Annecy 2022 – Puss in Boots 2, a stylized and bloody return for the Shrek franchise

The director and the producer confide in this sequel to “the more radical artistic approach”, which borrows from Leone and Kurosawa.

Puss in Boots had been sleeping in a DreamWorks drawer since 2011, awaiting a hypothetical return to the big screen. Eleven long years during which many studio artists broke their teeth on a sequel project. Until the arrival of director Joel Crawford (The Croods 2) and producer Mark Swift, who decided to reinvent the formula in both substance and form. The first thirty minutes of Puss in Boots 2: The Last Quest presented exclusively at Annecy – the film will not be released until December 7 – acted as a revealer: no, the franchise Shrek is not dead and she even has very, very beautiful remains. The story obviously features the charismatic cat-hero, who has exhausted eight of his nine lives. Pursued by a big bad bounty hunter wolf (very dark and absolutely brilliant scene), he is forced to hang up his cape and sword and finds himself vegetating in the house of an old lady, in the company of dozens of cats … Until the dreaded Goldilocks and his Three Bears gang land in search of a mythical star, capable of granting any wish. The opportunity for Puss in Boots to find his nine lives?

Visually, Puss in Boots 2 comes close to impressionist paintings with a rather superb and totally new rendering in the franchise Shrek. Straddling a Grimm tale, a Western by Sergio Leone and a samurai film by Akira Kurosawa, the feature film (if it keeps this crazy pace over the length) promises to be an exciting cinema shoot. Meeting with Crawford and Swift, during their visit to the Annecy festival.

To be totally transparent with you, I wasn’t very keen on the idea of ​​a second movie. Puss in Boots… But these first thirty minutes convinced me of the interest of the project.

Mark Swift: Good! Listen, we are fully aware of what surrounds the film a priori. We knew that in making a sequel to a franchise that had been dormant for so long, we had no choice but to shake the coconut tree. And I believe we succeeded.

Joel Crawford: It really comes down to finding the right story, the one that justifies continuing. And I know DreamWorks had been working on it for years.

MS: We weren’t on the project at the time, but we were able to watch everything that was done.

JC: And obviously, that’s a huge advantage! You understand very quickly what works and what to leave out. This idea that Puss in Boots has nine lives, and he’s already used eight of them, was gold and silver. But what did that really mean, beyond being really funny? Quite logically, we came to the conclusion that it had to be a story about the value of life and how we experience it. Sometimes the hard way.

MS: In this universe, Puss in Boots is kind of a rock star, and he loves it. He likes to be worshipped. And so we wondered what it would be like if all of a sudden he couldn’t be a hero anymore. What would be the meaning of his life, his purpose? That’s where we knew we had the film.

JC: The studio validated the idea very quickly, but afterwards Antonio Banderas had to accept… If he said no, Puss in Boots 2 was dead… And actually, he was super excited and extremely happy to be able to take the character to darker, a little deeper territories. It was more than a joke, and I think it spoke to him.

Visually, the film is very different from anything seen in the franchise. Shrek. It looks like animated paintings.

MS: We are very proud of our visual choices. Shrek is 20 years old already, and at the time the graphic tools were very limited. In addition, everyone was running after photorealism, which is no longer the case at all, or very little. We had the freedom to have a more radical artistic approach. At the beginning of the film, there is a card that says: This is a fairy tale “. Which is a way of preparing the public for the fact that what they are about to see will be a bit different from what they have experienced.

JC: And that goes for the visuals of the film as well as for the storytelling: “ These are the characters you’ve always loved, but augmented a bit “. We allowed ourselves to change our tone. It’s a comedy, of course, but that doesn’t preclude regularly ogling drama or something a little scarier.

What was the limit not to exceed so as not to distort Puss in Boots?

MS: Visually, we had to find the right balance. We wanted this rendering close to impressionism, but sometimes we went too far. Puss in Boots should look “real” as much as possible. He’s a character you have to want to hug, he has to be tangible. And we could lose that during some of our tests.

JC: In addition, the whole comic aspect of Puss in Boots is that it’s a little cat with the ego of a giant (Laughter.) And for that to work, you have to believe in the character, almost physically. We did a lot, a lot of research before finding the right graphic style. By the way, on this subject, I think that Spider-Man: Next Generation really paved the way for more visual freedom for artists. It showed the industry that the public was ready to see something else, to explore what animation can be. Mark was talking about photorealism which was the ultimate quest for a while, but why try to reproduce the real world when we are capable of inventing new universes?

MS: Honestly, ten years ago, I don’t think the studio executives would have validated our choices. The success of Spider-Man: Next Generation has certainly changed the spirits: “ Oh, actually the spectators are more sophisticated than we thought… »

Whether Puss in Boots 2 is a success, do you see the franchise Shrek reborn from the ashes ?

MS: It’s been about ten years since there has been a film in the universe of Shrek, and yet it remains without a doubt DreamWorks’ biggest franchise. There are memes all over the internet, Shrek is still a very important element of pop culture. But for it to continue, I deeply believe in moving forward, and not just juggling between the expectations of the fans and those of the studio. That’s why Puss in Boots 2 had to be different from what preceded it, but while remaining in a form of tradition. So to answer you, I don’t know if the franchise Shrek is destined to come back to life soon, but we will have done everything for it!

Puss in Boots 2: The Last Quest, December 7 at the cinema.

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