‘The Bad Guys’ Writer Says New Animated Film Is About Rising Above Prejudice

A fox, shark, piranha, tarantula and snake walk into a bank in the big-screen adaptation of Aaron Blabey’s hit children’s series “The Bad Guys,” out Friday from Dreamworks Animation. The colorful and creative epic, directed by Pierre Perifel, features the voices of Sam Rockwell, Craig Robinson, Marc Maron, Anthony Ramos and Awkwafina as five dastardly criminals who may or may not hang up their illegal ways.

“The Villains” image courtesy of Grace Hill Media.

While the lively comedy features non-stop action and twists presented in a sleek visual style, for New York Times bestselling author Blabey, “The Bad Guys” was conceived as a way to teach children the prejudices and overcome preconceived ideas.

“I wanted to talk about prejudice,” he said. “I wanted to talk about characters who had been judged because of their looks. And then they made bad choices, and then they found a new path to follow. I was also looking for a way to convey that to children.

At the time, Blabey was dealing with her six-year-old son who didn’t like to read. Putting together a group of the world’s scariest animals was enough to interest him and countless others.

“It suddenly seemed like a very simple and elegant way to talk about these big themes, which are really important,” he said. “I think that’s great because the earlier you start talking about it, the better it is with the kids to start putting those ideas into place. So I kind of hid that message in an action adventure.

The style of “The Bad Guys” follows a more modern comic book feel, like the recent hit “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which was no accident. Director Perifel, who grew up in France surrounded by the “big, big industry” of animation, said the superhero film opened the doors to less conventional rendering.

“People still see the same kind of perfect rendering from the computers, the same kind of character design, the same kind of lighting, the renders, and, then and then ‘Spider-Verse’ happened, and he kind of opened (the door),” he said. “For me, it was something that seemed obvious. I wanted to do that for a while, a lot of us did, but then they really opened that door for students to understand that there’s more to animation than hyper-realism. It was the perfect time to try to implement that in a film like this, where I could really put all of my influences and ideas into that.

“The Bad Guys,” directed by Pierre Perifel based on the book series by Aaron Blabey, comes out Friday from Dreamworks Animation. Watch an exclusive interview with Perfiel and Blabey below.

Lola R. McClure