Puss in Boots: The Last Wish – A new adventure in the Shrek universe

In 2011 the daring outlaw Puss In Boots made his solo outing as a movie star, purring about his cunning ability to save the world and be adulated for it. In Puss in Boots: The Last Wish he discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back sends Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet.

The character of Puss in Boots first appeared in 2004’s Oscar-nominated Shrek 2 and instantly became a global, scene-stealing sensation. Puss then co-starred in two other Shrek sequels and his solo film, as well as in multiple DreamWorks Animation videos and a TV series. The Shrek and Puss in Boots films have collectively earned more than $3.5 billion worldwide.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is directed by Joel Crawford and co-directed by fellow collaborator Januel P. Mercado (Head of Story, The Croods: A New Age), from a screenplay crafted by Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow, from a story by Tommy Swerdlow and Tom Wheeler.

Januel Mercado, co-director of The Last Wish and Head of Story on The Croods: A New Age, has known and worked with director Joel Crawford for more than a decade. “We have a shorthand,” Crawford says. “We both started as storyboard artists at DreamWorks and first worked together on Kung Fu Panda 2. Januel was amazing as Head of Story and exceeded that role on The Croods: A New Age. I knew I wanted him as a co-director and partner on The Last Wish.”

“Coming back to voice this memorable hero has been a remarkable experience,” Antonio Banderas says. “I felt like I was visiting a very dear, clever friend that I hadn’t heard from for a few years. We both have greyer whiskers and are no longer the brash, young players we used to be. But we’re now wiser and more introspective (I hope!). Of course, this 2022 version of Puss certainly has a lot on his dinner plate.” 

The core of who Puss is, however, remains unchanged. “What I love most about playing Puss is that deep down inside, he has a strong sense of honor and loyalty—as well as a mischievous and funny side, which endears him to audiences of all ages,” Banderas says. “What I also love about this character is that he’s the hero, and he has an accent. And the bad guys? They don’t have one at all. It’s just wonderfully deconstructing.”

In Puss in Boots: The Last Wish the notorious Puss In Boots as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault).

In their quest, Puss and Kitty will be aided—against their better judgment—by a ratty, chatty, relentlessly cheerful mutt, Perrito (Harvey Guillén). Together, our trio of heroes will have to stay one step ahead of Goldi (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears Crime Family—Momma Bear (Olivia Colman), Papa Bear (Ray Winstone) and Baby Bear (Samson Kayo)—Jack Horner (John Mulaney) and the big, bad bounty hunter, Wolf (Wagner Moura), who has Puss in his direct sights.

It was crucial for the DreamWorks Animation team that this new chapter honored the long-awaited continuation of the Shrek universe, as well as to ensure that the story be a wholly independent exploration of all the magical creatures that Puss encounters

“Puss in Boots is so dramatic,” says DreamWorks Animation president Margie Cohn. “Who is Puss if he can’t be this epic adventurer who laughs in the face of danger? Now that he has felt fear for the very first time, will he be able to overcome that vulnerability to get his mojo back?”

All agreed that the return of Puss in Boots needed to be equal parts thrilling, comedic, dramatic, and wondrous

Enter the team behind the studio’s 2020 hit The Croods: A New Age: director Joel Crawford and producer Mark Swift.

“We chose Joel and Mark because we knew they’d make a dashing and joyous movie—one that could launch a new era of this beloved franchise while bringing to the screen everything audiences adore about the character,” Cohn says.

“They were able to compose scenes that feel very cinematic and bring the comedic tone of the Shrek franchise into The Last Wish—without it feeling imitative or dominating the soulfulness of the subject matter. There are a lot of characters and stories that need to thread through, interrelate and come to a satisfying conclusion. Joel and Mark were the perfect storytellers to do that.”

As Puss embarks on his quest to find the Wishing Star and restore his lost lives, he finds himself competing with a series of nefarious entities who all want the Star for themselves.

For this narrative structure, Crawford and Swift drew inspiration from a 1966 Sergio Leone classic 

“We pitched The Good, The Bad and The Ugly version of this movie,” Swift says.

“We have all these different hardened criminals going after the same pot of gold. We wanted to keep it Western in style—with these four different types of people going for the one exact wish that they all felt would change their lives forever. That gave the movie an edge.”

True to Puss’ derring-do, this film takes the franchise into uncharted territory. “We took some big swings in this chapter,” Crawford says. “There are some darker tones reminiscent of the Grimm fairytales, but telling the story using comedy allows us to satisfy what fans have always loved about Puss in Boots, as well as introduce new viewers to his daredevil world.”

Puss is an adventurer at an inflection point that he has never had to face, and it ultimately leads him to rethink who he is and how he lives.

“The overall tone of this movie is definitely fun and joyful, but in order to feel those ups you need to also experience the downs,” Crawford says. “Puss experiences relatable fear when it comes to wondering if his best years are really behind him. On the surface, this story is about Puss being afraid that his best years are behind him, but on a deeper level it’s about celebrating life, and all the wondrous experiences that we’re allowed to have.”

“We knew we would have a lot of fun with our ‘the Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ premise and this insanely talented voice cast, but what we didn’t know was how above-and-beyond they would all go in taking this movie to new emotional levels,” director Joel Crawford says. “As we started to fine-tune the story, we met with each actor to walk them through the plot. We were blown away by their ability to bring powerful and personal themes to the process, with the theme of appreciation and gratitude rising to the top of the story.” 

Man of the other top creatives on The Last Wish had worked together on The Croods: A New Age

Joining Crawford, Swift, and Mercado, the creative team included A New Age editor Jim Ryan, A New Age story artist Heidi Jo Gilbert, who serves as Head of Story on The Last Wish, and one of The Last Wish screenwriter’s, Paul Fisher, who served as a writer on A New Age. These six creatives spent a great deal of time together figuring out how they were going to tell this story. “We’ve been in each other’s pockets for the past two years,” Swift says. “We’d sit around and figure out each sequence. Paul would go off and write it, come back, and we’d revisit again. We had to work a sequence at a time, and quickly put into Story. It worked for us, and we found that rhythm.”

The result is a film teeming with humor, emotion, adventure and beauty. “This movie is designed to be an insanely entertaining rollercoaster ride full of comedy, drama and fear,” Crawford says. “That’s been the balance. It’s a big, action-adventure comedy, but we still wanted people to feel the journey of Puss in Boots to appreciate the one life that we’ve all been gifted. I hope people laugh a lot, maybe cry a little and ultimately cheer once again for Puss in Boots!  It would be wonderful if audiences come away from this film feeling full of Life!” 

For Mercado, The Last Wish proved to be kind of wish-fulfilment for of all his years working with Crawford. “Joel and I have been through so much together as friends and colleagues, and I think it was a bit destined that we would work together on a film about rediscovering passion for our work and lives,” Mercado says. “We both know what it is like to have the ups and downs of a career in the creative world, and it was full-circle to imbue Puss with such drive and resolve. There is so much of the character in both of us, and I hope that audiences feel our entire team’s dedication, drive and resiliency when they watch this beautiful movie.”