‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ director Joel Crawford on revisiting this beloved character

Coming up with a story for “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” 11 years after the first film came out presented director Joel Crawford with a bit of a challenge, but a specific idea helped to bring the story to life. “This idea of Puss being on his last life was such a great nugget and that’s something that’s resonated with me when I came on to this project,” he tells Gold Derby during our Meet the Experts: Film Animation panel (watch the exclusive video interview above).

Crawford enjoyed the absurdity of that nugget that this swashbuckling cat had run through eight lives and considered it a perfect fairy tale-like premise. “When you boil it down, he has one life and we as human beings only have one life. There’s something really deep and special about that opportunity to take the absurdity and put it with the reality.”

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The DreamWorks film is set to be released in theaters later in December. Puss (Antonio Banderas) finds out that he’s on his last life and after initially giving up his adventurous life, he decides to seek out a mystical wish in order to restore his previous lives. As he makes this journey he comes back into contact with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and the two eventually team up as they’re chased by several other fairy tale entities. The cast also includes Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Samson Kayo, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ray Winstone and John Mulaney. It marks the second feature film for Crawford who had previously directed, “The Croods: A New Age.”

One of the bold artistic choices Crawford makes is in the way certain scenes, specifically fight scenes are animated. “We wanted the action scenes to feel fantastical, not grounded in reality. Using animation techniques such as going to stepped animation, which is things being held for more than one frame, it allowed for us to really push these poses that do remind you of a superhero.” For the more grounded scenes, like Puss coming to terms with his mortality, the animation is much more smooth with more reality to it. “We’ve expanded our toolbox and we can really use that as our visual vocabulary to communicate with the audience.”

While Crawford and the crew thought they had a handle on psychology of Puss as well as Kitty, nothing prepared him for what it was like when Banderas and Hayek reprised these roles, he found that the pair knew the characters better than he did. The lifelong friendship between them also led to some fun moments while recording. “Salma would be like, ‘Did Antonio do it this way,’ and she would do an impression of him. There’s this amazing chemistry they just find that really elevates the material.”

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