The Willoughbys is a story of a dysfunctional family. The Netflix animated feature film, directed by Kris Pearn, tells the tale of frustrated siblings Tim, Jane, and the Barnabys, who, instead of running away from home, use their ingenuity to achieve independence from their parents, too self-centered to give their kids proper attention.
The Willoughbys is a CG-animated film, though it looks as if it is a hybrid production of 3D, 2D, and stop motion. Also, it uses techniques from dual mediums, infusing the camera style and more used on various television sitcoms within this feature-film production.
“Visually, one of the things early on I really wanted to achieve the was the collision of filmmaking styles. I wanted the time that the kids spend in the house to feel like a sitcom, where we really lock the camera and have three-camera setups and long takes. And, I wanted the rat-tat-tat of the dialog to remind people of that Chuck Lorre kind of time,” explains Kris Pearn, director. “And then when they leave the house, the camera unpins and the colors change; the idea is that outside of the gate is a movie. That kind of collision between those two worlds was something we really got excited about early on in the process.”
Pearn was particularly influenced by TV shows he grew up watching, such as Three’s Company, Cheers, and
All in the Family, whereby the characters might be wrong about their opinions of the world, but there’s an underpinning of optimism.
As for the mixed aesthetic, Pearn was also influenced by his stop-motion background, but also by his 2D animation experience. “I still love the choices that come from pose-to-pose animation, like when you watch Chuck Jones or the old Disney hand-drawn films like 101 Dalmatians or
The Jungle Book, that feeling that there’s a hand behind the pencil,” he says.
Despite the stop-motion and 2D influences, Pearn never considered creating The Willoughbys as anything but a CGI film. In this vein, practicality reigned, as Bron Animation already had a 3D pipeline in place and was able to draw on the abundance of 3D talent in the Vancouver area to create this film.