DC League of Super-Pets offers a fresh look at the Justice League while placing the spotlight on the animated version of the heroic pets led by Dwayne Johnson's Krypto. Alongside the WWE Legend, the movie also features Kevin Hart, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, John Krasinski's Superman, and Keanu Reeves as an animated Batman.
Super-Pets follows the story of Krypto as he tries to win back Superman's attention from Lois Lane. However, the arrival of a villainous guinea pig named Lulu forces Krypto to team up with other super-powered pets to save the Justice League from being abducted.
While the movie is currently enjoying a worldwide theatrical release after suffering several delays, Super-Pets' director has given an overview of its development and the choices behind its Justice League.
DC Director Jared Stern Opens Up About Super-Pets
In an exclusive interview with The Direct, DC League of Super-Pets director Jared Stern talked about the film's development, working with Dwayne Johnson, and how he came up with his Justice League roster.
Before helming Super-Pets, Stern worked as a creative consultant on The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, making it clear that he has a very strong relationship with Warner Bros. Animation Group.
Stern revealed that working on those films allowed him to "never settle," saying that the creatives behind those movies "just keep pushing and pushing" to find the best output possible:
“Working on LEGO Batman and all the LEGO movies for Lord & Miller, Chris McKay, the director of LEGO Batman. I mean, I learned a ton, first of all, to never settle. We’re never to settle. Those guys just keep pushing and pushing and they go, 'Could this be more original? Could this be more fun' It could just be more creative and just look for every little spot you can and never give up until they pry it away from you."
Stern also discussed how LEGO Batman director Chris McKay helped him in the realm of animation and filmmaking in general:
"And Chris McKay, who was the director of LEGO Batman, was an editor first. And I really learned how much of the animation, I mean filmmaking in general, but especially the animation process, you can find through editing. Because I started as a screenwriter. And so oftentimes, you try so hard to make the script perfect. And this is it, just storyboard and record this, ‘This is your movie,’ and I realized how much you can play with it, once you get it up on its feet. And that script is really just like a start.”
Stern also touched on the fact that Dwayne Johnson's Seven Bucks production became "super involved" with Super-Pets:
“They were super involved. I mean, the early development was just an idea that I had and then working with DC and, and putting it together. But then, pretty early on, Dwayne [Johnson] and his company, Hiram [Garcia] and Dany [Garcia], really talented people that run his company. And Jill came on and they were very helpful. They were smart, and had really good thoughts about the story in general. You know, Hiram, is a huge comic book nerd, he always has a toy of Superman behind him at all times. And so he was really smart and had really good thoughts about compact movies in general. And, and then they’ve great relationships in terms of talent."
The Internship screenwriter also offered high praise towards Johnson, admitting that he's "the perfect voice" for Krypto in the film:
"It’s a lot easier for Dwayne Johnson to call a big, famous person and say, ‘Hey, friend,’ as opposed to me, colleagues, that was great. They really know how to market stuff in a way that isn’t gross. And yeah, they couldn’t have been better partners. But most importantly, Dwayne is so great in the movie, he’s just a wonderful actor, voice actor, and the perfect voice for Krypto the Superdog because who better to play Superman’s dog than Dwayne Johnson. Our Krypto is a little cocky before himself, which obviously Dwayne could do well, but he’s also a little bit sad, a little vulnerable. And so he just nailed it.”
When asked if DC gave him any notes on how the studio wanted their properties to be shown on screen, Stern shared that "they were really cool" about it, pointing out that they were even the ones who allowed them to use Lex Luthor in the movie:
“That's a good question. They were really cool. Knowledgeable, of course. And I think when I started out on the movie, we thought, well, we don't want to push too hard. Like, let's just, we'll see, is it cool? If we have Superman in there, and Krypto, and then at some of these Super-pets, and they were like, ‘Well, what about Lex Luthor?’ And I was like, ‘Well, yeah, I didn't want to push too hard.’ And they're like,’ that would be great if he was there, because what if… and then they started riffing with us. And I was like, “Oh, that's awesome. I didn't know I could ask.’ And then once that happened, we really were given free rein. So I would say it was sort of us who were the ones being cautious at first about what we couldn't do. And then they said, ‘You know, just go.’
Stern previously revealed to The Direct that Keanu Reeves' Batman is "haunted" in the movie and could really use a pet, thus setting him apart from other Batmen. Although this was the case, the animated filmmaker explained that they still want it to "feel cool:"
"I was saying, if our Batman is a bit of a haunted weirdo, you still want it to feel cool. And like, handsome Bruce Wayne is under that cowl, and that he’s still tough in the fight. So we were just always kind of trying to balance that like ours is a slightly more pushed, caricature, cartoony universe, which is fun. But we didn’t want to go so far that the fans didn’t still see their beloved heroes in there. Our Wonder Woman is the tallest member of the Justice League, which we thought was fun. Yeah, she’s an Amazon. And hopefully, hopefully, we pulled it off. I’m sure not that not everybody loves everything. But it was done with love, I promise. And I think we’ve seen a movie where you see these characters alive and moving. Hopefully, it kind of fits within our universe.”
Super-Pets' Justice League is filled with familiar faces, but it also has an interesting addition in the form of Jessica Cruz as the team's Green Lantern. Stern explained the reasoning behind the character's involvement, saying that it all boiled down to "gender balance" within the team, while also sharing that it served as a great opportunity to add another female member to the League:
“No shade to any of the other Green Lanterns. You know, honestly, we just thought we were in our Justice League, we wanted to show the world, you know. They’re the superheroes for the whole world. So why not have characters that look and feel like the world and that could mean what country they’re from or ethnicity, that could mean all sorts of stuff; their body shape, and size? Like I was saying, Wonder Woman is super tall, [and] Jessica [Cruz] is a little bit shorter. And men and women and to have sort of more of a gender balance, because we want to, especially in animated movies, for some reason, there’s been a skew where there’s like, way too many male characters and not enough female characters in them. So, I think the opportunity to have another female member of the Justice League was great. And then Jessica is just a fun character. And she’s really funny. Dascha Polanco does a great job in our movie.”
At the end of the day, Super-Pets is still a fun movie for families everywhere. Stern shared a heartfelt message on what he hopes the audiences take away after watching the movie, describing the film as "a good fun time" and having "a lot of heart:"
"First of all, I want them to feel like this is the best superhero movie this summer, live-action or animated. And obviously, that’s a big statement. But especially for a movie that features a guinea pig that shoots fire out of its mouth, but we really set out to make a great comic book movie. We’re huge fans. And I think hopefully it is the best comic book movie of the summer for fans to see. It’s filled with action and it’s a comedy. It’s got a great buddy comedy, especially with Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. But really all the other characters, Keanu is so funny in this movie. Natasha Lyonne is great. Vanessa Bayer is so good. It’s a good fun time at the movies. And then, finally, it’s emotional. You know, I think this movie has a lot of heart because it’s about pets. We love our pets in a way that special way that we don’t love anything else. And they love us in a particular way, especially because a dog loves us unconditionally. And that’s sort of the theme of the movie is about unconditional love and being selfless. So just something pretty much everybody, including myself could, you know, think do to think about a little bit more these days. So that’s what I hope people take away from it and go check our movie, DC’s League of Super-Pets.”
Examining Super-Pets' DC Future
Jared Stern's passion for the animated realm of movies is clearly apparent based on his comments. While the director's expertise in handling such movies is already an advantage, the fact that DC gave him and his team "free reign" to use any character and concept that they liked allowed him to craft a compelling story, thus utilizing his proven talents even more. This is on top of the already-massive ensemble of stars that Super-Pets has.
The reveal that Dwayne Johnson had a major part in recruiting some of the notable cast members isn't a surprise, but it still cements the fact that the WWE Legend's charm goes a long way in the entertainment industry. Although Stern is unsure if there will be a sequel to Super-Pets, Johnson's influence and involvement could hint that more veteran and fan-favorite actors will be recruited if the animated movie returns with another storyline in the future.
Adding Jessica Cruz as the movie's Green Lantern allows the character to shine while also being recognized by viewers who have yet to know more about the DC hero. As a result, Super-Pets served as a beacon to allow fans to see Jessica in a whole new light, and not as a sidelined member of the League.
All in all, the Justice League that Stern built for Super-Pets is a powerful team on its own, but its diversity is what makes it stand out. The director making sure that this was the case in the movie is a fitting move as it represents a bold move that could be set as a precedent for other filmmakers in the future.
DC League of Super-Pets is now playing in theaters worldwide.