Jared Stern, the director of the new animated film DC League of Super Pets, hopes families will consider adopting their very own super-pet after watching his film.
Set in the DC Comics Universe, the new film features the voice talents of Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, and Vanessa Bayer as adorable super-powered pets. They are joined by John Krasinski as Superman, Keanu Reeves as Batman, Jameela Jamil as Wonder Woman, and Marc Maron as Lex Luthor.
While the star-studded Warner Bros. is sure to make a box office impact this summer, this superhero movie’s origin story comes from a surprisingly serious place.
“I was volunteering at a pet shelter in Los Angeles, and while I was there, I was watching these pets, these cute kittens up front that were very likely to be adopted. And then at the back there were older animals, disabled animals, who kind of lived at the shelter,” Stern said. Newsweek.
“It was great having the shelter take care of them, but I felt bad like I wish they could be adopted too,” he added. “I thought, ‘What if they have superpowers?’ So it was kind of an emotional genesis.”
This led Stern and co-screenwriter John Whittington to write the screenplay for DC League of Super Pets. As Johnson plays Krypto, Superman’s dog, the film opens with Ace the dog (Hart), PR the pig (Bayer), Merton the turtle (Natasha Lyonne), Chip the red squirrel (Diego Luna) and Lulu the guinea pig (McKinnon) all looking for someone to adopt them.
DC League of Super Pets marks Stern’s first animated project as a director. He has already written screenplays for The Lego Batman Movie, Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Happy Birthday (which he also directed) but he was thrilled that the studio would allow him to direct this one as well.
Considering the origin story of the Super AnimalsStern hoped his film would inspire families to try their luck with unconventional animals.
“At the very end of the end credits, the last words you see are ‘Be a hero, adopt a pet,'” he said.
“They need to know it’s a commitment and take it seriously, but yeah, that would be great. If families wanted to go out and adopt a pet after this, I hope they do,” Stern said. .
Stern is also happy to see that the cast supported that spirit as well. “One of the cool things about promoting the movie, it’s not just big glam, glitzy stuff. They did a lot of events in partnership with emergency services around the world, which was really nice.”
Like they did for movies before like Central intelligenceboth Jumanji movies, Hart and Johnson have been on the campaign trail together for DC League of Super Pets. One of their antics caught the attention of director Stern.
“What you see is what you get with these guys. They recently did a challenge where they took turns hitting oneself in the face with a tortilla and I wish I had known that was an option when we were in the recording booth to get them to focus,” Stern joked, “I had no idea I could punch them in the face.
“They’re wonderful and fun. The same energy you see in these interviews is the real life they have in the booth.”
The movie is full of comedic talent like Hart, McKinnon, Bayer (both from Saturday Night Live), Maron, Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), John Early (the after party) and Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz. Although he co-wrote the screenplay himself, Stern knew he would have to give his actors a voice.
“It’s a tricky thing, because we’re doing these highly choreographed animatics like storyboard reels of the movie before we even get to the real actors,” Stern said. “So there may be an instinct that you want to replicate what you already have, because you’ve worked so hard to get there, but you have to remove it because these people are such brilliant comedic improvisers, they are going to give you pieces of reality and surprise you could never write yourself.
“A lot of my favorite lines in the movie weren’t written by me or any other writer, but it comes from spontaneity, and I love it.”
Saturday Night Live McKinnon alumni provided Stern with his favorite moment as his hairless guinea pig improvised a line about popping a pimple.
Warner Bros. has partnered with Best Friends animal charity to help shine a light on local animal shelters across the country. Some of the voice actors, including Johnson, have filmed promotional videos for the cause and by posting them on their social networks.
DC League of Super-Pets will be in theaters Friday, July 29, 2022.