DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS
From its origins as a series of online cartoons, Diary of a Wimpy Kid
exploded onto the pop culture scene when Jeff Kinney's first "novel in cartoons"
was published in 2007. Diary of a Wimpy Kid spent almost three years on The New
York Times' children's bestseller list - there are 75 million copies in print in
37 languages. The book captured the imaginations of an army of formerly
"reluctant readers," and launched countless video reviews, social networking fan
groups and parties celebrating the release of each new Wimpy Kid book. Kinney
had originally targeted adults through the book's nostalgic look at middle
school life as told through a narrator with Walter Mittyesque-fantasies of
greatness, but kids immediately connected to his blending of the subversive and
edgy with the fun and wholesome.
The first motion picture, based on Kinney's debut Wimpy Kid novel, brought to
cinematic life the adventures of wisecracking pre-teen Greg Heffley, who must
somehow survive the scariest time of anyone's life - middle school. In the
second picture, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES, which opened as #1 at the
box office, Greg and his older brother and chief tormentor, Rodrick, deal with
their parents' misguided attempts to have them bond. In the new film, Kinney
(returning as executive producer), director David Bowers, producers Nina
Jacobson and Brad Simpson, and screenwriters Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky,
focus on the father-son relationship of Frank and Greg Heffley, as played by
Steve Zahn and Zachary Gordon.
Returning cast members also include Robert Capron as Greg's best friend,
Rowley Jefferson, Devon Bostick as Greg's brother, Rodrick, Rachael Harris as
their mom, Susan, and Peyton List as Holly Hills.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS is based on Kinney's third and fourth Wimpy
Kid books, The Last Straw and Dog Days. Kinney, who worked closely with the
screenwriters, producers and director, says, "We have an obligation to our
readers, to make sure we're protecting their expectations and don't stray too
far from the books."
At the same time, Kinney points out the movie adaptations are not carbon
copies of the books. He likens the adaptation process to the experience of and
expectations for attending a pop music event: "It's kind of like going to a
concert of your favorite band. You wouldn't really enjoy it if the band just
played the songs from its latest album, in order - why not just stay home and
listen to the album? So you try to mix up the playlist a little and play a new
song, maybe a cover song from somebody else. That's the same model we have for
the movies: we try to give fans enough to meet their expectations, but also add
new elements to surprise them."
Simpson notes, "Some fans will ask, what happened to the third book, The Last
Straw? We incorporated elements of it into DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES,
and we brought other elements into DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS. For the
latter, this enabled us to get outside of the school and do a summer-themed
movie. This was a great opportunity to expand Greg's world. People usually look
at summer vacation as a golden time, but for Greg it's just as tough as the
school year. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is a really fun book that turns
summer on its head, and I think we've done that in the movie. We also have some
new elements that feel like they're part of Jeff Kinney's world."
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS follows Greg Heffley's summer adventures -
from the comfy confines of his living room, where all he wants to do is play
video games; to the aquatic frenzy of the local municipal pool; to the plush and
leisurely luxuries at a lavish country club; and to a wild camping trip outside
of the familiar comforts of suburbia. "Summer vacation and childhood are deeply
associated," says Jacobson. "When you're a kid, there's nothing you look forward
to more." David Bowers adds, "I think summer vacation is a great source of
comedy because often people have plans and look forward to it, but it isn't
always as awesome or amazing as you hope it might be. And that certainly is the
case for Greg, whose vacation might not be as much fun as he thinks it should
Greg would probably call that a huge understatement.
During production of DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS, Kinney was putting the
finishing touches on the sixth book in his series, Diary of Wimpy Kid: Cabin
Fever, which was released last November with an enormous run of six million
copies. In addition to writing the phenomenally popular books, creating the
hugely successful kids' website Poptropica.com, and executive producing the
WIMPY KID films, Kinney is also a married father of two, and a Cub Scout leader.
To everyone's amazement and appreciation, Kinney still managed to be on set
during much of the shoot.
"Jeff really is the glue that holds the films together," says Simpson. "His
presence on the set was very important to the cast. He helps keep the integrity
of the books on the screen. Jeff is part of the fabric of the films in an
intense and amazing way." Jacobson adds: "Jeff's role has been to be the
guardian of the WIMPY KID voice. He is our go-to guy when we need a great joke,
or when we need to check whether a character would really do something."
Steve Zahn believes the success of the books and the films is that "they're
told from the perspective of a kid, and Jeff is still a kid. The stories don't
talk down to young people."
Another key filmmaker accessing his inner-Wimpy was director David Bowers,
who was asked to direct the new film before he'd even completed DIARY OF A WIMPY
KID: RODRICK RULES. "David brought a great sense of life and humor to the
previous film," says Simpson.
"David really thinks in a very Jeff Kinney/Greg Heffley sort of way and has
come up with a lot of the really funny moments," adds Jacobson. Kinney concurs:
"Having David return gave me a lot of comfort, because I knew he'd deliver on
the comedy end."
Also delivering the laughs were screenwriters Maya Forbes ("The Larry Sanders
Show") & Wally Wolodarsky ("The Simpsons"); their big screen credits include the
hit animated feature "Monsters vs. Aliens." "Wally and Maya have a subversive
sense of humor that matches these books'," says Simpson.
In addition to the cast, producers and director, a number of creative
department heads returned for their second or third Wimpy Kid films, including:
production designer Brent Thomas (all three WIMPY films), editor Troy Takaki,
A.C.E. (the second and third films), and Academy Award -nominated costume
designer Monique Prudhomme (the first and third films). BAFTA-award winning
cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond, ASC/BSC was a welcome newcomer to the WIMPY
All three pictures were made during consecutive summers in Vancouver, British
Columbia, Canada. "These movies have been like summer camp for the actors and
the crew," says Jacobson. The kids have really bonded and their friendships have
evolved throughout the years. "They came in as bright-eyed, excited kids and
they never lost that enthusiasm. We brought back the same crew, year after year,
and everyone felt like a family."
Zachary Gordon says, "For the second and third films, it felt like I'd never
left the previous production. It was like I'd taken a day off and come back. It
really was like a family reunion."
One of the reasons the second and third films moved ahead so quickly was that
the young cast was growing up, unlike their counterparts in the Diary of a Wimpy
Kid books. When the first movie went into production, Zachary Gordon, Robert
Capron and most of the other actors were going i
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