‘Dangerous Book For Boys’: Bryan Cranston & Greg Mottola’s Family-Friendly Adaptation Promises Lo-Fi Charm – The Contenders

The cast and creators of Amazon’s forthcoming series The Dangerous Book For Boys took the stage to kick of this year’s Emmy Contenders. Show co-creators Bryan Cranston and Greg Mottola were joined on stage by stars Erinn HayesGabriel Bateman, and Swoosie Kurtz to talk about what to expect from the series based on the book by Conn and Hal Iggulden.
One of the driving inspiration behind the adaptation is the fact that Cranston and Mottola are both dads.  “It’s a true…

The cast and creators of Amazon’s forthcoming series The Dangerous Book For Boys took the stage to kick of this year’s Emmy Contenders. Show co-creators Bryan Cranston and Greg Mottola were joined on stage by stars Erinn HayesGabriel Bateman, and Swoosie Kurtz to talk about what to expect from the series based on the book by Conn and Hal Iggulden. One of the driving inspiration behind the adaptation is the fact that Cranston and Mottola are both dads.  “It’s a true…

‘Hamilton’ Captures Seven Olivier Awards; ‘The Ferryman’ Wins Best New Play

Hamilton‘s revolutionary run is recording more milestones in the UK, with the Lin-Manuel Miranda show collecting seven Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical.
On the drama side, Jez Butterworth’s Northern Irish drama The Ferryman was named Best New Play. It also snagged a Best Director Olivier for Sam Mendes and took Best Actress honors for Laura Donnelly.
Miranda and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire received the Outstanding Achievement in Music prize. Other Hamilton wins…

Hamilton‘s revolutionary run is recording more milestones in the UK, with the Lin-Manuel Miranda show collecting seven Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical. On the drama side, Jez Butterworth's Northern Irish drama The Ferryman was named Best New Play. It also snagged a Best Director Olivier for Sam Mendes and took Best Actress honors for Laura Donnelly. Miranda and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire received the Outstanding Achievement in Music prize. Other Hamilton wins…

‘The Dangerous Book for Boys’ Cast Talks Balancing Comedy and Tragedy at Paley Center

Thursday night at New York’s Paley Center for Media, Emmy and Tony-winning actor Bryan Cranston talked about his storied career and the making of new Amazon show “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” which he adapted for the streaming service alongside “Superbad” director Greg Mottola. The series is based on a popular children’s book that gives […]

Thursday night at New York’s Paley Center for Media, Emmy and Tony-winning actor Bryan Cranston talked about his storied career and the making of new Amazon show “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” which he adapted for the streaming service alongside “Superbad” director Greg Mottola. The series is based on a popular children’s book that gives […]

Bryan Cranston Wants to Embrace Boyhood Through ‘The Dangerous Book For Boys’

In a world where kids are more often than not glued to their screens, Sony Pictures TV’s “The Dangerous Book for Boys” aims to inspire a world of imagination and adventure. In adapting the book by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, executive producer Bryan Cranston faced a unique challenge — given that the book doesn’t […]

In a world where kids are more often than not glued to their screens, Sony Pictures TV’s “The Dangerous Book for Boys” aims to inspire a world of imagination and adventure. In adapting the book by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, executive producer Bryan Cranston faced a unique challenge — given that the book doesn’t […]

Bryan Cranston On Why Directors Should Take Acting Classes, and How He Turned ‘The Dangerous Book for Boys’ Into A Show

The new Amazon series, which premieres Friday, owes its existence to Cranston going for a jog in Boston.

Here’s how Bryan Cranston explains his current production slate: “I have eclectic taste as an adult.” And given the variety of genres his four current projects explore, that checks out.

“That’s what I love about it, because I don’t like to trample upon the same stories,” he said, noting that while Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete” is an edgy con-man story and “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” delves deeply into the realm of sci-fi, his latest series, “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” is “a family adventure, fun, and beautiful.” (Cranston is also an executive producer on the Sony Crackle animated series “Supermansion.”)

Next up for Cranston, “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” which stars Erinn Hayes as the widowed mother of three boys in need of some advice.

Dangerous Book for Boys Erinn Hayes as Beth McKenna and Gabriel Bateman as Wyatt McKenna

The show is technically based on the book by Conn and Hal Iggulden, but as Cranston explains below, the path towards figuring out how to transform the how-to adventures of the book into an actual TV show wasn’t the easiest thing.

Cranston first came across “Dangerous Book for Boys” when his “Breaking Bad” co-star, Anna Gunn, gave him a copy. The show was originally developed at NBC, but when that network passed, Cranston and writer Greg Mottola reimagined it as more of a family-friendly show for Amazon. After that lengthy road to production, the show premieres on Amazon this Friday.

What about producing really feeds you right now?

I didn’t know that I would love it, but I do love the idea of supporting someone else’s vision. Nurturing that relationship with the producer, and the writer, and collectively finding the right director for that piece.

It’s really fantastic being able to give constructive criticism to your writing partner. It’s great learning how to give a note, and learning how to take a note if you’re a writer yourself.

It’s all part of the storytelling complex, and we’re all related. The first thing I tell people who want to be directors is “Have you taken acting classes?” “No.” “You better get yourself into an acting class.”

If you want to know what it’s like for an actor to receive direction, you have to act first to see, “I’m overwhelmed, I have too much information, I’m trying to remember my lines.” Sometimes, you just need to stand back, you have to read people.

As a producer, how do you know when you know something’s right for you? What about ‘Dangerous Book for Boys’ made you want to commit to it?

When I crack the story. “Dangerous Book for Boys” is an international bestseller, it’s a beautiful book. I had a copy myself. But, it’s a how-to book: how to make a fort, how to talk to a girl, how to build an electric train… All these things about boyhood. There’s no characters, there’s no plots. There’s nothing there.

So, everything had to come from scratch, and at first it was in the drama department at Sony, and we’re trying to think, “How can we craft a story?” And I just couldn’t come up with it.

Then I was running along the Charles River in Boston, I was doing a play out of town [‘All The Way’]. Bing! Because I had let it go but it was still in my subconscious, it popped in and I got it. I knew the story structure, I got the family tree, and I realized what we could do.

I came back, pitched it out, got a positive response, picked up Greg Mottola to be our partner in it. Michael Glouberman to be our showrunner, and we’re off and running.

Dangerous Book for Boys Gabriel Bateman as Wyatt McKenna, Drew Logan Powell as Dash McKenna, and Kyan Zielinski as Liam McKenna

What has been the experience of pitching for you? Because that seems very different than auditioning.

It really isn’t a different thing. You’re still performing. If you’re acting, in an audition your job is to create a compelling character that serves the text.

And if you’re pitching, I’m telling you all the compelling characters, and how it relates to the text. I’m doing it with passion and verve, so that my excitement and sense of confidence exudes to the person I’m pitching. And they’re filled with it, and they get a sense of, “I think this is a great idea, hopefully. And yes, let’s do this.”

Then, you have to deliver in what you pitched. It’s a never-ending work though, and I think that’s the most important thing to convey to anybody outside of our business.

People in our industry know how much work goes in, but because I love it, because I love to tell stories, it’s not something that I have to force myself to do at all, ever. I naturally start thinking in story structure, and character, and I’ll talk to myself in a character with an accent, or an old man, or a young boy. It’s just what I do — I don’t play golf, so I work instead.

Do you find yourself in a pitch performing the characters?

Yeah, sure. If I feel it’s necessary for them to get a sensibility of that particular character, yeah. But, if they get it, again, it’s reading your audience. If I see them get it, and nod, and they’re with me you don’t want to belabor a point, move on to the next.

I believe in that adage, “Leave them wanting more, not less.” If they start looking at their watch you’re in trouble.

“The Dangerous Book for Boys” premieres Friday on Amazon Prime

‘Isle of Dogs’ Film Review: Wes Anderson’s Fetching Animated Tale Features His Pet Obsessions

In Wes Anderson’s dazzlingly but also puzzlingly realized (more on that in a moment) “Isle of Dogs,” a dystopian fable pitting man’s best friends against its worst fiends in a futuristic Japan, the writer-director proves again that in his hands, a bedtime story is more likely to be an over-stimulant than a narcotic.

When humans first met canines, each fortuitously emboldened a change in the other, and the same could be said for Anderson regarding stop-motion animation: cinema’s premier dioramist could finally go as micro-controlling as needed and still turn out his freest, most lovable work (2009’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox”), while an art form overwhelmed by its digitized brethren showed it could attract hip filmmaking talent and produce eccentric, artisanal masterworks.

“Isle of Dogs” isn’t the sly, maturely immature gem “Mr. Fox” remains — even with that phonic pun of a title — but it’s a mostly enjoyably overstuffed model kit of adventure ingredients: talking dog heroes, an intrepid boy aviator, an outspoken girl reporter, garbage playgrounds, mechanical worlds, robot peril and mischievous humor. It’s even, for this director, tantalizingly political, venturing into dark territory about such utopia-bursting ills as bigotry and authoritarianism.

Watch Video: ‘Isle of Dogs’ First Trailer: Wes Anderson Unleashes Animated Tale of Quirky Dogs in Japan

And yet it’s still nth-degree Anderson in its visuals, wit, and personality, a carefully unfolded pop-up universe of influences (dig that “Seven Samurai” music shoutout), itemizations, tangents, analog textures, communication quirks (English-speaking dogs, non-subtitled Japanese humans), cartographic flourishes, and deadpan comic charm. Its profundity can easily bring out your inner parent, the kind in thrall to an imaginative kid’s attention to storytelling detail, even if the thread occasionally gets lost.

The story, dreamed up by Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Konichi Nomura, takes place in the fictional Megasaki, years after a degree by corrupt Mayor Kobayashi (a reference to the frank-scarfing champion?) exiles all dogs to Trash Island over ginned-up fears of conditions called dog-flu, snout-fever, and “canine saturation.” (The mythical history of anti-dog sentiment is narrated in a dryly amusing prologue styled like ancient Japanese woodblock prints, and capped with, of course, a haiku.)

Also Read: Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ Triggers Debate Over Cultural Appropriation

Trash Island — flat, monochromatic, and industrial — may be the bleakest setting in all of Anderson-dom, but it is exquisitely littered. When a bickering pack of roving ex-pets (voiced by Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban and Jeff Goldblum) and a battle-hardened stray named Chief (Bryan Cranston) investigate a downed plane on their waste-heap atoll, they discover 12-year-old Atari (Koyu Rankin) — orphan ward to the Mayor (Nomura) — determined at all costs to find the loyal, beloved bodyguard companion named Spots (Liev Schreiber) who was stripped from his side years ago.

The appealingly motley island dogs, spurred by fond memories of their human-serving days, decide to help Atari in his quest, although their motivation rankles Chief, whose grizzled cynicism about obedience sparks the film’s funniest intra-canine banter. The boy’s disappearance back home, however, is just the crisis to push the Mayor (modeled like a composite of every venal Toshiro Mifune tough he ever played for Kurosawa) into an even nastier plan to eradicate all dogs. On his case, though, is an activist foreign exchange student (Greta Gerwig) who smells conspiracy.

To count the number of ways “Isle of Dogs” blares “Wes Anderson!” is pointless, but some of my favorite touches include the cotton-cloud chaos that signals a mutt melee, a breathtaking if graphic sushi-making digression, and the nicely pitched doggy-noir exchanges between Chief and a lushly-furred former show dog named Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson). If he’s gaining at all as a filmmaker, it’s in his craftier layering of narrative, comedy, and painstaking design so that they keep the whole engine moving instead of lingering, waiting to be regarded.

Also Read: Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton Trolled as ‘Honorary Asians,’ This Time for Animated Characters

But there’s always that nagging sense that Anderson’s fondness for cultural appropriation — the India of “The Darjeeling Limited,” the vanished Europe of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and now his Eastern Asia reverie — has more to do with décor-driven pleasures than a resonant inner identity.

It’s one thing to weave a fantasy about saving dogs, and set it in the Japanophilic backdrop of your movie-mad dreams, but there’s a careless insensitivity in evoking issues of internment and annihilation for what amounts to an expensive Japan-set flipbook, particularly if you aren’t even going to provide subtitles for the native characters, who are mostly archetypes anyway. (That aforementioned language gimmick starts out as a head-scratcher, and pretty much stays that.) Then there’s the movie’s A-list vocal talent, a curious case of white-voicing when it comes to its four-legged original characters, who are ostensibly Japanese dogs.

None of it’s done out of any meanness, but it eventually worms its way into your appreciation of Anderson’s otherwise meticulous, wry blend of puppetry, 2D expressionism and dollhouse technique. There is much to admire about how “Isle of Dogs” channels its filmmaker’s design-lab obsessions and neurotic humanity into often beautiful, smile-inducing images, even if you’re not quite ready to pat Anderson on the head after the trick is over and say, “Good boy.”



Related stories from TheWrap:

A Timeline of Stop-Motion Animation History, From ‘A Trip to the Moon’ to ‘Isle of Dogs’ (Photos)

FoxNext Brings VR Behind-the-Scenes Look at Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’

‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ May Dethrone ‘Black Panther,’ But It Needs Overseas Boost

Tiffany Haddish to Star in Netflix Animated Series From ‘Bojack Horseman’ Producers

In Wes Anderson’s dazzlingly but also puzzlingly realized (more on that in a moment) “Isle of Dogs,” a dystopian fable pitting man’s best friends against its worst fiends in a futuristic Japan, the writer-director proves again that in his hands, a bedtime story is more likely to be an over-stimulant than a narcotic.

When humans first met canines, each fortuitously emboldened a change in the other, and the same could be said for Anderson regarding stop-motion animation: cinema’s premier dioramist could finally go as micro-controlling as needed and still turn out his freest, most lovable work (2009’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox”), while an art form overwhelmed by its digitized brethren showed it could attract hip filmmaking talent and produce eccentric, artisanal masterworks.

“Isle of Dogs” isn’t the sly, maturely immature gem “Mr. Fox” remains — even with that phonic pun of a title — but it’s a mostly enjoyably overstuffed model kit of adventure ingredients: talking dog heroes, an intrepid boy aviator, an outspoken girl reporter, garbage playgrounds, mechanical worlds, robot peril and mischievous humor. It’s even, for this director, tantalizingly political, venturing into dark territory about such utopia-bursting ills as bigotry and authoritarianism.

And yet it’s still nth-degree Anderson in its visuals, wit, and personality, a carefully unfolded pop-up universe of influences (dig that “Seven Samurai” music shoutout), itemizations, tangents, analog textures, communication quirks (English-speaking dogs, non-subtitled Japanese humans), cartographic flourishes, and deadpan comic charm. Its profundity can easily bring out your inner parent, the kind in thrall to an imaginative kid’s attention to storytelling detail, even if the thread occasionally gets lost.

The story, dreamed up by Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Konichi Nomura, takes place in the fictional Megasaki, years after a degree by corrupt Mayor Kobayashi (a reference to the frank-scarfing champion?) exiles all dogs to Trash Island over ginned-up fears of conditions called dog-flu, snout-fever, and “canine saturation.” (The mythical history of anti-dog sentiment is narrated in a dryly amusing prologue styled like ancient Japanese woodblock prints, and capped with, of course, a haiku.)

Trash Island — flat, monochromatic, and industrial — may be the bleakest setting in all of Anderson-dom, but it is exquisitely littered. When a bickering pack of roving ex-pets (voiced by Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban and Jeff Goldblum) and a battle-hardened stray named Chief (Bryan Cranston) investigate a downed plane on their waste-heap atoll, they discover 12-year-old Atari (Koyu Rankin) — orphan ward to the Mayor (Nomura) — determined at all costs to find the loyal, beloved bodyguard companion named Spots (Liev Schreiber) who was stripped from his side years ago.

The appealingly motley island dogs, spurred by fond memories of their human-serving days, decide to help Atari in his quest, although their motivation rankles Chief, whose grizzled cynicism about obedience sparks the film’s funniest intra-canine banter. The boy’s disappearance back home, however, is just the crisis to push the Mayor (modeled like a composite of every venal Toshiro Mifune tough he ever played for Kurosawa) into an even nastier plan to eradicate all dogs. On his case, though, is an activist foreign exchange student (Greta Gerwig) who smells conspiracy.

To count the number of ways “Isle of Dogs” blares “Wes Anderson!” is pointless, but some of my favorite touches include the cotton-cloud chaos that signals a mutt melee, a breathtaking if graphic sushi-making digression, and the nicely pitched doggy-noir exchanges between Chief and a lushly-furred former show dog named Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson). If he’s gaining at all as a filmmaker, it’s in his craftier layering of narrative, comedy, and painstaking design so that they keep the whole engine moving instead of lingering, waiting to be regarded.

But there’s always that nagging sense that Anderson’s fondness for cultural appropriation — the India of “The Darjeeling Limited,” the vanished Europe of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and now his Eastern Asia reverie — has more to do with décor-driven pleasures than a resonant inner identity.

It’s one thing to weave a fantasy about saving dogs, and set it in the Japanophilic backdrop of your movie-mad dreams, but there’s a careless insensitivity in evoking issues of internment and annihilation for what amounts to an expensive Japan-set flipbook, particularly if you aren’t even going to provide subtitles for the native characters, who are mostly archetypes anyway. (That aforementioned language gimmick starts out as a head-scratcher, and pretty much stays that.) Then there’s the movie’s A-list vocal talent, a curious case of white-voicing when it comes to its four-legged original characters, who are ostensibly Japanese dogs.

None of it’s done out of any meanness, but it eventually worms its way into your appreciation of Anderson’s otherwise meticulous, wry blend of puppetry, 2D expressionism and dollhouse technique. There is much to admire about how “Isle of Dogs” channels its filmmaker’s design-lab obsessions and neurotic humanity into often beautiful, smile-inducing images, even if you’re not quite ready to pat Anderson on the head after the trick is over and say, “Good boy.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

A Timeline of Stop-Motion Animation History, From 'A Trip to the Moon' to 'Isle of Dogs' (Photos)

FoxNext Brings VR Behind-the-Scenes Look at Wes Anderson's 'Isle of Dogs'

'Pacific Rim: Uprising' May Dethrone 'Black Panther,' But It Needs Overseas Boost

Tiffany Haddish to Star in Netflix Animated Series From 'Bojack Horseman' Producers

On an Isle Of Dogs, Wes Anderson uses stop-motion to construct one of his most wondrous worlds

Dogs do not have it easy in the bright, glorious dollhouse worlds of Wes Anderson. Think of Buckley, beloved beagle of the youngest Tenenbaums, run down in the prime of his life. Or poor Snoopy, impaled casualty of the boy-scouts war raging across a woodland moonrise kingdom. (Who’s to say if he was a good dog, but he…

Read more…

Dogs do not have it easy in the bright, glorious dollhouse worlds of Wes Anderson. Think of Buckley, beloved beagle of the youngest Tenenbaums, run down in the prime of his life. Or poor Snoopy, impaled casualty of the boy-scouts war raging across a woodland moonrise kingdom. (Who’s to say if he was a good dog, but he…

Read more...