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How 'Puss in Boots: The Last Wish' upped its animation game in a post-'Spider-Verse' landscape
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is now playing in theaters everywhere.
When DreamWorks decided to make a sequel to 2011's Puss in Boots (now streaming on Peacock!), they knew the first movie's animation style wouldn't cut the mustard in an ever-evolving medium. "When Shrek first came out over 20 years ago, it was impressive to make everything move smoothly and look realistic, but audiences have grown more sophisticated," Joel Crawford, director of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, noted during an interview with Empire for the magazine's February 2023 issue (now on sale).
With visually arresting projects like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse connecting with critics, audiences, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Crawford and his team seriously needed to up their game if they hoped to stay relevant. "Nate Wragg, the production designer, really spearheaded this idea: what if this movie looked like it was a fairy tale painting? So there's this painterly style that you're introduced to right at the beginning," the director explained.
It makes all the sense in the world when you've got an entire universe populated by iconic fairy tale characters like Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), the Three Bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, and Samson Kayo), the Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura), Little Jack Horner (John Mulaney), and even Puss himself (Antonio Banderas).
"In the opening, we use more hand-drawn techniques," Crawford said of the movie's hit-the-ground-running set piece, in which the titular feline in fashionable footwear battles a giant covered in moss. "When Puss is running on the rooftops, the motion isn't always super-smooth. That was important to us, to feel like this is a fairy tale that you're being dropped into ... There's no big plot point with the giant. His introduction is telling the audience to [keep] up with Puss and his everyday heroism."
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But saving the day comes with a cost. After so many years of living dangerously, Puss has come down to the last of his nine lives. The only thing capable of restoring the other eight is a magical wishing star he sets out to find on rip-roaring adventure alongside an optimistic canine called Perrito (Harvey Guillén) and the returning Kitty Softpaws (Selma Hayek).
"We really tried to just design the movie like a rollercoaster," Crawford concluded. "You're gonna get this full spectrum of laughter, tears, scares, and hopefully at the end, cheers."
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is now playing in theaters everywhere. The film currently holds a near-perfect score of 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising the overall aesthetic and the way in which the kid-friendly film deftly handles themes of mortality.
If you'd like to catch up on story thus far, the original Puss in Boots is now streaming on Peacock.