It did not take much convincing to get the team at Seven Bucks Productions interested in becoming involved in an animated “Super-Pets” movie. Not only are the heads of the company – co-founder/co-owner/CEO Dwayne Johnson, co-founder/co-owner Dany Garcia and president of production Hiram Garcia – animal lovers, but Garcia in particular is, for lack of a better term, a huge comic book nerd.
“I remember our agent had given me a call and he’s like, ‘Hey, there’s this thing percolating,’” Garcia recalled to TheWrap of how Seven Bucks got involved in the Warner Bros. Pictures release. “And he goes, ‘I don’t know if you know that Superman has a dog,’ and first of all I was, like, offended. I’m talking to him with a giant Superman statue behind me (laughs). I know all about this world.”
The project that would become “DC’s League of Super-Pets” is based on the Legion of Super-Pets, a team of super-powered pets that made their comics debut all the way back in 1962. And the notion of tackling an animated film about the superpowered pets of characters in the DC Universe was particularly intriguing for Garcia and the Seven Bucks team, especially as they were already deep into making the much darker live-action DC movie “Black Adam” starring Johnson.
“[‘Super-Pets’ is] such a fun world,” Garcia said. “We were obviously deep into ‘Black Adam’ and we were telling a story there that was really edgy and dark and catering to a whole side of the DC Universe we love, but here was his opportunity now to tell an entire other kind of story that was family oriented, that was great for kids, that was a four-quadrant deep cut in the comic book world where you’re getting into characters that have been around for a long time, but maybe not as many people know about them.”
Garcia says they were also enthused by the “great group of filmmakers” attached to the project, including director Jared Stern, co-director Sam Levine and producing partner Patricia Hicks. And while Seven Bucks had developed other animated adaptations in the past, “Super-Pets” is the first to come to fruition.
“This one was such a big idea and is such a great concept, it was one of those fast-track projects that you just get right away,” he added.
Part of that concept was a lighter, more colorful and more family friendly story set in the DC universe that could serve a bit of a broader audience than “Black Adam,” a passion project for Johnson and Seven Bucks that doesn’t shy away from the character’s anti-hero tendencies (and hits theaters in November).
“I think the fun thing about ‘Super-Pets’ is so much of the DC Universe has a pretty good amount of edge to it. ‘Shazam!’ is definitely more family friendly, but a lot of the stuff is just edgier and isn’t afraid to go places that some of the other superhero movies don’t. So we saw a great opportunity there to tell a story that was more family friendly, more kid friendly. That also tapped into the fun side of the animated universe, since we were already doing something in live-action and we have big plans for live-action.”
In effect, “Super-Pets” was an opportunity for Johnson and Co. to have its cake and eat it too. They were making exactly the hard-edged “Black Adam” film they wanted to make, but now they could help expand a more family friendly corner of the DC Universe.
“Super-Pets” also provided an opportunity to cast different actors in iconic roles like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. John Krasinski voices Superman, with Johnson providing the voice of Superman’s dog Krypto, while Kevin Hart voices Batman’s dog Ace. And as for the Caped Crusader himself? The team hit upon Keanu Reeves early as a bit of dream casting for the role, and lo and behold Reeves was enthusiastic about jumping onboard.
Garcia says a lot of the voice recording took place inside the actors’ homes due to COVID constraints, with the production sending kits and walking people like Kevin Hart through how to set up a makeshift sound studio wherever they were.
“All of these projects were extremely hard to do during COVID, but I will say, in the scheme of things, doing an animated movie during COVID was difficult but not quite as difficult given the way animated movies are set up,” Garcia added, comparing the experience to the pandemic-related difficulties they experienced during the production of the Netflix film “Red Notice.”
But “Super-Pets” isn’t just about telling a family friendly superhero story. There’s a narrative throughline in the film that hits close to home for the filmmakers and will no doubt do the same for many audience members, as the film’s story finds Krypto (voiced by Johnson) forming a team made up of shelter pets to help rescue a kidnapped Superman.
“At the core of it was just a story about the relationship between a human and their pet, and the idea of also supporting a fun story built around shelter pets, and shelter pets being able to find homes,” Garcia said. “We just love that messaging because animals mean so much to us – as I’m doing this call with you, I’m looking at my dog on her back, just snoring away.”
“DC’s League of Super-Pets” is now playing exclusively in theaters.