One year after the release of the first film, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is here to entertain families. Launching on Disney+ on Friday, December 2nd, I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with author Jeff Kinney, who adapted his original books into this new series of animated films. From the true story that inspired this brotherly adventure to dabbling in songwriting, find out what I learned during our interview. And if you’d rather watch it, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post.
Alex: Diary of a Wimpy Kid in general is semi-autobiographical. What's the real story that inspired Rodrick Rules?
Jeff Kinney: When I was growing up, my brother played in a band in the basement, and the talent show was always the center of their year. So I was a kid who was kind of looking from the outside in, and seeing what it was like to prepare for that, and then to see their big performance. So I was really trying to draw on those memories.
And then, of course, everything goes through the fiction blender.
Alex: The late Ed Asner joins the cast as Greg and Rodrick’s grandfather. What was it like to have him be involved?
Jeff Kinney: It was really amazing and humbling. I didn't think he'd want to be a part of our little production. But it's really cool, the kind of talent you can get for something like this. And it was a real privilege to sit in on those recording sessions. And sometimes I'd give a note, and then Ed Asner would change his delivery a little bit based on my note. Which was really cool, and it felt very exciting to me as an author.
Alex: In the book, you write that Rodrick and his band create songs, but here a song actually had to be created. Can you talk a little bit about the origins of the original song in the film? Did you have a hand in writing it?
Jeff Kinney: Yeah, I wrote the words to “Can You Smell Us Now?” And then I hummed the way that I thought the song should sound to a producer. And it's amazing. He brought his talents to it, and all of a sudden we had a fully produced song. And that's just the magic of movie making, is that you can have an idea and then articulate it to somebody who knows what they're doing. And then it could come out as something really professional.
Alex: Did you find it challenging to adapt your own work, to make cuts or change things to fit a film narrative?
Jeff Kinney: In general, no. Because a movie is told in a very specific and structured sort of way. There's a formula that you have to adhere to. And that helps; it creates a template and the blanks you need to fill in. And so basically, anything that wasn't central to the main theme, which is this relationship between brothers, had to go. So it actually wasn't that hard, because we were just really focused on telling the best story about that theme.
Alex: This film's about to go out into the world. What's your hope that audiences take away from it?
Jeff Kinney: My hope is that audiences will accept it. I know there are people who grew up on the live-action movies, and I think there's a place for different types of storytelling, different styles of storytelling. And I'm hoping people will be amused, and that they'll enjoy it with their families.
Alex: Perfect. Thank you for your time and congratulations on the launch of the film.
Jeff Kinney: I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules premieres Friday, December 2nd, only on Disney+.