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The Bad Guys Director Pierre Perifel Explains Why The Race For Photorealistic Animation Is Over - Exclusive

Pierre Perifel, a veteran animator for films like "Kung Fu Panda," "Monsters vs. Aliens," and "Shrek Forever After," makes his feature film directorial debut with "The Bad Guys," a CG-animated family film that puts a group of anthropomorphized animal criminals front and center. The movie balances action-packed capers, uproarious humor, and a heartwarming message about acceptance to create a story that both kids and adults will enjoy. But Perifel also came up with a visually stunning look for the film that ensures it stands out from other recent animated movies.

Viewers will notice that although the characters are just as lively and interesting as those in any other animated project, the characters in "The Bad Guys" aren't photorealistic. Instead, they're rendered with a stylized, almost storybook drawing quality. Combined with the painterly backgrounds, it makes the film a feast for the eyes. In an exclusive conversation with Looper, Perifel explained how he arrived at the animation style for "The Bad Guys" and why he believes animation doesn't need to be photorealistic to make an impact.

Perifel's goal was to create illustrated, stylized images

Pierre Perifel noted that while his influences, which include French graphic novels and Japanese anime and manga, guided the development of the look of "The Bad Guys," he was also invested in doing something visually different than many other animated films from the last few years. "I'm classically trained in terms of drawing and illustration and animation," Perifel shared, "and I wanted to see CG being a bit more stylized than what we tend to see over and over and over, where it's a realistic rendering and the same style of character designs that DreamWorks, and Disney, and Pixar, and Illumination have. We've all been doing that for so long now and I feel like we needed something a bit different.

"You could see that it's also a trend that's growing, starting with '[Spider-Man: Into the] Spider-Verse,' but 'The Mitchells [vs. the Machines]' did that and we're doing that," Perifel added. "The idea [for 'The Bad Guys'] was to get an image that feels a bit more illustrated, a bit simpler to look at, a bit more stylized with layers of 2D animation, and a stylized look, painterly textures, and some line work in there."

Perifel indicated that now that photorealistic animation has had its time in the spotlight, he hopes more animated films will embrace all the visual possibilities the medium has to offer. "The race for photorealism in the CG world is over," Perifel observed. "We reached it, except for the [visual effects] companies who are doing effects for live-action movies, but for the feature animation or TV animation products, what's the point anymore? We can go and really try to dive into different looks and styles."

"The Bad Guys" premieres exclusively in theaters April 22.