Like so many key aspects of Netflix’s heartfelt, fun animated comedy The Mitchells against the machinesMonchi, the dog in the title family, was inspired by events in the life of director Michael Rianda. When Rianda was in middle school, his older sister got a pug and named her monchichi, after the monkey-like toy from Japan that was popular in the 1980s. Since Monchichi is protected by copyright, the name had to be shortened for the film.
“Monchichi was like Monchi in the film,” says Rianda Polygon. “Pugs are wonderfully tragic creatures. Your eyes are going in the wrong direction. You can barely breathe. But they are so full of love and life and they try so hard with a little smile on their face. “
He remembers the heartache he had as a kid when Monchichi got lost thinking he would never see the pug again. She’d run out in the front yard and someone picked her up and drove her to Nevada. Fortunately, his family finally found out about Monchichi’s whereabouts and drove off to pick them up.
Reuniting with the cute, strange dog confirmed his love. “I picked it up and cried, ‘Oh my god, what would we do without you? ‘”He remembers. These early pet memories invaded The Mitchellswhat makes Monchi a center of action: The star of a series of homemade short films by the protagonist and point of view figure Katie and a symbol of how her contentious family works. He is also voiced by Celebrity Pet Doug the pug, in what Doug’s owner Claim is a first for animated film.
Rianda worked as a writer and creative director on the Disney series in animation Gravity fallsBut for his directorial debut, he wanted to create a more personal story, and part of that was creating meaningful dramatic arcs for all of the main characters, even Monchi.
“That sounds silly because it’s a pug. But we wanted every character to have integrity, including the dog, ”says Rianda. “And if they all somehow get over something, we wanted him to get over something in his little way.”
The film’s human family faces greater difficulties than Monchi: they struggle to rebuild their relationships and understand each other, while the obstacle for Monchi is to keep his eyes in the same direction. As the plot unfolds, Monchi eventually emerges as the Mitchell’s low-fi secret weapon, and his crooked vision and amorphous body become heroic traits.
Rianda recalls that at one point in the trial the story included a speech in which protagonist Katie pointed out all the broken things about Monchi and compared them to her family’s mistakes. While it was an undeniably fun idea, the team felt it wasn’t working emotionally, and it was cut back.
Still, Rianda believes that Monchi represents the way the family finds virtues in their shortcomings. “He’s a living embodiment of dysfunction, but he’s still got a good attitude and tries his best,” he says.
To recreate the original Monchichi for the screen, Rianda sent production and character designer Lindsey Olivares photos of his family’s beloved pug and various other photos of real pugs that were chubby, walleyed, or uniquely adorable. Guillermo Martinez, the head of the story, drew Monchi storyboards, which were an important inspiration for the character. Olivares also checked out the plethora of pug videos available online while he was designing Monchi.
“Video is the next best thing to draw from life and it helps me get ideas for the specific feeling I want to capture,” explains Olivares. “I love dogs, and pugs are especially funny, so I tried to capture the character’s weird humor and balance that with their bewitching appeal.”
Olivares tweaked the complexity of the pug face wrinkles and body lines to add to Monchi’s appeal. It also always kept its plump shape, which resembles a little pig, to make it optimally cute. Monchi’s fur was particularly difficult to animate.
“We have simplified the individual hair details so that his coat feels more vivid,” says Olivares. “But it still had to feel like fur, so we have areas where we have bolder clusters of fur to highlight highlighted areas, much like you would display fur on a drawing. Besides the style, it was also very important [for one of the film’s jokes] that Monchi’s coat color always felt like a loaf of bread! I watched its coloring closely to make sure it always looked like delicious bread. ”
Another character designer on the film, Alice Lemma, was responsible for Monchi’s funny costumes in Katie’s videos, including shooting him as a “little gentleman” and as a dog cop. Other iterations, like a noir lady Monchi and a dog president Monchi, failed in the final movie.
During production, the animators had fun with these traits because Monchi is so big and squishy. When Rianda visited the Vancouver studio where all of the 3D animation was designed (the 2D elements were made in Los Angeles), he tried to rent a pug so the animators could study it, but the plan didn’t work out .
“I saw Walt Disney bring in a baby elephant [for animator inspiration], but unlike Walt Disney, I don’t have that much money and couldn’t get a pug in a day, ”he recalls with a laugh.
Later, when it came time to give voices to the characters, Rianda made the dog sound for Monchi himself. But when the team saw the animation roles, they agreed that these noises sounded wrong. “We basically tried to cast all the supporting roles with people we really loved,” says Rianda. “We were trying to figure out what to do for the dog because people often hire a voice actor for the animals [in an animated film]But we tried to make the whole film as authentic as possible. I said, “Can we just get real dog sounds?”
On Instagram, the director came across Doug the Pug, one of the service’s most famous celebridogs with more than 3.9 million followers. He thought Doug would be perfect for speaking to Monchi. He emailed Doug’s owners, Leslie and Robert Mosier, explaining the meaning of the character. They were touched and agreed to work on the film with Rianda.
“He’s far more famous than me and he gave the film a cool authenticity because pugs have that very specific breathing and wheezing sound. And if you have a real dog that does that, it’s better than me, ”said Rianda.
Rianda still hasn’t had a chance to meet the dog star in person, but he says he looks forward to rubbing his stomach at some point. Because of the pandemic, Doug recorded his “lines” from home. Since Robert Mosier is a music producer in Nashville, Tennessee, the family has a small music studio in their basement with lots of equipment and microphones. To record Doug’s barking, snoring, snorting, and eating, the Mosiers created a small vocal booth the size of Doug.
All in all, Mosier believes the animated pug has a similar charisma to Doug. “The” Doug doesn’t really know how to bark on command, but he hates watching horses on TV, so we set up a laptop and put video on horses and he barked, “Leslie Mosier tells Polygon. Doug himself, who wore an elegant dark blue sweater and a rainbow-colored scarf, snorted along during the video call.
The best thing was to hear Monchi bark and then Doug would bark back. But Doug barked at himself, ”she says.
Doug went viral on Facebook about five years ago when Mosier’s mom started buying outfits for him and Mosier started uploading videos and photos of him. Now he’s a big name among animal fanatics, with merchandise and books to carry his image and two People’s Choice Awards for Favorite Animal Star of 2019 and 2020.
“Every day is really different and really fun, and Doug can live like the king he is,” says Mosier. Doug has a nutritionist and herbalist. Although he often poses in photos with pizza and other human snacks, his diet is much healthier. Blueberries and carrots are his favorite snacks.
Fashion is vital to the pooch, so a designer in London who makes bespoke pug harnesses does his fancy outfits for events. The latest piece is a tuxedo based on the little man’s suit Monchi wears in the film.
The Mosiers started last December The Doug the Pug Foundationthat helps children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Sony Pictures Animation partnered with the foundation and donated $ 10,000 to celebrate the release of the film. All of its success, Mosier believes, is based on people’s admiration for the chunky race.
“Pugs are human. They are extremely expressive and there is something about them that is just fun and happy no matter what. You can’t look at a pug or smile, ”she says. “The best part of The Mitchells against the machines sees Monchi bring so much light into the family and is always comedic relief. Pugs are the best. ”