‘Spies in Disguise’ Will Teach Your Kids Three Good Lessons

Animated films can be fun for the whole family, but since animation is often the first film or television young people see, it can be a great way to sneakily teach them some early lessons. Even G.I. Joe cartoons had morals at the end. That’s the hope of Spies in Disguise directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane.

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

Lance Sterling (voice of Will Smith) is the best spy in the business. When he’s in trouble, agency inventor Walter (voice of Tom Holland) helps him hide, by turning him into a pigeon. Together they have a series of funny, action-packed adventures with good messages for the young fans. Showbiz Cheat Sheet will have more with Quane and Bruno over the holidays. Spies in Disguise opens December 25.

‘Spies in Disguise’ is against rogue heroes

Most action heroes by definition are loners. Even James Bond has tenuous allies. When Lance and Walter team up in Spies in Disguise, Quane and Bruno wanted to show kids how much better it is to work together.

“We wanted to do something different,” Bruno said. “Because it’s a movie for kids, we felt there was a responsibility to say something about teamwork. So it’s not just about violence and explosions. It’s really about coming together to save the world.”

‘Spies in Disguise’ has fun showing better options to violence

Kids are going to get their fill of action and gunplay in Spies in Disguise. Lance Sterling has plenty of weapons and gadgets, and they work for him in the beginning, although the film keeps the violence PG and bloodless. When he meets Walter though, the inventor challenges the agent to think smarter, not tougher.

“We were very specific with how we approached violence in the movie,” Quane said. “It felt false to sort of pretend that there isn’t violence in the world. I think you turn on the news and you know that that’s not the case, but we were really specific in how we’re using it that we weren’t glorifying it. It was mainly at the hands of the bad guys and it was really you needed that to counterpoint Walter’s message.”

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

When Walter offers alternatives to shooting back at the bad guys, the action doesn’t slow down.

“[Walter is] saying, ‘There’s a better way. When we use violence to solve our issues, all we do is create more enemies. We draw a line that puts people on the other side of that. We have to reach across that line and bring people together,’” Quane continued. “I think because the messaging was on point, that we were really trying to say something with the movie, the action sits into that. It doesn’t feel arbitrary or gratuitous and it’s comedic.”

Bruno added, “We did in no way glorify violence because our message is against violence.”

Maybe it’s better to be a friend than to be James Bond

At the beginning of Spies in Disguise, Lance Sterling is pretty much like any James Bond or Austin Powers you’ve seen before. He’s a one man show and it works for him, so far.

“That came down to some tricky casting which is how we ended up with Will Smith. We wanted to create a spy that stood alongside all those other great movie spies but to that point, he’s a character who doesn’t work well with others, who’s very confident but is still very charismatic. There was a lot of balancing to having that happen. You needed someone like Will who could come in and really walk that line delicately to have this really engaging, we love to cheer for those characters but at the same time acknowledge that sometimes they have the wrong end of the stick in how they see the world.”

Tony Quane, Spies in Disguise roundtable, 12/4/19

Walter ultimately learns that two are better than one, and five are even better, even if three or four of them are pigeons.

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

“That’s where bringing in someone like Walter and having someone like Tom Holland who could play it with such sincerity to sort of not show Lance that he’s wrong but show Lance that there’s another way,” Quane continued. “There’s maybe a broader way of looking at the world and a broader way of interacting with the world. It felt like it was a very poignant part of the message, especially in this day and age to sort of be honest about.”