This week Netflix launched the first season of a brand new animated series starring everyone's favorite Shrek sidekick, Puss In Boots. Netflix believes in the show so strongly it's already ordered multiple seasons of it.
Puss In Boots, with the main character this time voiced by Eric Bauza, is set long before the Shrek movies and before the Puss In Boots spin-off movie as well. The story begins with Puss wandering and adventuring, until he comes upon a magically hidden town called San Lorenzo. The city was founded long ago by a wizard as a place for orphans — and Puss fans up on their history may recall that Puss himself is an orphan.
When Puss accidentally exposes San Lorenzo by destroying the magical barrier, the city's treasure comes under constant attack by outlaw bandits. So Puss decides to stay, defend the city, and try to find a way to get the barrier back.
We spoke with showrunner Doug Langdale about how the show is made and what sets it apart.
Hit us with your elevator pitch for Puss In Boots. Why should people watch it?
Langdale: It's full of comedy, action, adventure, magic high stakes, big emotions and talking cats. Also, if you don't watch it I will personally come to your house and eat everything good in your kitchen, leaving behind only radishes and baking soda.
Fair enough! For anyone who might want to break into the business, can you tell us how you got a cool job like running Puss In Boots? Did you pitch the idea to Dreamworks, or did you land there a different way?
Basically, I got this cool job by having a series of progressively less-cool jobs leading up to it and doing them, I guess, well...? Well enough?
So, when DreamWorks Animation decided to make this show, they were like, "Hey, Doug, you didn't mess up that other stuff too bad. Come do this show, okay?" And I was like, "Okay. Can it have talking pigs in it?" And they were like, "OMG, totally!"
So I pitched a take on the show, and then I pitched some more takes, and then I pitched some more — and then we wound up making the thing I pitched in the first place, which happens more than you would expect.
You're kidding! Okay then, let's get into what the show is about. The first question that comes to mind is an obvious one: Why move Puss to a new location? And the "old west" vibe may be kind of unexpected for Shrek fans. Why not just keep Puss in a familiar fairy tale kingdom similar to the ones from Shrek?
I wanted to set the show earlier in Puss's life, back when he was the only one who thought he was a legend. When he had more to prove, and maybe wasn't quite so awesome at everything yet. So the series is set before the Puss In Boots movie, which in turn is set before the Shrek movies.
The Puss In Boots movie has a lot of spaghetti western elements, and we leaned further in that direction. We didn't want to go full fairytale, because the Shrek franchise really has that arena pretty well sewn up. Also, the Shrek movies have already used practically every well-known fairytale character there is, and since our series is set before those movies we couldn't use any of those characters. So it felt like we needed to go somewhere else.
Having watched the first two episodes, the show definitely has a different feel to it than any of the movies. There's a more adventurous spirit to the show, in addition to the comedy. Was that intentional?
It was definitely intentional, but you kind of can't help it. Puss just brings the adventure with him wherever he goes. You could put him in an abandoned mall in Kentucky and in five minutes he would be defending half a dozen orphans and a princess from an acid-spitting cyclops. It's just who he is.
Netflix says that you're giving the show its own serialized mythology and history. What form might that take? Are we talking about the lore of San Lorenzo? Puss' backstory and origins? And more to the point, is this overall story building toward something?
The story is building toward something big, especially in the second and third seasons. That's the great thing about knowing in advance that you're doing multiple seasons of a show: you can start planning bigger story arcs.
We're eventually going to find out a lot more about San Lorenzo and the Great Mage Sino, the wizard who created the town centuries ago as a safe haven for orphans and magically hid it from the rest of the world. There are some very surprising secrets waiting to be revealed.
Wow, I soooo want to tell you this stuff! But you'll just have to wait.
It's okay. A good storyteller keeps his secrets. Going back to the production side of things, how long have you been working on Puss In Boots, building up to this debut? When did this all start for you?
I started in September 2013. Normally a show like this would have a minimum of a year of development time, but we had basically none. I had a couple months of writing the show bible and pilot script, then we started staffing up near the end of 2013.
This could have been a disaster, but it actually worked out great. I just felt like I totally saw what I wanted the show to be and we absolutely had to start making it right away, so when we went pretty much straight into production it was very energizing. Everyone's been so excited to work on the project and supportive of making it the best it can be that the whole process has been a delight.
Sounds like you're having a lot of fun. One last thing before we go... How long does it take to create a single episode from when you start writing to when the whole thing is animated, edited, and ready to watch?
It's about nine months from conception to delivery. Just like a baby, only with less bodily fluids.