When Jared Stern was tasked to bring Krypto the Superdog and DC League of Super-Pets on the big screen, he was surprised by what Warner Bros and DC allowed him to work with. Coming from helping to write some of the stop-action animated LEGO films to life, including The LEGO Batman Movie (2017), he was brought to help write and direct the upcoming animated feature starring Dwayne Johnson. Stern spoke to Bleeding Cool about working on DC's sandbox, comparing the humor from the LEGO films, and transitioning from writing to directing.
Bleeding Cool: You have a large sandbox to play in the realm of DC. Were there any characters you couldn't bring in?
Jared Stern: DC was awesome. When we first pitched them the movie, it was a little bit more limited in what we were asking to use because I didn't know how much I could ask. They were like, "Have you thought about this? What if Lex Luthor was in the movie?" I was like, "I can ask for that?" They're like, "You can." They were great partners and were pushing us to do more. If there are characters that aren't in the movie, it's not because we weren't allowed to use them. It's because of the limitations we had, and there's only so much you can do budgetary and story-wise. We had a lot of characters to serve between the pets that we have in our Justice League and our bad guys. There are tons of canon DC pets that I wish were in the movie because I love them, but there just wasn't room to tell them within this story. You never want to jinx it. I hope if we get a chance to tell more stories of characters I would love to meet in the future.
BC: How do you compare the humor of, say, The LEGO Batman Movie to something like 'DC League of Super-Pets?'
Stern: It's not hugely different. I was one of the writers on that, and I'm very proud of that movie, having learned a ton from working on it. I think Laura Miller and Chris McKay are fantastic storytellers. They're very good at humor, and 'LEGO Batman' in particular, I saw one review that compared it to 'Airplane.' It was really joke dense, which was fun to work on. I think ours is approaching that, but a little bit more sweetness, but not a ton. It's not far off. There were all sorts of referential humor to the comics, and we have that, too. Its own thing, but I don't think it's too far off from those. If you love those, you're going to love this.
BC: How has it changed for you coming from writing to spearheading a project like this?
Stern: I thought of myself as the Storyteller-in-Chief. When you're a writer, you're servicing the director's vision on a big feature. You can be independent a little bit and push ideas that you think are strong, but ultimately they're in charge, and you're helping them bring their vision to life. On this, I'm the one who was supervising the whole storytelling. If it's bad, it's on me, and I had people helping as wonderful writers and artists. I had a great co-director, producer, and people, who are focused and much better at their jobs than I am. My job was always to go, "That's cool, let's do that," or "That's great, but it doesn't quite service the story, so maybe we can't do it." I always ensure that I have that in the back of my mind. So I think having been a writer helped.
BC: Did you ever feel like a joke didn't land or went too far that didn't make the final cut?
Stern: It's tricky since we made this movie during the pandemic. We screened it less than we would. With the jokes, Often we had to believe in them, and it can get tricky when you make an animated movie. It takes four years. Something that you thought was funny four years ago, and you might start to go, "Is that funny?" I'm kind of sick of it. I've seen that joke a thousand times. You must remind yourself that not everyone has seen it a thousand times. If you believe in it, you stick with it. I learned this in the later movies: "Never settle." Always try to plus, plus, plus. This very fine line of going, "I believe in this. No, this is funny," and constantly pushing to make it the funniest you could. I hope we had the right balance, and I'm sure there are a couple [of jokes] where they felt like winners. In general, I'm confident that we got the best stuff on screen that we could come up with.