How Spies In Disguise Evolved Developing Its Key Theme About Teamwork

Tom Holland and Will Smith in Spies in Disguise

It’s easy to imagine the profession of “spy” coming part and parcel with the development of a few issues regarding interpersonal relationships. If you spend a large part of your life lying to people, it becomes natural to wonder just how many people are lying right back. Trust becomes a luxury, and teamwork becomes a challenge. It’s clear-cut character study material and a compelling notion to explore in a story – and it’s also the core of the new animated action film Spies In Disguise.

Like any film, the new release went through a great deal of evolution as it made its way through the production schedule, but as I recently learned sitting down with directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, as well as star Masi Oka, the core theme of the project was always what guided them as new decisions were being made. You can watch the group discuss all this and more by clicking play on the video below.

As explained by Nick Bruno, it was the concept of teamwork being at odds with the world of espionage that was a part of Spies In Disguise from the very beginning – partially inspired by current events and a lack of cooperation that we see in everyday life. So as the film was evolving, the theme was always kept in the back of mind, and it was not only reflected in the story being told, but also apparently the behind-the-scenes making of the movie. Said Bruno,

That's such a good message for kids, but it's also very relevant in the world today, right? And that's sort of been our North star throughout the entire journey. But along the way, we've really tried to work in teamwork in making the film as well, and knowing that if we have fun together, we can find humor, we could find action, we can find heart. And, and we're really proud of doing that on Spies In Disguise.

In the film, Will Smith voices Lance Sterling, the greatest spy in the world who is both excessively egotistical and only works alone. This attitude becomes a bit problematic, however, when an accident involving some new gear transforms Lance Sterling into a pigeon. Upon learning about a danger that threatens the entire world, he must work with the nerdy, awkward Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) to try and both become human again and save the day.

Discussing the specific evolution of the feature, Troy Quane noted that there were set pieces in Spies In Disguise that were designed and then dismissed, and that not everything involved in the making of the film was totally organized. But that wasn’t accidental. Describing it as “controlled chaos,” the filmmakers wanted to establish a creative atmosphere that let good ideas be replaced by great ideas. Quane explained,

As you work through it, you discover things about the characters and that informs other parts of the story. So it's something where it's controlled chaos in a way. I as a director you never want to hold it too tight cause it'll stop. So you have to just sort of keep guiding it and driving it forward that way.

It was certainly an atmosphere that was appreciated by Masi Oka, who voices a character named Kimura in Spies In Disguise. The actor truly had a blast being in the recording booth trying out a wide variety of alts for his dialogue, and would have been happy to do more had he been given the opportunity. Said Oka,

It was really, really, really great. These guys are so generous and so collaborative and brilliant, and it's just so much fun being in the booth just jamming and improvising so many lines.That's probably the most fun I ever had. I would've literally just stayed there overnight and just kept on giving lines and stuff.

Also starring Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled, Reba McEntire, Ben Mendelsohn, Rashida Jones, and Rachel Brosnahan, Spies In Disguise is now playing in theaters nationwide. To see what else is heading to the big screen in the coming weeks, be sure to check out our 2020 Release Calendar.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.