In addition to revealing the existence of Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, DreamWorks Animation has released the film’s first trailer.
Rising from the double win of 2022’s The Bad Guys and Oscar-nominated Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, DreamWorks Animation’s latest original film, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, concerns the title character ( voiced by Lana Condor) who disguises herself as a human and attends Oceanside High on land. Once she discovers her ancestral heritage, thanks to her grandmother (voiced by Jane Fonda), she is able to tap into all of her powers – both literally (laser eyes!) and emotionally.
TheWrap spoke to director Kirk DeMicco, who co-directed The Croods with Chris Sanders for DreamWorks Animation, and producer Kelly Cooney Cilella about where Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken came from and what we can expect when the film opens this summer.
“This was a DreamWorks original project, one of our first in a while that isn’t based on an existing IP,” Cooney Cilella said of the film’s origins. “It started out as presenting this idea of a family of sea monsters that have moved ashore and are hiding in plain sight. Through our processes, the development of the film, we really focused on Ruby as the main character and told the story through her eyes, and through her journey of self-discovery – the secret she hides is actually what makes her special and that once she learns to embrace that side of herself, she can become the heroine of her own story. And we just thought it was such a beautiful message, but told in this really fun, epic, exciting adventure.”
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For the film’s look, DeMicco turned to production designer Pierre-Olivier Vincent, a veterinarian with DreamWorks Animation who started out in the company’s early days and worked on all three How to Train Your Dragon films. Vincent had experience with what DeMicco describes as “world building,” which was perfect because Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken has two distinct worlds – the human world of Oceanside and the underwater kingdom of Kraken. “He was very inspired by the design language of the octopus, as well as the curves of the octopus. That curvy language runs through all of the design—be it her fridge, the cars, or the character designs at school itself. And then even more underwater in the Kraken Kingdom, which you can see in the trailer.”
But what did the filmmakers look to for inspiration?
“I definitely think we were inspired by all those teen comedies that we grew up with, but also newer ones, you know, like ‘Booksmart’ or ‘Lady Bird’ or ‘Easy A’. There are so many great movies that we’ve seen and we just thought it would be a great setting to tell this kind of story where the halls of Oceanside are almost as dangerous as the fight between mermaids and octopuses that takes place under the sea,” Cooney explained to Cilella. “And going against those two ideas we thought was a really fun way to play with those different characters and tropes.”
When it comes to technical challenges (because what would a modern day animated film be without an insane technical challenge?), DeMicco was quick to answer: the water. He points to a shot in the trailer of the mermaid Chelsea (voiced by Emmy-winner Annie Murphy) growing kaiju-sized and emerging from the ocean. “You do these calculations and it would be like having the Pacific Ocean being pulled through hair every minute. The amount of water this thing has to reflect to make it work is really cool,” DeMicco said.
Joining Nicole Byer, Liza Koshy, Ramona Young, Eduardo Franco and Echo Kellum are Toni Collette, Colman Domingo, Sam Richardson, Jaboukie Young-White and Will Forte in Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken. The film was co-directed by Faryn Pearl.
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is out on June 30, 2023 as part of a very mermaid-filled summer movie season.
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