How The Mitchells vs. The Machines Tapped Into The Imagination Of A Teenage Girl, According To The Director

The Mitchells vs. The Machines
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Animation)

Anyone who watches the animated hit The Mitchells vs. The Machines knows how creative the characters are on screen -- and how creative the minds are who brought the story to life. The Mitchells, after all, need to continuously solve dreaded obstacles that come with landing in the middle of a robot apocalypse. And lead character Katie Mitchell generates her brightest creative sparks when she’s directing her unique short films, the ones that have helped her get into her dream film school in California. Any time that creatives in the animation field get to tell a story about equally creative characters, magic tends to happen. And it was storyboard artist Caitlin VanArsdale who proved invaluable to the process of creating the hilarious short film, Dog Cop 7: The Final Chapter, based on Katie Mitchell’s own family pup. 

Ahead of The Mitchells vs. The Machines arriving on digital, Blu-ray and DVD on December 14, director Mike Rianda opened up about the amount of contributions he got from his own creative team in putting this movie together. And while you can tell that The Mitchells has a distinct voice shaped by Rianda, there’s simply far too much detail bursting out of every scene to boil down to the work of one man. When it came to the Dog Cop short that is part of the new The Mitchells vs. The Machines home video release, Rianda credited several talents, and singled out VanArsdale to direct the short, telling CinemaBlend:

The Dog Cop short is really delightful, and it was made entirely with puppets on a shoestring budget to honor Katie’s style, and it was also made by one of our great board artists, Caitlin VanArsdale, and also these guys Matt and Mike Chapman, who created Homestar Runner, which is like some of the internet stew of where meme culture came from, and it was really cool to work with those guys since they had this cool do-it-yourself aesthetic. And it was really cool to have Caitlin on board because we were never teenage girls, but Caitlin was a teenage girl, and she was able to inform the story because it’s basically sort of a love story between Katie and Jade, and where their relationship goes after the movie. I think if you liked that thread of the movie, you’ll love the short.

Most of us can relate to the trepidation that comes with going away to college, seeking independence but also being a little hesitant about leaving one’s family behind. A lot of Katie’s excitement, but also her anxiety, shines through in her short films, including this hilarious trailer for Dog Cop 7: The Final Chapter, which you can only see on the Blu-ray or DVD for The Mitchells vs. The Machines. Oh, but also, here:

Don’t be surprised to hear this movie’s name called out when the Academy nominates the top animated films from 2021. In the meantime, if you haven’t yet seen it, it will be ready for you to own beginning on December 14.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.