The Secret Life of Pets 2 is the highly anticipated sequel to the 2016 blockbuster, and the 10th animated feature from the Illumination animation studio.
Directed by returning filmmaker Chris Renaud (Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax), Pets 2 once again follows the adventures of terrier Max (Patton Oswalt) and his friends. Just like its predecessor, it gives us a peek into what pets are up to when their owners are not at home.
The film features a star-studded voice cast, including comedians Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, Modern Family star Eric Stonestreet and Star Wars actor Harrison Ford.
The comedians and actors were often encouraged to improvise and contribute their own ideas during recording sessions.
“Animation is a great medium for improvisation,” says producer Chris Meledandri. “Generally, we look to get a few run-throughs of the script as written first. We go scene by scene, we record only one actor at a time, and once we’ve got a version of a scene down as scripted, we give the actor the opportunity to invent anything that she or he feels comfortable contributing.”
However, after actors have given their creative input, it’s up to director Renaud and writer Brian Lynch to decide which ad libs enhance the film and make the final cut.
“It’s sort of my job to navigate all of this input in an attempt to get the best material, thinking on my feet about what works and what doesn’t,” Renaud says. “Sometimes, what plays funny in the recording booth doesn’t land in the movie. Either it’s too long or we don’t have the actor’s facial expressions and body language to support the joke. That said, there are definitely a few ad-libs that became our favourite lines in the movie!”
Among the new characters is Rooster, a seasoned farm dog who ends up helping Max find the courage to confront his fears.
“Rooster is exactly who Max needs, because he is the opposite of Max: He is tough, he is wise and he is not suffering fools. When Max steps onto his farm, he’s going to leave having grown up and having overcome his fear, whether he likes it or not. This journey that Max goes on allows him to overcome the fear that is holding him back, and he does it driven by Rooster, who is teaching this city dog how to really stand up and be a man,” says Meledandri.
To bring the character to life, filmmakers hoped to find a voice that communicated confidence and heroism. One name quickly came to mind. Harrison Ford, known for his role as Han Solo in Star Wars, takes on the role of Rooster for his animated-film debut.
A fan of the first Pets movie and a pooch owner himself, Ford rose to the challenge, but had a few questions. “My first instinct was to ask, ‘Well, do you want me to do a voice? A dog voice?’” Ford says. “And they said no, just my regular voice. I figured out pretty quickly that Rooster was kind of a caricature idea of me.”
“Rooster is a character that is perfectly suited to Harrison Ford,” Meledandri says. “Working with Harrison on this film was a dream come true for me. He went above and beyond my expectations in the role of Rooster and lent a real weight and gravity to the character. You can’t help but be riveted by his voice when you hear it on screen.”
When asked if he’d consider doing another, Ford said, “Pets 3? Oh yeah, sure. Why not? I’d love it.”