Director and screenwriter Kirk De Micco has been making movies that entertain audiences of all ages. With his animated films like “Racing Stripes,” he has penned stories that are witty and take viewers to places that only animation can. His latest film is entitled “Space Chimps,” a fun story about chimpanzees traveling to a place far beyond. I had the opportunity to meet Kirk De Micco while he was visiting Montreal, where his film was part of this year’s Just For Laughs Film Festival. Here’s the scoop on his career and latest film.
Orcasound: How did you get started as a director and screenwriter?
Kirk: I started writing ten years ago, mostly family films and I have written a couple of films with John Williams (the Shrek Trilogy) who is the producer of this movie. He and producer Barry Sonnenfeld (Men In Black) gave me the chance to direct this film.
Orcasound: What do you like most about animated films?
Kirk: Animation gives you the ability to do whatever you want. You can create entire worlds, entire set-ups. For our film, we were able to do things in animation that we could never do with live action no matter what kind of budget we would have had. We weren’t going to be able to put three chimps into a rocket and film it taking off and have a cast of aliens on another planet. It’s just basically the ability to make any movie you want.
Orcasound: How did the idea for “Space Chimps” come about?
Kirk: It was inspired by the movie “The Right Stuff,” which is a big favorite of mine. I always thought space travel was an interesting concept for kids not only as an adventure but also it’s a chance for them to learn about the exploration of space and the space program. I started writing it six years ago but I only worked on it for a few years and then it went through development and then I came back to it. It never is a straight-line process. It’s always back and forth…off and on.
Orcasound: Are you particularly fond of chimps?
Kirk: Yes I am. I am fond of all animals actually. Obviously it’s a metaphor for telling stories that kids can enjoy but also see a little bit of themselves in. What resonates so strongly with the kids is that number one, they have an affinity for them. When they see an animal that might not have what they have do something, and then they think that hey, maybe I can too.
Orcasound: What is the central message you are trying to convey through this film?
Kirk: The theme of the movie is to believe in yourself because Ham is sort of held back by the legacy and the greatness of his grandfather. He has to realize that he also has greatness inside of him. Of greater value are the human scientists of the space program and the Senator who doesn’t think much of the chimps, and in the end they actually prove their worth, greater than they ever expected.
Orcasound: Tell us about the cast and the experience of working with them?
Kirk: We casted Andy Samburg (from Saturday Night Live) and then Barry brought in a lot people that he’s worked with before like Cheryl Hines, Patrick Warburton, Stanley Tucci and Jeff Daniels. This film has a great ensemble comedy cast, people who know how to improv and ad-lib. We all really had a good time working on this film.
Orcasound: What’s next for you?
Kirk: I am writing a movie for DreamWorks Animation called “Crude Awakening.” It’s a caveman comedy. I have been working on it for a couple of years and it is set to come out in 2011.