Interview by Cole Groth
Matt Stawski is an up-and-coming director who directed some of the biggest music videos of the early 2010s, including "Hey, Soul Sister," by Train, "When Can I See You Again," by Owl City, and "[Forget] You," by CeeLo Green. Blue's Big City Adventure is his second feature, and perhaps his biggest project yet.
We at disappointment media got the opportunity to speak with Stawski about what it's like to direct a live-action/animated hybrid film. You can check out Blue’s Big City Adventure on Paramount+ starting November 18th.
disappointment: I was doing a little perusing through IMDb, and I know that you've directed some very influential music videos. How did your experience with music videos prepare you for this film?
Matt Stawski: From doing music videos for years, I learned how to shoot a performance, get all the different angles, and the musicality of it all. If you look at CeeLo Green's "[Forget] You," it's obviously inspired by Motown. And I'm originally from Detroit and the oldies. It's all we listened to when we were young. So I'm always thinking of taking genres, whether it's swaying, jazz, or doo-wop, and researching the dance style. So for this film, we looked backward for choreography and then took it and put it into a contemporary space. So making music videos and working with choreographers got me ready for this. When the days on set were with Blue - when we were doing the musical numbers - it was like clockwork, and we hammered stuff out quickly. So that experience helped the preparation for that.
disappointment: Well, speaking of the production style, what's it like to work with the live-action/animation hybrid?
Stawski: I have experience doing a lot of green screen work, and I’ve worked on many projects with animation comped into live-action situations. However, this was the first time we had these motion-tracking balls on set; there's a blue one and a gray one, which is how they capture the lighting. And that gives all the actors their eye lines. So this was the first time we had multiple actors interacting with different eye lines on set at one point. You know, in the film's final scene, you'll see the director of the play, BD Wong’s character, with Josh, Steve, and Joe. In that scene, there’s a total of, like, 12 animated characters all around them. I'm glad we didn't do that scene first because that was a heck of a scene. But yeah, shooting with all the different eye levels was interesting because we had to make sure the heights were aligned and that everyone was interacting with the animated characters as best as possible.
disappointment: Earlier, you mentioned Steve, and one of the critical scenes of this film is when he opens his door and looks back at the audience. It’s such an important scene, and I want to know how you approached it.
Stawski: It was essential to have a big reveal, so we made the high contrast, noir Godfather aesthetic. When he opens the door and addresses the audience, Steve is talking more or less to the adults because they were young in the 90s growing up with him, so he's speaking at a different height since he's standing up. Eye level is fundamental in Blue's Clues. Steve, Donovan, and Josh never talk down to anyone, and he stands up when he opens the door. His mannerisms and phrasing are very much oriented to talking to the adults while Josh is still talking to the kids. So that was a fascinating contrast between Steve and Josh in a Blue's Clues movie in 2022.
Blue’s Big City Adventure releases exclusively on Paramount+ on November 18th.