The Bad Guys Director Pierre Perifel Shares How He Balanced Serious Themes & Humor In His Animated Film - Exclusive

The animated film "The Bad Guys," an adaptation of the children's book series of the same name by Aaron Blabey, is an entertaining film about a gang of notorious animal outlaws who, after being caught, attempt to turn good to avoid jail time. Kids and adults are both likely to enjoy the film's action, comedy, and gorgeous animation, but the movie also incorporates important themes that make it an even more meaningful experience.

At the heart of the story of "The Bad Guys" is a universal message of acceptance and redemption that renders the film especially optimistic. First-time feature director Pierre Perifel has ensured the story demonstrates that people — or in the movie's case, anthropomorphic animals — are capable of change no matter what mistakes they've made or the stereotypes they've been defined by, but it does so with a light touch so that these ideas never distract from the film's ample fun and plentiful humor. Perifel sat down with Looper to discuss how he and the filmmaking team made sure the film stayed funny even as it imparted a serious message.

They had a solid foundation for developing jokes

Pierre Perifel explained that "The Bad Guys" had an advantage because it was based on source material that was already quite amusing, giving the filmmakers a perfect jumping-off point for plenty of jokes in the movie. "We got lucky because we're working from a source material. The books are very funny," Perifel shared. "[Writer of "The Bad Guy" books] Aaron [Blabey]'s humor is super witty and a little edgy in a great way for children. He uses words, but also fonts and [graphics] to convey that, and silly posing and the timing in the page is great. We had a lot of material to feed off of, and Etan Cohen, the writer of the movie, took this and really rolled with it, and he had really quickly defined the characters so clearly in their voices. He was able to bring that idea of breaking the fourth wall and that banter between the characters."

While the books were the foundation for the movie, Perifel also confessed that he and his team found plenty of comedy in turning the tropes from the usually dramatic heist genre on their heads. "When we started working the script and bringing that idea of a whole heist genre, all the tropes of that genre fed into the humor as well," Perifel revealed. "How do you take those tropes, but subvert them, so they become funny? When there is an incident during a heist, what could that be? Well, what if Shark is pretending to be pregnant? [Those are] some jokes that were brought in by some story artists, by the story team, that was not even scripted, but then when you see that in drawing it's so funny to see that. It really ties into it."

Ultimately, Perifel expressed pride in how the finished film incorporates smart ideas, clever humor, and silly jokes in a way that will appeal to viewers of all ages. "What works well in this movie, and [what] I'm super happy with, is that parallel between sophistication in the plot and the twists and the heist genre and the dialogue and the goofiness of the visuals and some of those jokes," Perifel reflected. "That combination, to me, is great because it pleases the adults as well as the children in a fantastic way. It's really funny for that reason."

"The Bad Guys" is currently playing exclusively in theaters.