The idea for the story of DC League of Super-Pets came to filmmaker Jared Stern precisely the place one might hope. When he helped his wife out who volunteers at a pet shelter he was looking at a bunch of adorable kittens ready for adoption, he thought, ‘What if they got superpowers?’
“While I was at the pet shelter, I was looking at a bunch of adorable kittens in the front room—it’s a wonderful thing for any pet to be adopted, but I felt like the kittens were probably going to get adopted fairly soon. But there was this back room of the shelter with some older pets and other pets that I felt probably might live in that shelter for a while, and they just seemed so powerless. I mean, it was great that they were being taken care of by the team at this shelter, but I really wanted them to have a home, too,” says Jared Stern who worked as a veteran writer/consultant on the “LEGO®” movies, and makes his animated feature film directorial debut.
Stern says he believes that “combining superheroes with pets is interesting because for a lot of people, pets are their heroes without superpowers; being a pet is a superpower in itself,” he smiles. “They provide so much love and they are heroes to people every day just in the way they love us and help take care of us. I think our pets, in some ways, are our real life superheroes.”
“I’d been working on ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ and knew a lot about the DC characters, so that subject was always on my mind, but here I thought there may be a way to combine pets and powers into one, and that’s kind of the origin story of the film,” says Jared Stern, directing from a screenplay he wrote with frequent collaborator John Whittington, based on characters from DC, Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
In DC League of Super-Pets, Krypto the Super-Dog and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime in Metropolis side by side. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto must convince a rag-tag shelter pack—Ace the hound, PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle and Chip the squirrel—to master their own newfound powers and help him rescue the Super Heroes.
It’s a big movie with big characters
Dwayne Johnson, who stars as the voice of Krypto the Super-Dog, and also serves as a producer on the film under his Seven Bucks banner, observes, “When you think about the conceit of what this is, about the pets of these Super Heroes, and the fact it has never been done before in cinema history!? That is pretty remarkable, considering the genre of superheroes films as a whole. What kind of pets would your favourite DC Super-Heroes have, from Superman to Wonder Woman to Batman to Flash to Green Lantern? So, when I first heard the idea, I was in without hesitation, 100%. And when you think about the players—from Warner Bros. to DC, and the love that we at [our production company] Seven Bucks Productions have for the superhero genre and for animation as well—we jumped at the partnership and the opportunity.”
Hart’s Ace is the de facto leader of the shelter pack. The actor was drawn to the story right away, noting, “It’s a big movie with big characters. I feel like there are so many moments throughout the script where the verbiage on the page popped, and they put the right people into those positions and the material just blows you away—they did a great job casting. That’s what you want in a movie like this—to be part of an amazing ensemble that feels special. You really feel, ‘Hey, we got something here.’”
When it comes to turning that kernel of an idea into the high concept feature story, Johnson comments, “I give credit to Jared Stern. And I’ve worked with a few writer/directors in my career, but he’s one who truly will leave his ego at the door—he just wants to create and deliver the best product. And I think when you work in animation, you realize that you have multiple opportunities to actually continue to work on the writing and the animation, to always be thinking about upping the game, and I think that puts you in a great mind space. I love the creativity that went into the Super-Pets—what they look like, what their superpowers are. I love that their superpowers are earned over time through lessons, takeaways and experience; they have to learn to embrace their superpowers, too, which I think is a great addition to the story. And I think it’s also a great thread for kids and families around the world to talk about after the movie’s done.”
Producer Patty Hicks remarks, “It’s hard to find a fresh niche in the superhero genre. With DC characters, so much has been done, but we get to take it in a different direction—you know Superman, but do you know Superman’s dog? I think this was a really fun new idea and in this movie, we get to explore this fresh take on superheroes just by wondering, what are their pets like? We get to see Superman’s life but from his dog’s point of view. And I love that we meet them and they’re not superheroes, that they come into their powers and we get to go on that journey with them.”
The ensemble that the filmmakers assembled to voice the four-legged reluctant heroes and delightfully villainous baddies featured in the film include Vanessa Bayer as potbellied pig PB, Diego Luna as scaredy squirrel Chip, Natasha Lyonne as vision-impaired turtle Merton, Kate McKinnon as evil genius guinea pig Lulu, with Lulu’s main mutant guinea pig recruits, Keith and Mark, voiced by Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz.
“In an animated movie, the most important thing is that the actor’s voice is the perfect voice for the character, but we got lucky that they also happened to be huge movie stars,” Stern smiles. “I mean, when you think of Krypto, Superman’s dog, he is full of bravado, and who can bring that better than Dwayne Johnson? Or when you think of a dog like Ace, who is rough around the edges, Kevin Hart was perfect for that. So we really tried to cast the right voice to the characters, and we just got lucky that they’re incredibly famous.”
Johnson summarizes, “There are huge fight scenes. There’s a huge spectacle and a great scale. The animation has a really unique quality that almost feels a little vintage, yet still feels very cool and up-to-date. And our casting is just all-stars across the board. I’m decently funny in the movie, but everyone else is just home run after home run after home run.”
Amidst all the high-flying action and adventure, the film also touches on the importance of friendship and family—and emphasizes that anyone’s real superpower, no matter how many legs you stand on, is being true to yourself.
Johnson sums up, “I think it has the convergence of great story, great teams working on it, great trusted studio—the home of the Justice League—who knows us very well. And all that attracted the talent—this incredible talent across the board, well-known actors. We really cast the heck out of this movie. Everybody was really excited to come onboard. And from the beginning, the script was promising, and the early iterations of the animation—that was a combination I was very happy with. And now I can tell you with great confidence that ‘Super-Pets’ delivers.”
JARED STERN (Director/Writer/Producer) has become the go-to creator in animation over the last decade, conceptualizing bona fide animated classics while infusing his signature heartfelt, thoughtful and hilarious storylines into every series and film he brings to life onscreen.
In television, Stern is the creator and executive producer of Netflix’s award-winning animated series “Green Eggs and Ham,” starring Keegan-Michael Key, Michael Douglas, Adam Devine, and Ilana Glazer. The series, which was adapted from the beloved children’s book, released season two in April 2022.
Stern launched his career at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, writing on films including “ToyStory3,” “Wreck-it Ralph,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and “Bolt.” He went on to work as a part of Warner Animation Group’s “think tank” in 2013, where he served as a creative consultant and writer on the hugely successful LEGO® franchise films, including: “The LEGO® Batman Movie,” starring Will Arnett and Michael Cera, “The LEGO® Ninjago Movie,” and “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part.” His passion for animation projects didn’t stop there, as he executive produced “Storks,” starring Andy Samberg and Jennifer Aniston, and “Smallfoot,” starring Zendaya and Channing Tatum.
Over the years Stern has seamlessly crossed over into live action feature films, writing and directing the romantic comedy “Happy Anniversary” for Netflix, and was a producer on “It Happened in LA,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Other screenwriting credits include “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” starring Jim Carrey, and “The Internship,” starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
A proud Long Island native, Stern graduated from Brown University with a (deeply practical) degree in Modern Culture and Media. He is married to (far superior) filmmaker Michelle Morgan, the two splitting their time between Los Angeles and Idaho. When Stern is not writing, directing, or developing projects through his production company A Stern Talking To, you can find him running mountain trails, watching reality television (he is a self-proclaimed “Real Housewives” junkie) and receiving forehead kisses from Sir Roger, his Boston Terrier.
JOHN WHITTINGTON (Writer) previously worked on the hit animated features “The LEGO® Batman Movie” and “The LEGO® Ninjago Movie,” as well as the recent “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” He also wrote the 2018 live action sci-fi rom-com “When We First Met,” starring Adam Devine and Alexandra Daddario.