Why RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN Director Makes Family-Focused Movies
By Movieguide® Contributor
RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN director Kirk DeMicco recently sat down with Movieguide® to talk about why he makes family-focused movies and why he thinks animation lends itself to multi-generational storytelling.
“For me, it’s always, you know, where’s the juicy center and that’s usually around the family relationship,” DeMicco told Movieguide® when asked how he picks his projects. “Usually in animation, you’re lucky if you get one female character, because you usually have the moms, right. But we had multiple generations there as well, so this was an opportunity to really focus the story and tell a story of Ruby Gillman.”
According to the Movieguide® review:
RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN is an animated fantasy. Ruby has always felt funny living in the human world. Ruby has gills that she must hide from humans. When Ruby jumps into the water to save another life, she turns into a huge sea creature. Ruby didn’t realize this would happen because her mother never told her. When her uncle appears, she follows him underwater to find out more. Turns out Ruby is a princess kraken, and krakens and mermaids have been fighting for years. Ruby meets a mermaid friend. They decide to change the course of the war, but can Ruby trust her friend?
RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN is fun overall, but the plot is lackluster until halfway through the movie. Ruby is a typical, relatable teenager who feels out of place. However, when she becomes a kraken, viewers may not feel as connected to her. RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN has a positive moral worldview stressing motherhood and restoring family, but there is some teenage rebellion and two references to a girl asking another girl to the prom. MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older children.
One of the strengths of the upcoming movie is that it highlights the struggles of Ruby’s mother, Agatha, alongside Ruby’s struggles. It tackles the difficult decision in parenthood of explaining a topic to your kids that is awkward or painful and never has a convenient time to be addressed.
“[Agatha] had her heart in the right place, and in every frame of the film, she’s just trying to protect her daughter from a life that could be dangerous. But she also was protecting her from a secret that she was holding from her,” DeMicco said. “There’s no time as a parent, that anyone calls you up and tells you, this is the opportunity; tell your son or daughter right now this part of you nobody knows.”
“I feel like that was the weight that Agatha was living under. And she feels the remorse of that, like, ‘How did I wait so long? Why did I wait so long?’” He continued. “You can’t beat yourself up because there’s no perfect time. But when there is time, the way through is communication and being open.”
That open communication can not only lead to a breakthrough for the child but for the parent as well. In the movie, Agatha and Ruby’s grandmother have a rift between them and haven’t spoken to each other for years. Talking with Ruby is what mends their relationship and allows them to move forward as a family.
Messages like this are what makes animation so appealing to all generations. While animated movies are oftentimes geared towards kids, animators, DeMicco included, fit in storylines that appeal to all ages so that everyone gets something out of the movie.
“I love the discovery of going to a movie theater and seeing original stories and meeting new characters that we haven’t met before. It’s like meeting new friends,” he said.
“One thing animation does still, I think, more than ever is give that opportunity for, you know, a grandmother who’s taking their granddaughter or grandson to a movie theater to have that conversation after [about] what they liked, what they didn’t like, what mattered. It still has a great power and great magic to it,” he continued.
Audiences can catch RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN in theaters starting June 30th.
Movieguide® previously reported on DeMicco’s work in animation:
“It was something that was really a treat right from the get go,” Demicco said of VIVO’s animation. “When I first heard the songs that Lin was working on in the story, setting it in Cuba through Florida, it was a world that, in CG, we haven’t seen and it was a place that I thought, bringing that Caribbean palette to the animation would be really fun and beautiful.”
Demicco added that VIVO is also about leaning into the “curve,” and trusting that there are new friendships to be made even if you feel lonely.
“These things take so long to make and from when we started to when we finished, going through the COVID pandemic and stuff, Lin wrote “Keep the Beat,” which is the midpoint song about leaning into the curve and that was something we all had to do at the time,” Demicco said. “However, as isolated you may feel, a window will open to new friendships and new openings and new loves. VIVO took on new meaning as we progressed through making the film.”
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