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Ron's Gone Wrong Directors Jean-Philippe Vine And Octavio Rodriguez Get Animated About Friendship - Exclusive Interview

There's no friendship purer than the one between a boy and his robot. From "The Iron Giant" to "Big Hero 6," the best robot movies ever have attempted to show the triumphs (and challenges) of befriending a bucket of nuts and bolts. Joining that subgenre of film is the animated "Ron's Gone Wrong," which is the film about technology and friendship the world truly needs right now.

Over the last 18 months, people have pretty much been confined to their homes, only able to interact with family and friends through Zoom or social media. It's shown more than ever how critical it is to develop genuine connections with the people in our lives. Sure, they may drive us crazy sometimes, but the highs should always outnumber the lows. That's the message young Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer) has to learn the hard way when he finally receives a coveted B-bot to call his own. Something isn't quite right with this particular model, but Barney loves it just the same. 

Looper had the chance to speak with co-directors Jean-Philippe Vine and Octavio Rodriguez to hear what it was like to make the movie during the last year and a half while the pandemic raged on. They also discussed working on the movie for the newly minted Locksmith Animation compared to some of their other previous places of business, including Pixar.

Making Ron's Gone Wrong during the pandemic

What do you think was the most challenging aspect of working on the film during the pandemic?

Octavio Rodriguez: I think it's one of those things — we're just trying to pivot and find ways again to, like, talk to people, interact with people, 'cause you're on screens all day. And it's just that sense of, like, some people felt a little isolated. So it was just this interaction that we tried to keep going. And also having that true north of trying to tell this story. I felt it's so relevant, it's something that we wanted to get out there.

Given that this film is all about technology, can you tell us how much time you spend on your phone each day?

Jean-Philippe Vine: Oh man, I don't really want to know. I'm quite heavy on my Instagram, I think probably, but I guess I've tried to be a bit more conscious about how I do it. And also to really make sure I'm following artists or following people that I wouldn't really know about. This movie is a lot about having connection with things that are different and people that are different from you and that being a good thing. So I'm trying to practice what we preached a little bit.

Octavio Rodriguez: For me, the same. It's just this idea of trying to get like a healthy balance. Again, it's just trying to find different voices and connecting with those.

Making the B-bots as cute as possible

If B-bots were real, which of their features do you think you would enjoy the most?

Jean-Philippe Vine: Well, it was really fun designing them because we tried to kind of make them the most potentially appealing thing you could buy. So, especially as a gamer, you can have your B-bot be your tag team and literally projecting lasers around. So that would be, I think, amazing. But my personal favorite feature is the projection element. So in the movie we have them projecting new environments that are mapped to the walls. And if I was a kid, I would do that, and I would make my room like another planet or something.

Octavio Rodriguez: Yeah. Maybe be having your own soundtrack, like walking down the street, which would be great. And the idea of being able to scan anything and just have all this information in front of you. It's like having a Wikipedia internet.

Well, the B-bots came out great. They are the cutest thing I've seen in a movie this year.

Jean-Philippe Vine: That's great.

Working at Locksmith vs. working at Pixar

How would you compare and contrast the styles of making a movie at Locksmith compared to somewhere like Pixar or any other studio either of you have worked at?

Jean-Philippe Vine: Yeah. I mean, this is an independent studio. It's a smaller team trying to make this movie — a smaller creative team. So there's a lot of trusting our instincts and trying to make the right creative choices. At Pixar, there's a really massive bench of talent to pull from. And there's also kind of the braintrust process, right? Where you screen and then you get quite intensive feedback from key creative people. We were just this little startup in a weird little studio in London trying to make the same smart storytelling choices, but having to trust our guts a bit more, I think.

Octavio Rodriguez: And also, we were very fortunate to, with Sarah [Smith] and Julie [Lockhart] and Elisabeth [Murdoch], bring such amazing talent with us. It's just very awesome to see this come together, being able to tell this story. So even as a startup, we had so much potential. We had Nathan Crowley come on for designing as well, and Aurélien Predal. So yeah, we were very lucky.

What kind of message do you hope kids and even adults take away from "Ron's Gone Wrong"?

Jean-Philippe Vine: Well, it's hard. This is really about how we feel about ourselves when we try and make friends and how much harder it is in this world of social media, where we feel we have to present something kind of idealized. And Barney, our main character, is really struggling with that insecurity and ... and feeling weird about himself and his background and his family. But what Ron does is he validates that; he appreciates it. He challenges Barney. And their friendship is a model of a true messy friendship. So I want the audience to go out and go, "We're messy; we're insecure." A good friendship accepts all of that. That, in fact, is the basis of a good friendship.

On future projects

What projects are up next for you two?

Jean-Philippe Vine: Well, you've got some cool stuff happening.

Octavio Rodriguez: I'm over at Sony right now working on "Spider-Verse 2." And then I'm also in the process of filming an unannounced project to direct.

Jean-Philippe Vine: Which will be amazing.

I'm looking forward to it.

Jean-Philippe Vine: Yeah. I'm in development at Locksmith on the next feature. So we've got another feature already in pre-production, and hopefully, this will be the next one that follows.

Don't suppose you can tell us anything about the feature, or is that still hush-hush?

Jean-Philippe Vine: I can only tell you that we're making a Christmas movie, and it's going to be written by Richard Curtis, who wrote "Love, Actually" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral." And it's, again, an incredible comedy. It's more of a British movie, this one. But it'll be kind of universally charming and appealing. I'm sure.

"Ron's Gone Wrong" arrives exclusively in theaters on October 22.