How Mark Ronson Made ‘Spies in Disguise’ Feel Like A Real James Bond Movie

Spies in Disguise is an animated James Bond movie for kids, with even more pigeons than Moonraker. Directors Nick Bruno and Tony Quane really wanted it to feel like a James Bond movie, so they used all the tropes. Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and Walter (Tom Holland) travel to international locations. They use gadgets to save the world. The movie even has an opening title song by Mark Ronson with a special animated sequence.

Spies in Disguise: Walter and Lance Sterling
Walter and Lance Sterling in Spies in Disguise | Blue Sky Studios/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The James Bond title songs are famous. Artists like Adele, Madonna and Duran Duran have performed them while animated girls and tuxedoed agents jump around in silhouette. The most famous James Bond singer was Shirley Bassey of Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker. Quane and Bruno shared how they gave Spies in Disguise the James Bond opening titles treatment.

Mark Ronson created a modern day James Bond song for ‘Spies in Disguise’

“Then There Were Two” is the title track that Mark Ronson and Anderson .Paak perform. It definitely sounds like it could go on the beginning of a Sean Connery movie, but with a modern twist that fits the 2019 animated style of Spies in Disguise. The animators also crafted a silhouette opening credits sequence that feels ike the classic James Bond movies, but new.

Spies in Disguise
Spies in Disguise | Blue Sky Studios/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“That’s why we chose somebody like Mark Ronson,” Bruno said. “Mark does a great job of taking some throwback vibes but giving it a contemporary spin so it really sounds full and contemporary.”

Quayne added, “Yeah, that big brass sound. It’s so cool.”

‘Spies in Disguise’ could be a whole movie of animated sequences

Since Spies in Disguise is an animated movie, it wasn’t only the title sequence that could be animated. The whole film could take a cue from the James Bond title sequences of the ‘60s. The opening titles with the Mark Ronson song are 2D but Quane and Bruno incorporated the style into the 3D film.

Tom Holland and Will Smith: Spies in Disguise
L-R: Walter (Tom Holland) and Lance Sterling (Will Smith) | Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“When we first started, we did our research and really enjoyed going back and watching all the spy films,” Bruno said. “One of the things that we really loved was all those title sequences. But because this movie is fully animated, we can do more of that. So we looked at some of the Saul Bass stuff and some of their angularity and their shape and their color language. And we just tried to find ways to get that DNA into every frame of the film.”

An homage vs. a throwback

Bruno and Quane love the classic spy movies, but they didn’t want to remake one. They wanted Spies in Disguise to be one for 2019. When Lance Sterling turns into a pigeon, there’s probably no mistaking it for an old spy movie.

Walter (Tom Holland) and Lance Sterling (Will Smith)
Walter (Tom Holland) and pigeon Lance Sterling (Will Smith) | Blue Sky Studios and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“But not necessarily make it feel like a vintage throwback,” Quane said. “We really wanted it to feel contemporary and current. So it was fun and what were the aesthetic design principles that we appreciated there but making it feel very current so it didn’t feel like it was a throwback.”