I had fun watching The Angry Birds Movie.
That’s what I expected, that’s why I watched it in the first place.
But frankly, I’ve never played the Angry Birds app, the most downloaded mobile game of all time – over three billion times, in fact.
So, I really have nothing to compare it with.
Critics said the movie mangled the game to fit the traditional animation genre.
I don’t think a comparison would be fair though.
The classic game was only a starting point for the movie, producer John Cohen stressed.
“Inside the game’s core concept were the seeds of a fantastic animated comedy. We developed the birds into fully fleshed out characters with distinct personalities and fun, unique powers.”
“But there’s also a strong, emotional idea at the center of the movie: at the heart of the games is a story of angry birds who have had their eggs – their children – taken by these green piggies. And the birds must launch a search-and-rescue operation to get their kids back.”
In the movie, Red, the red bird with beetling brows and temper problem has to attend an anger management class.
Then the piggies crash into the happy flightless birds’ island, pretending to be friends then stealing their eggs. To save them, Red uses the piggies’ gift – the catapult and detonate mountains of their TNT.
The biggest question of course was: ‘Why are the birds so angry?’”
“This movie is the origin story of how that conflict came to exist between flightless birds and green piggies,” Cohen explained. “Billions of people have a close personal connection to the games, but the games didn’t really have a backstory that was set in stone.”
It gave the filmmakers’ a lot of room to play with, so much liberties.
“Of course, there were important elements that fans know and love from the games – angry flightless birds, with special powers that people will recognize, fighting green piggies, who have stolen their eggs, using a slingshot – but beyond those ideas, we were able to create an original story.”
In fact, Clay Kaytis, who directs the film with Fergal Reilly, says that the built-in audience of the game allowed them to subtly subvert audiences’ expectations.
“People assume they know what the movie is going to be because they’ve played the game. But the truth is, we’re creating something that is going to surprise people when they see it. As filmmakers, we’re making a movie that we would want to go see.”
So, out of the basic premise of the game, the filmmakers created a new story – a character-based comedy.
“Red is certainly an angry bird. Chuck and Bomb have their problems, but actually, they’re just a bunch of misfits,” says Reilly.
“You really care about these guys – because not only do they have their own problems to deal with, but then they’re dealt the larger problem of the pigs. They have to save their civilization, even though they’re the most unlikely guys you could ever pick.”
Red’s mission to manage his anger is a theme that everyone in the audience can relate to.
“Every parent and every kid learns to find a way to work through those tough moments in their lives,” Cohen pointed out. “I think a lot of kids will identify with Red as he finds a way to channel that energy in a positive direction.”
The first conversations about turning Angry Birds into a movie began back in 2011 with executive producers Mikael Hed and David Maisel.
“I bought my 80-year-old mother an iPad and one day, I heard her swearing at some pigs,” David recalls. “I got very intrigued – this game is played by kids, by their parents, by their grandparents. It’s one of the few things in culture today that people of all different generations share.”
He contacted Mikael whether they could create a movie around Angry Birds.
“And that was the starting shot for this adventure,” Mikael revealed.
Incidentally, Cohen, the director, was a fan of the game. “I had personally spent countless hours playing Angry Birds, which I can now happily justify as research for the movie.”
The ultimate challenge of bringing Angry Birds to the screen was the fact that so many people had a connection to the game.
“Angry Birds has a 91% awareness around the world,” noted Producer Catherine Winder.
“Everybody knows who these characters are, so the expectations are high. So, our aspirations had to be high. We want to make sure the fans around the world are happy with this movie.”