[WATCH] Director Chris Renaud (‘The Secret Life of Pets’) on creating ‘something really special from the outset’

“We had something really special from the outset, compared with other projects, and that is because it was about pets,” says director Chris Renaud about his animated blockbuster “The Secret Life of Pets” during our recent webcam chat (watch above). The movie gives audiences a gorgeously rendered and at times hilarious glimpse into what our beloved pets get up to when their owners head off to work each day. It features the voices of revered comedians like Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart and Albert Brooks and is brought to life by Renaud and the team from Illumination Entertainment. That company also produced heavyweights like “Despicable Me” and its sequel, its spin-off “Minions” and the Dr Seuss adaptation “The Lorax.”

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It was a challenge to ensure that “Pets” was not just another talking animal movie and the key to that, for Renaud, was the humor and keeping the characters as pets, rather than anthropomorphized characters. “Let’s try to make them believable as animals, and as the pets in our lives” the director explains. “It was an opportunity to tell a story about these animals that are so important in our lives” while also developing “a sensibility that appeals to adults and parents; a comedic sensibility.”

“The interesting thing about this project is that it allowed a lot of us — myself, the writers, the producer, the animators, everybody — to draw upon your own memories of animals you knew or had or that friends had and incorporate them into the storytelling.”

Related: Watch our interview with ‘Pets’ composer Alexandre Desplat

Renaud and his involvement with Chris Meledandri‘s Illumination Entertainment production company has been a match made in heaven so far, with hit after hit. Does the weight of expectation ever get to him? “If I am being really honest,” the director reveals, “it is a double-edged sword. When you have success, you can be a little bit of a prisoner to it, in the sense that you can be afraid to step outside of that to continue to challenge yourself and find new creative ways express yourself. However, the flipside to that is I can’t tell you how gratifying it has been for me to be a part of developing these characters that have really touched people and that are a part of people’s lives. That’s a rare gift for any artist to be a part of that.”

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