“It’s never too late to have a second chance with family”: Director Tom McGrath on The Boss Baby 2: Family Business
The Boss Baby 2: Family Business is the sequel to Dreamworks Animations Oscar-nominated The Boss Baby. Director Tom McGrath (also the creator behind runaway hit franchise Madagascar) is once again at the helm of this gloriously realised, imaginative film, bringing out both the humour and heartwarming family themes of the script from his all-star cast: James Marsden and Alec Baldwin as brothers Tim and Ted, the former now a married stay-at-home dad while the latter is a hedge fund CEO.
Tim’s wife, Carol (Eva Longoria), is the breadwinner and the family live in the suburbia with their hyper-intelligent seven-year-old, Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt) and adorable new baby Tina (Amy Sedaris) who turns out to be a top-secret agent for Baby Corp on a mission to find out the truth about Tabitha’s school and its sinister founder, Dr Erwin Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum). Cue more colourful, comedic antics, with an underlying consideration about the importance of reconnecting with family running through it.
The Upcoming had the pleasure of speaking to director McGrath about why he wanted to return to his story, working with his A-list cast and what he hopes people, whether kids or adults, will take away from watching it.
Hi Tom, so lovely to have the opportunity to speak to you about this brand-new animated film. Perhaps you could start by telling us why you wanted to return to the story of Boss Baby for a sequel?
You know, the original was supposed to be kind of a “one and done” movie, but during the course of making a movie, you start to fall in love with the characters and the world. So then when the studio kind of approached me and said, “Hey, we’d like to do a sequel”, the first thing I thought about was, “Well, is it worth doing a sequel? Is there a story there?”. And I kind of turned to my own personal relationship with my brother growing up – family relationships can be tumultuous and there was a lot of sibling rivalry in our household, but at the end of the day, as we grew up and matured, we kind of sorted out our differences and became closer than ever. And I was also thinking that with a story, there’s always a part two. What if we picked up the movie where the first one left off? At the end of the first Boss Baby, if you remember, it was Tim as a father telling his daughter how he and his brother reconciled their differences. And at the end, we had this little girl baby in a suit wink. It wasn’t to set up a sequel, as much as it was to tell kids, “Oh, Baby Corp is real, it’s not all just the imagination of a seven-year-old.” And so we just thought, “Well, the first movie is very boy-centric and here we have an opportunity to have a strong female character.” And every boss has a boss, and so what would the dynamic be between these two bosses? So I got together with Michael McCullers (we worked on the first one together) and just started brainstorming: “Oh, wouldn’t it be great if Tim, as a father, could have one last mission from Baby Corp? He has to become a child again to infiltrate this school, this mischievous school, and this mission would force the brothers together”. And we thought it’d be fun to have the point of view of a father being able to sit in his daughter’s classroom and being able to help her with a problem and actually learn from her as well. And so that kind of snowballed and we got a story outline and pitched it, and the studio really liked it. And so we went for it. We just wanted to have a little more heart in this one – and more comedy too. Since we have a father-daughter story, as well as a brother relationship, we felt like it was a much richer story to tell.
Tell us about the voiceover cast – from Alec Baldwin to Jeff Goldblum, you’ve got such an amazing array of voices. How did you work with them to get the tone right and bring out the humour, as well as the brilliant story and characters?
Alec is always a joy to work with. I have the best seat in the house – see, my job is to be sure I don’t laugh and blow his take. But when you’re thinking of a cast, you’re filling out a band, and if Alec Baldwin’s the bass, Jeff Goldblum is the drums, Amy Sedaris is the lead guitar, James Marsden not only can sing but is very funny… And then the core of the movie was Arianna Greenblatt, who, as you may know, was baby Gomorrah in the Infinity War movie. And she’s such a great actor – she was the heart and soul of the movie. I worked with Michael on the script, but I think what’s fun for actors is to be able to improv, and our process is so slow. So one month I’d record Alec Baldwin, and we’d play around with the dialogue and he’d come up with some things, and then we’d put it in the script, then approach Jeff Goldblum, and he’d add some things and we’d go to Amy Sedaris, and she’d add things – so it’s more like workshopping a play, in a way, over the course of the two and a half years to make the movie. And it’s all with the goal of, “Let’s make the best scene possible and make it feel spontaneous”. And we couldn’t have asked for a better cast. In fact, we got everyone we wanted when we reached out to the actors. We felt really fortunate and blessed in that sort of thing.
Can you talk us through the look and feel of the film as well?
Well, for me… I’m kind of an old guy, you know, and I entered animation when it was still done traditionally, and into the computer age, which was when they did realism really well. But I remember, as a kid, Disney movies, Warner Brothers – I’d see those in the theatre. And what attracted me to animation is you’re in a world of art on a huge screen – and it was one of my first movie experiences and I’ll never forget it. And I just thought maybe we could do that for kids today, and bring it back to where the look of the picture feels more like traditional animation in the backgrounds and in the action. It’s much more cartoony at some points in the film: we had an opportunity to illustrate the imagination of a seven-year-old, whether it’s Tim or his daughter’s imagination. And those are some of the immersive experiences only animation can bring, in a way. And so we put a lot of care into it, we almost wanted you to feel the brushstrokes in the world, in a way. And it kind of has a duality between both the real world and the imagination world, and we had a lot of fun kind of juxtaposing those worlds together. It was nice to do it in a winter landscape because winter can be really beautiful: how the snow reflects light and gives you negative space with characters – I’m just talking aesthetics – and it was really fun to play with. So it would feel different from the first movie, which we set in summer. And it just felt more thematic to our movie, because it’s really about family getting together and reconnecting, and most families do that over the holidays, which sometimes can go completely south, or go really well. And in our movie, our singular goal was not only to make people laugh but, at the end of the film, for them to feel the urge to reach out to a relative they haven’t talked to in a long time and make amends, to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or that sort of thing. So those were our mantras in making the film.
There’s also so much for adults as well, in the humour, but also thematically, touching on the concept of being a stay-at-home dad. What do you think the key themes are, and what do you hope people take away?
Well, I think “it’s never too late to have a second chance with family” was the main theme for us, in a way. There’s a lot of people in this world that hold onto their childhood and are a little bit Arrested Development and need to grow up a little bit. And in Tim’s case, he needed to grow into the father he should be, in a way. And the main thing was to make people laugh – that was our singular goal. And not just kids, but adults. I think because it says Boss Baby, you think it’s a kids’ film, but we really made it for ourselves, because we’re all kids at heart when you work in animation. We made it for everybody,. So if you’re a parent, there’s a parental perspective in the movie, and if you’re a kid, there’s that perspective as well. So we’ve tried to make it for everybody, and especially with the pandemic, which kind of hit halfway through our production, we just wanted to be there for families who really wanted to get out of their house and laugh together, because comedies are very communal. And laughter attracts other laughter.
The Boss Baby 2: Family Business is released nationwide on 22nd October 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Boss Baby 2: Family Business here: