We interviewed stars of the “Secret Life of Pets,” Bobby Moynihan and Lake Bell along with the writers of the movie about their characters and inspiration for the concept.
The Secret Life of Pets is by all means a family movie, though more so leaning on the for kids only spectrum of the chart. The movie is set between Manhattan and Brooklyn and succeeds in portraying a New York that is pristine, appealing, and cinematically pleasing. And, while it does have bits of adult humor in some aspects, they are few and far in between. Lake Bell, who plays the cat Chloe, and Bobby Moynihan, who plays the dog Mel, say that it’s tricky to appeal to all ages, but The Secret Life of Pets succeeds in doing so. “The parents are gonna laugh and the children won’t know what the parents are laughing at, and the parents won’t know what the children are laughing at, and that’s kind of the way you want it.” Bell said.
“When my character walks in and you meet him for the first time, he talks about how he was given a little white pill and he woke up in the sky surrounded by suitcases and he ended up in Florida. The kids laugh because it’s a dog bouncing around and saying crazy stuff, and the parents laugh because they’ve had to do that to their dog.” Moynihan added.
Bell says that taking on the role of Chloe has convinced her to get a cat herself “In playing this cat, I’ve learned about cat culture and the cat community. What I’ve learned is their complexity is what makes them great.” she said “I’ve been campaigning so hard for a cat to my husband. They’re so fluffy and cute.”
Moynihan, on the other hand doesn’t see a dog in his future. “I should never own a dog, I can hardly take care of myself,” he said.
The actors spoke about the difference between animated film and live-action films and agreed that filming an animated movie vastly differs from the typical movie set. There’s a lot of improvisations and time spent alone in the booth. The actors said that they don’t ever see each other until the screening of the film, and have to assume what the other character would say or how they’ll respond to their line. “You don’t get to interact with any of the cool people who are in this cast, which sucks because I love this cast.” Bell said. Although, Bell is no stranger to voice over acting, as she’s played voices in hit shows like BoJack Horseman and Robot Chicken.
Bell says that voice over acting removes the limits that an actor may have filming a regular movie. “There’s not the pressure to kind of delve into your soul to create something … It’s different for the actor to not have to go through hair and makeup, and not have to be conscience of what they’re doing in front of the camera. You’re just kind of free.” she said.
In preparing for his role, Moynihan says he did things to enhance his physical comedy, even though his presence wouldn’t be seen by audiences. “I knew that I had to be this high energetic dog, so a lot of my preparing would be coffee.”
“You just jump in. It’s kind of insane. Really, we are a small part of this process. All of the deep, creative, painstaking process of actually making a movie is actually left to the animators, the directors… We’re like the seasoning that just starts the sauce.” Bell concluded.
On if the actors found out their pets could talk, Moynihan said he would ask “What have people been saying about me?” and Bell stated “Look, I’m not gonna tell anyone about this.”
“I would take them to SNL, and ask them why my sketch got cut and I would leave the room and send my dog in and find out why.” Moynihan added followed by laughter.
Writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, who are best known for ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Horton Hears a Who’ teamed up with screenwriter Brian Lynch who wrote ‘Minions’ and ‘Puss in Boots’ to create the Secret Life of Pets. The writers’ chemistry was apparent and according to Paul, they all have become close friends throughout the process.
The plot of the film focuses on a spoiled dog whose reality gets inconvenienced when he’s forced to welcome another dog, that his owner has boughten home, into his family. Paul says the dynamic of the two dogs is references from real life sibling rivalries.
“You’re the top dog. You’re the only one. And, here comes somebody else. You initially dislike them completely and there’s nothing they can do. That was kind of the journey of one dog coming to embrace the other as his brother, even though they’re completely different.” Paul said. By the end of the film, they say, the dogs all live together in harmony. “Max gets pushed out of his comfort zone, and by the end, he’s happy that he was.” Lynch said. Another aspect of the movie that reflected true life, occurred as the main dog grew to befriend animals that did not have owners and were in a sense, forgotten pets.”We looked at a lot of footage of pets, and the stuff that is the most moving is very different pets that are friends.” Paul mentioned. This theme was reminiscent of Toy Story as toys did not have owners and were resentful of those that did have owners.
While writing the film, the trio kept in mind the characteristics that make a good friend, while creating the roles of the dogs. Being loyal was a focal point they believed to be most important. On entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally, “It’s a fine line you’re always walking. You don’t wanna ever be preachy. You wanna do it so that you understand what [the characters] are feeling without you having to say it.” Paul said “Our movies are very joke heavy so humor comes first … it’s a lot of trial and error. We know when we’re laying it on too thick. We know what we want the audience to feel.” Lynch added.
On working with comedian Louis C.K., the writers saw it to be an honor.
“I was so intimidated to meet him and that he would be reading my script. I think his tv show is one of the most brilliant things to ever be produced.”
“He has dogs and has done standup on pets that’s amazing.” Paul added. “He had a lot of fun doing it. You don’t want Louis C.K. going ‘I do not like this line.’, but he enjoyed it.” Lynch added. The writers said that working with big time comedians such as C.K. and Kevin Hart, was unique because they rarely stuck strictly to the script and often improvised and brought their own funny lines to the set. “He has my script and then he has his script, it’s amazing; it’s like we’re co-writers.”Lynch said.
The writers spoke on towing the emotional line and weaving children’s and adult humor into the storyline. “We write to make each other laugh, we really don’t write for kids,” Daurio said. “That’s the rule. You never write for children – ever.” Paul said “We’re all parents, so we think of our kids watching.” added Daurio.
Brought to you by Illumination Entertainment, The Secret Life of Pets premieres July 8.