CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG Interviews and it Opens in Theaters and on Paramount+ November 10!
Thank you Darby Camp, Jack Whitehall, Filmmakers Jordan Kerner & Walt Becker for joining us at the CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG virtual junket! CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG IN THEATRES AND ON PARAMOUNT+ NOVEMBER 10, 2021.
Middle school is never easy, but Emily Elizabeth Howard (Darby Camp) has it rougher than most. Not only is she the new girl at the elite private school she attends on a scholarship, but she’s also been nicknamed “Food Stamp” by the mean girls who bully her at every opportunity. Still, she manages to ignore their insults—for the most part— and keep up a positive attitude living with her busy single mom (Sienna Guillory) in their quaint Harlem apartment. But when her mom is called away to Chicago on business, she’s left in the care of her well-meaning but wildly irresponsible uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall). An unemployed graphic artist, Casey always seems to find a way to get them into trouble of some sort or another.
Sure enough, one morning, as Casey is walking Emily Elizabeth to school, the pair spies a colorful carnival-style tent set up in the park offering animals for adoption. Although Casey warns his niece that they absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, bring home a pet, he does agree to let her go and see the animals. The menagerie that greets them is astonishing in its variety. There are rabbits, guinea pigs, cats, mice, a boa constrictor, a tank of fish, even a sloth. It’s immediately clear that this unusual emporium, one that is far larger than it appears from the outside, is a long way far from ordinary.
The appearance of proprietor Mr. Bridwell (John Cleese) only reinforces that notion. A quirky yet terribly polite man, he seems to have just the animal Emily Elizabeth needs, even if she doesn’t yet realize that there’s a tiny puppy-size absence in her life. He brings her into the back room where a little red puppy emerges, and the two instantly fall in love. She asks Mr. Bridwell how big he’s likely to grow—and the old man answers with a twinkle in his eye, “It depends on how much you love him.” Knowing that her mom would not approve, Casey insists they leave the puppy and go on their way.
Still, the tiny dog somehow finds his way into Emily Elizabeth’s backpack. She discovers the stowaway after a particularly difficult day at school, and her uncle allows her to keep her pet just for one night—then he’ll have to go back to Bridwell. Emily Elizabeth names him Clifford, and as she cradles him in her arms, she wishes they both might be big and strong so the world wouldn’t be able to hurt them.
When she wakes the next day, her wish has come true. Her new furry companion has grown—significantly—and now stands 10-feet-tall. That sets the stage for unimaginable escapades as Emily Elizabeth and Casey try to care for the colossal canine. They must keep him hidden away from the apartment building’s superintendent, who does not allow his tenants to own pets, and the conniving CEO of biotech company LyfeGrow, which is out to find the secret to making and producing animals that are larger than nature intended.
It’s no easy feat as even in New York City, an enormous red dog can really attract some serious attention. Clifford the Big Red Dog has been attracting the attention of readers and winning the affection of children and families around the world ever since Scholastic published the very first story featuring the character back in 1963. Before his death in 2014, Clifford author and cartoonist Norman Bridwell either wrote or originated the concepts for 60 books (he named Emily Elizabeth after his own daughter).
Scholastic has published approximately 500 different versions of Clifford books over the past 58 years. Readers in China, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, India and the United States all share an abiding love for Clifford.
“Clifford represents the child in all of us,” says producer Iole Lucchese, who also serves as Chair of the Board, Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer and President, Scholastic Entertainment. “He’s the friend that you hope to find who’s loyal and kind and will always be there for you. Kids like him because he is trying his best to figure out the world and be a good friend and solve problems but also have some fun. He’s very childlike, a little bit extra big and can provide some help if you need it.”
That built-in good will was just one of the reasons why Lucchese partnered with veteran Hollywood producer Jordan Kerner—whose numerous credits include such hit family movies as The Mighty Ducks franchise, George of the Jungle, Charlotte’s Web and The Smurfs franchise—to produce CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG, the all-new feature film starring the beloved hound.
Understanding the broad, timeless appeal of Bridwell’s creation, Kerner had been interested in making a Clifford movie for the better part of two decades. “It is a property that has been in so many people’s hearts,” Kerner says. “Now, a generation of people who fell in love with these characters, reading them or seeing them as cartoons when they were young, really want to share them with their own children. And children find it on their own because it’s such a wonderful series of books.”
To adapt Bridwell’s stories for the screen, Kerner turned to screenwriters Jay Scherick and David Ronn, with whom he’d worked on both The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2, along with Blaise Hemingway (Playmobil: The Movie). “The heart of the movie is the relationship between Emily and Clifford—that’s what everyone remembers from the books,” says Ronn. “That’s what you want to dig into in the movie, the sweetness that exists between them and the unconditional love that you get from an animal, particularly this animal that’s so unique. Hopefully, that relationship is what’s going to pop off the screen for people.”
The bond between Emily Elizabeth and Clifford was something that director Walt Becker absolutely wanted to ensure remained front and center throughout the film. Becker, whose previous credits include Wild Hogs, Old Dogs and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, felt that the close rapport that develops between the little girl and her not-so-little pet had the same sort of magic as the most vaunted family films.
“From the very get-go, I always saw this story as similar to E.T. the Extra- Terrestrial,” Becker says. “You have a lead character going through issues who feels alone in the world, and this young protagonist befriends a magical creature that also feels alone. There are a lot of parallels between that movie and this movie. It shares the Amblin-esque quality that made that film so special.”
And much like Steven Spielberg’s family classic, CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG was written, directed and produced to appeal to audiences of all ages. “The love that humans have for their pets and vice versa transcends age,” Becker says. “What we really set out to do is make a movie that feels like it was being made for adults that kids would enjoy. It’s a four-quadrant adventure movie, and not necessarily what you might expect from the Clifford property.”
With its infinitely relatable middle-school struggles, authentic New York City setting and diverse cast of memorable characters, the film feels real and relevant to modern audiences yet it also retains all the qualities that have made Norman Bridwell’s Clifford books so universally beloved throughout the decades.
“What we wanted to keep from the books is the sense that Clifford represents unconditional love,” Becker says. “If you read those books, he is a character that just loves Emily and loves others. Even though he can somehow get in the wrong situations, he’s always doing it out of a place of love. We just wanted to update it and make it feel new, so we tried to keep a layer of reality throughout the whole thing that would allow audiences to enjoy a fresh take on a property they grew up with.”
When middle-schooler Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) meets a magical animal rescuer (John Cleese) who gifts her a little red puppy, she never anticipates waking up to find a giant ten-foot hound in her small New York City apartment. While her single mom Maggie (Sienna Guillory) is away for business, Emily Elizabeth and her fun but impulsive uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall) set out on an adventure that will keep you on the edge-of-your-seat as our heroes take a bite out of the Big Apple. Based on the beloved Scholastic book character created by author Norman Bridwell, CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG will teach the world how to love big!
CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG features an all-star cast led by Darby Camp as Emily Elizabeth. The ensemble also includes Jack Whitehall, Academy Award®- nominee John Cleese, Sienna Guillory, Tony Hale, Izaac Wang, Horatio Sanz, Paul Rodriguez, Keith Ewell, Bear Allen Blaine, Tovah Feldshuh, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alex Moffat and Russell Wong. Walt Becker (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, Old Dogs, Wild Hogs) directs from a script by Jay Scherick, David Ronn and Blaise Hemingway. Jordan Kerner and Iole Lucchese are producers.
CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG opens in theaters and on Paramount+ November 10.