their filmmaking process, sneaky easter eggs & cameos, and Will Smith fanboy moment. Look, even big time Hollywood directors get excited when their favorite star walks down the hall! Here are 007 fun facts about the making of Spies in Disguise.
Fun Facts About the Making of Spies in Disguise
While in LA last month, I sat down with the team behind Spies in Disguise to talk about the making of the movie. Spies in Disguise Directors Troy Quane and Nick Bruno and production designer Michael Knapp met us at the Disney Studios lot on a Saturday morning and they brought a big gift: a screening of the film.
And I’m thrilled to share these fun facts about the making of Spies in Disguise that will make your own screening of the movie more delightful!
1. The Directors Make a Cameo Easter Egg in Spies in Disguise
“It was us! Nobody else would cast us. It was a silly joke we put in for the crew and people kept laughing at us to the point we kept it,” Troy Quane explained.
“I don’t think they were laughing at us, but with us?” laughed Nick Bruno
Troy agreed. “We’ll take any kind of laugh we can get at this point- we’re not proud.”
Be on the lookout for these guys!
2. Lance’s Shape Evokes a Martini Glass
Will Smith: shaken, not stirred.
Errr… something like that.
As production designer Mike Knapp explained, they started the process of this movie trying to decide what they wanted the style to be and what they wanted it to say about the film.
Mike Knapp: “We started looking at shapes that made us think of stealth- and so you think of like stealth bombers, stealth planes, sort of polygonal-shaped language you see.
And we started exploring Lance’s design and he had some of that polygonal-shape to it- (he) evokes a martini glass that we loved.”
3. All The Animals In the Movie Are Straight Animals- Except For Lance
It was important to make everything grounded in reality, including the other birds in the movie.
They were all drawn as straight animals.
Lance’s pigeon form, however, had some distinct differences to it: a bowtie and floating eyebrows.
Troy Quane: “If everything was ridiculous, then you lose the contrast and you sort of lose the impact that has on Lance’s journey.”
4. Color Is Practically a Character in Spies in Disguise
Color plays a huge role in this movie and that was by design.
Look for clear distinctions between the characters and the teams involved (the agency is one color- turquoise, Walter is another- warm tones, Lance has distinct cool blue hues, etc).
5. The Movie Was Pitched As Skyfall With A Pigeon (Instead of Daniel Craig)
Think Skyfall- but erase Daniel Craig and add a pigeon. Double O- coo roo-c’too-coo!
That’s what we the filmmakers were going for in relation to the realism and tone of the film. They were shooting for an 80/20 split so the locations like Venice felt extremely real.
Nick Bruno: “It goes back to that Daniel Craig pitch; you want 80% of realism. So you feel the world is real. Right?
That also helps you feel that the danger is real, because if everything was cartoony, if you watch Daffy Duck, you can take a frying pan to his face, you know, because he’s so cartoony, you don’t ever actually believe he’s in danger.”
6. This Is The First Spy Movie For A Lot Of Kids: They Wanted To Make Sure It Said Something Important
Within all the themes of Spies in Disguise, there’s one that parents are going to appreciate.
And it was important for the filmmakers to say something with this story, to make sure kids got a message or two as well as a fun film.
Troy Quane: “It’s really about perspective. It really is up to up to the heroes to decide who they want to be and how they want to carry themselves the world which we felt was a really timely topic.
So all of those pieces have sort of come together to sort of say, it’s easy to say you’re one thing or another thing. It’s really just about shifting perspective as to what that is and it’s about being true to who you really are in the world.”
Nick Bruno: “You know, when we kicked the movie off, we felt by making what will probably be the first spy movie for many kids. We felt a real responsibility to say something with it.
When you spend all this time, money and just passion creating every frame, in a movie, you want to make sure you’re saying something important with it.
And we thought it was a good opportunity to tell kids as you move forward in the future, it’s how important it is to work with one another despite how different you may be. And if you’re going to be a good person, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard and that’s not easy.
But it’s important.”
7. The Role of Lance Was Written For Will Smith (But They Never Thought They’d Get Him)
This is where I completely connected with the directors of Spies in Disguise.
Y’all, they fanboyed Will Smith (just a little) and they were not ashamed for a second about it.
Same, Nick and Troy. SAME.
Nick Bruno: “When we started this, we knew we had to create a new spy, right? We were really searched inward to like, who are the heroes we had growing up?
And we’re like, Will Smith. Will Smith, right?
And the entire time we’re like, there’s no way we’ll ever get Will Smith.
And we forget that honestly, because we’re a bunch of nerds back at a studio with our crayons, making movies.
You forget that you’re making a real movie and then you have a shot of meeting somebody.
So the day they said let’s actually bring him in. Let’s see what he wants to do…”
Troy Quane: “Yeah, let’s bring him in! You think- this is gonna be great, this is gonna be easy.
But then you hear that big voice, high fiving people as he’s coming down the hall- and I look over at Nick who’s grabbing his knees, bent over, like- oooohhh- I’m gonna be sick-… [we all laugh as Nick pantomimes his actions that day] No, I need you, we’re a team!”
Nick Bruno: “You know, I think I think what we were fortunate enough is we had a good philosophy to speak about on this movie and a message so and so you know, Will lit up right away with it.
And he was very excited because if you were to know Will, it’s very important that his movies say something. And particularly when we’re talking to children, it’s very important that we have a strong message.”
What’s Spies in Disguise About?
Spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and brilliant scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are total opposites in pretty much every way. Except that they work for the same super-spy agency, they’d probably never have met. Where Lance is smooth, suave and debonair, Walter is…not. But events transpire that require this odd couple to team up for a mission to save the world. The only problem? It requires Lance to go undercover as a pigeon. Yup, a pigeon.
Runtime: 1 hour 42 minutes
Patty Holliday is a movie critic, writer, and podcaster living in the Washington, DC area. Her goal is to bridge the gap between casual fandom and picky critic with parent movie and television reviews.