My son inspired the Bad Guys that took us to Hollywood

By Marnie Adams, Contributor @ Kids In Perth 27 Apr 2022

Who are The Bad Guys? What’s it about?

Think of all the coolest car chases, heists and action movies you’ve seen. Blend it together. Weave in a cast of lovable, flawed characters… That's just the start of the heart warming and ever evolving story behind The Bad Guys.

The Bad Guys is the “life’s work” of Australian author Aaron Blabey who not only penned this exciting book that’s getting reluctant readers reading… but also illustrated it as well!

 

Recently, we interviewed Aaron about his book which will feature in cinemas from 31 March as a Dreamworks Animation movie!

 

How does it feel seeing your creations come to life on the big screen?

It’s pretty cool! My most favourite thing in the universe really are movies, always since I was a little boy. Now the fact that the characters are part of that is the biggest possible thing that could’ve ever happened. It’s such a thrill!

What was the inspiration for The Bad Guys?

Bunch of things, the idea initially came about because I was reading with my youngest child, who was 6 at the time, bringing home reader “learning to read” books from school.

Some were so boring that they used to make him cry!

I thought, you know what…let’s do something cooler than that!

I thought about things I loved when I was a kid and, at the time, he was into scary animals.

And I also thought about the things I’m into now… So I’m thinking about heist movies, crime movies, action movies and kind of …stir them together?

Well… what if I took a bunch of scary looking guys, who are scary animals and put them in suits like some of my favourite movie characters. What if everybody thinks they’re villains and they want to prove they’re not. When that idea clicked, that just opened up this whole imaginative universe for me!

Asking for my friend, Tristan, out of all the children’s books out there… Why do you think The Bad Guys stand out from the rest? Why does it resonate with kids?

I don’t know for sure.

Because I play with images normally associated with things outside of their age group. Maybe something their older sibling or parents are into and they’ll ask if they can watch but be told they’re too young.

I’ve taken the imagery and iconography of that and hot wired it for kids!

I didn’t know whether it would work but I know with my kids they’ll say “Can’t I watch that?”

I’ll reply with “No that’s a bit full on and you can’t watch it” but I’ll notice how they would love getting their hands on certain things. I was like that as a kid.

Taking all of those cool elements of cool elements, inserting them into a territory that is kid friendly and isn’t going to upset anybody.

They’ll feel like part of something bigger, naughtier and all of that stuff that kids want to be part of.

So maybe that’s part of it… But who knows?

It’s hard and impossible for me to say.

Why did you pursue writing children’s books after acting?

I think, as I was saying, when I said I was looking for The Bad Guys forever.

When my first kid was born I wrote my first picture book.

Around that time, I did it because I wasn’t happy as an actor. I never felt like I was very good at it.

When I was in movies, I felt like I was doing the wrong job in them, so I started painting and storytelling again which I missed. Putting those two things together, I had that first book, it was warmly received but I still hadn’t found my voice yet I don’t think.

It wasn’t until my kids were older and had senses of humour.

When they had defined senses of humour, at around 6,7 or 8, I suddenly went… hang on a minute.

I know how to make them laugh.

Why don’t I just do that but with stuff that I love! I think that triggered all of it.

It was just this perfect storm of elements that had been floating around but then suddenly it all worked and had purpose.

And it just suddenly became this vehicle for you to influence so many kids?

That’s just spectacular, weird and mind melting!

When I sit to write a new episode or what I’m trying to picture… I’m aware.

I actually don’t feel any pressure, I just feel incredible gratitude, knowing what it feels like to write and draw a book coming from where nobody really knows or cares if it comes and goes to… Being in a situation where literally millions of children are waiting for the next bit is the coolest thing any writer could ever dream of.

 

Describe The Bad Guys in 3 words.

My Life’s Work. Haha.

 

The Bad Guys is published by Scholastic and available to purchase at all good bookstores or online.

In cinemas from 31 March 2022, learn more by visiting thebadguysmovie.com or following @TheBadGuysMovie on facebook. 

Scroll down to read the full interview

Preview | Watch trailer

Q&A | Meet The Author

Did you ever imagine this ever happening?

No. It took me a long time to figure out.. the best way I can put it is…I feel like I’ve been looking for The Bad Guys my whole life. When I was a kid, I’ll see movies and I’ll have this feeling afterwards or during the movie of wanting to take that movie and do something with it.
But I could never figure out or articulate what that was.

That continued into my adult life, I would see something that’d blow my mind and think what would I do with that, I couldn’t express it.

When I found The Bad Guys, I found my perfect way to pour everything that I love and find cool and put them into a story that is underpinned by something significant to it. A bunch of guys that are judged by the way that they look.

My take on the story was redemption, I noticed many of your characters like Pig the Pug experience a metamorphosis from being unlikeable to likeable. What draws you to this narrative?

In some ways, I feel my characters are somewhat atypical of the kind of things you see in the age group category of the books.
Especially, my favourite character in The Bad Guys is Mr Snake and it’s because he struggles the most with the transition. and that’s what I find that the most interesting that . The way that I use it with Mr Wolf is heart of the series and the movie.

I think The Bad Guys books are for an age group that is normally the conventional thinking around that age group is the characters should just reboot at the beginning of each episode, just have an adventure and they’re always the same. They don’t actually go anywhere necessarily, they’re just lovable characters.

That wasn’t necessarily, hugely interesting to me.

So it was a bit of a gamble when I did the first Bad Guys book to leave it on a cliffhanger when a lot of people would say “Oh kids that age don’t have the attention span to want to know what happens next”.

But it turns out…They do! Because each time we put out a new book, it’s been more popular than the one before. So it says kids are waiting to find out what’s happening next which is so satisfying.

And they get to see the characters grow and change and turn into other characters.

Some characters, there’s a couple that I’m thinking of specifically that begin the series one way and end up, by the very very end of the series that I have planned in my head, they end up somewhere else entirely. That’s really satisfying to create something that kids can watch characters grow and change in.

Why did you pursue writing children’s books after acting?

I think, as I was saying, when I said I was looking for The Bad Guys forever.

When my first kid was born, I wrote my first picture book.

Around the time, I did that because I wasn’t happy as an actor, I guess I never felt like I was very good at it.

When I was in movies, I felt like I was doing the wrong job in them and so I started painting and storytelling again which I missed. Putting those two things together, I had that first book, it was warmly received but I still hadn’t found my voice I don’t think.

It wasn’t until my kids were older and had senses of humour.

When they had defined senses of humour, at the ages of around 6,7 or 8 that I suddenly went hang on a minute… I know how to make them laugh.

Why don’t I just do that with stuff that I love and I think That triggered all of it.

It was just like this perfect storm of elements that had been floating around but then suddenly all worked and had a purpose.

And it just suddenly became this vehicle for you to influence so many kids?

That’s just spectacular, weird and mind melting that when I sit down to write a new episode now or what I’m trying to picture… I’m aware and I actually don’t feel any pressure of this, I just feel incredible gratitude knowing what it feels like to write and draw a book that coming from where nobody really knows or cares if it comes and goes to being in a situation where there are literally millions of children waiting for the next bit is the coolest thing that any writer could ever dream of.

It’s the most wonderful situation to be in, having an audience just excited to know what’s happens next is so cool!

What’s the most common parent compliment?

The most common one seems to be that kids who don’t like reading, the expression people use is the “reluctant reader”, the kids that don’t like books really liking them.

Parents come up and say “I couldn’t get my kids reading anything and now when The Bad Guys came along, now suddenly they do.”

I guess that’s the coolest thing that I’ve heard from parents is that it is encouraging kids who wouldn’t ordinarily or necessarily have found their way with reading and with books. It’s been a doorway for them which hopefully will be lead to them reading other things and developing and moving onto novels and whatever.

I guess if I’m proud of anything, it’s that.

It’s that feeling of knowing that there’s so many kids who are picking up a book that maybe wouldn’t have before or not being forced to pick it up.

And that’s the thing…I’ve always tried to write while acutely aware of what the competition is. Generally, most kids would rather be on a video game console or doing something else than reading so if you can write a book that is equivalent fun if they’re looking forward to that just as much as playing a video game, that’s pretty awesome.

Where do you get your sense of humour from?

I don’t know. My Dad is pretty funny, maybe it’s him.

My kids find my father really funny so I guess maybe that’s where it came from.

Was it a conscious choice to write The Bad Guys as a graphic book?

Yeah it was. Because I was very cinematic in my head so I thought if I was to make a movie for kids, what would it be?

That’s why it fits into a storyboard, comic book, graphic book kind of format. All the things that I love.

But yeah, it was my version of doing a movie or film when, at the time, I knew I couldn’t do one by myself.

And what makes it so special is everything coming full circle and the book being turned into a movie.

How much of an influence did you have in the casting and creativity of the movie?

I got to talk about all of that, all the way through to even the script and with each cut of the movie.

I was an executive producer on the film so I took it as my job was to keep the spirit of the books safe. I didn’t have to fight for that, they were awesome, really great.

When it came to casting, we all put together our lists, the casting department at Dreamworks were pretty fantastic obviously so they had awesome suggestions and all our suggestions kind of aligned and we ended up with this wonderful cast of actors that we have that’s just crazy good and just so perfect.

Very, very thrilling and I’ve been a fan of many of them for a very long time and then there were some of them that were new to me.

I didn’t know Marc Maron’s work before, when we were looking for Mr Snake, they gave me one of his stand up routines and in about 10 seconds I went…oh my God that’s Mr Snake!

He’s perfect and he’s beautiful in the film.

What’s the most surreal moment for you where you’ve had to pinch yourself thinking wow all these people are here because of the characters in my head?

There was a morning where I got up at 3am to do a Zoom meeting with the cast, there I was sitting there talking to movie stars all of whom I’m a fan of so that was pretty crazy.

First time I was at the Dreamworks campus studio over there was pretty amazing.

But I suspect that I’m on the cusp of a pretty surreal month I have to say because I’m just about to go over for the opening in America so I think my version of weird is about to be redefined I think so we’ll just see. Haha.

 

 

 

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