Paramount's 'Blue's Big City Adventure' based on 'Blue's Clues' series – Detroit Free Press

Nov 20, 2022 by The Beat Maker - 0 Comments

Warren native Matt Stawski went from filming local rock bands to directing a major feature film based on a classic children’s TV series.
Stawski is the director behind Paramount Plus’s live-action animated film “Blue’s Big City Adventure,” released on the streaming service Friday. It’s based on the Nickelodeon series “Blue’s Clues & You!,” a revival of the 1990s show “Blue’s Clues,” featuring a courageous animated dog and its owner pursuing clues and solving problems. The film centers around the host of “Blue’s Clues & You!,” Josh, played by Joshua Dela Cruz, visiting New York for an audition. Tagging along is Blue and a few more familiar faces.
Original “Blue’s Clues” host Steve Burns appears in the film for a nostalgic touch.
This is Stawski’s first-ever feature film, which just so happens is also a musical. He has a thing for musicals.
Q: Tell us how you got into the business of filmmaking.
A: Oh, man, I actually went to Cousino High School in Warren, and they have a radio-TV station. My friends and I were able to borrow their gear all the time and we just started shooting local bands around Detroit.
From there, I kept doing music videos and started building a reel. While I was going to Columbia College for directing, I started booking jobs for companies out here in California, doing hip-hop videos and motion graphics. Before I knew it, right when I graduated, I moved out to LA and had a job doing music videos. Sixteen years of music videos, and that took me straight into features, where I am now.
Q: What’s been some of your best work or sets that you’ve been on? I hear you’ve done work for Train, CeeLo Green and worked on sets for Nickelodeon.
A: One of the more well-known videos that I’m really proud of is the CeeLo Green, “Forget You” video. That was really fun because he wrote a sort of Motown song. Obviously, my whole life, I’ve been inspired by Motown. We went down to Hitsville USA, and we just went to all the spots on West Grand and really soaked in the history of Motown. I was able to sort of tap into some of that Motown doo-wop style in that CeeLo video.
It’s been a balance of doing videos that I have to do to pay the bills and videos that I get to have creative freedom and make a really colorful, fun, exciting video.
Q: I got a chance to watch Blue’s Big City Adventure and it definitely took me back to my own childhood. What was that process like for you in terms of directing?
A: It was really fun. A lot of it was really new and a lot of it I had a lot of experience with. I have a lot of experience doing music videos and musicals. The musical element of it fell right in place, what was new for me was shooting in New York City out on the streets that was very new and incredible to see how that works. How you get film permits to shoot in some of these iconic locations, how you have to wait something out on the city street with pedestrians there, and how to do crowd control that was all new to me as well as shooting animated characters. That was a brand new learning experience for me as well, because on set with multiple animated characters in a scene with a live-action human, you have to make sure that you have all of the eyelines correct, you have to make sure that the live-action actors are interacting with the animated characters and holding their arms the right way and looking in the right directions.
You have to make sure you capture with digital technology how the lighting is so when you’re animating the characters in post-production, the lighting looks natural on the animated characters. There was a lot of learning for me for sure, but we pulled it off, and it was really fun. I had a great crew to work with that’s what helped me achieve the film.
Q: If you’ve been to New York before, you could easily say while watching the film: “That’s so New York-like.” For example, when Blue and Josh arrived in New York there were little scenes where we saw pizza boxes on top of the trash cans. How did you really capture the true New York?
A: Before filming this, I’ve been there just on vacation. I shot one video there years ago with CeeLo. I did a lot of research and I asked a lot of the locals. We really spent a lot of time making sure that those iconic locations that we featured in the film were locations that we could build a musical out of and really interact with the architecture and the geography of New York City.
We wanted to make sure that we captured some of the best locations and really did our research as to – where can we film in Central Park? What can we do around Bethesda Fountain? What fields can we shoot in for the big dance in the end? What are the best angles and even researched other films that shot in New York and how they shot some of the different locations and what lenses they used? What’s the most flattering way to make New York look because this is a kid’s movie? We wanted to make sure we presented a sort of candy-coated version of New York City, a very colorful representation of the city.
Q: It was definitely interesting to see the previous Blue’s Clues characters in the movie. Why was that a decision to include them?
A: Steve came around for a lot of the 25th anniversary promo stuff they were doing for Blue’s Clues. He really went viral, a year and a half ago when he came out and talked to the adults and told them why he left and that he was still their friend. It exploded, I think Nickelodeon really realized how important he was, as well as Donovan (Patton), who played Joe, how important they were to the younger generation and to the older generations, that grew up with Blue’s Clues.
It was a no-brainer, to bring them in and have them reprise their roles in such a funny, sort of family-friendly adult way.
Q: What do you want people to get most out of this film? Since it’s like multiple generations are watching it.
A: I think the most important thing to me that I realized when we were going into it was this idea of inspiring kids to take chances, to follow their dreams, to sort of leave their little comfort zone, leave their bubble of safety, to chase their dreams. I think that the film does a good job showing Josh and Blue in storybook land and when they leave to go to New York City, the city’s very scary. But all they have to do is sort of close their eyes and listen to the music of the city, and find their little bits of wisdom from their friends around them that give them advice along the way.
All the kids growing up on Blue’s Clues kind of have to realize that they might have to venture out of their comfort zone and go find their city or find their place where they want to live. And maybe if they want to stay in their own city that they grew up that’s great, but really embrace the culture and meet new people that you didn’t really grow up with, find people that make you learn new things. That’s really important and I want people to get that out of the film for sure.
Q: What did you get out of making this film? And also, is this the first big title that you’ve directed?
A: This is my first feature film. I’ve done some TV pilots in the past, and I’ve done some short films, but this is my first feature. I learned how important kids and family spaces are and how important it is to get the educational and inspirational aspects of the film right because little kids really look up to these characters. It’s really important, how you show them on screen and how you portray certain events. I really learned how to make a film in the kid space. That was probably my biggest learning experience because a lot of the music videos I’ve done have been more in the adult space. I was able to really play with that fantasy surrealist imagination, stuff that t kids are so great at. I was able to sort of become a kid again, making this movie.
Q: Looking a little bit into the future what other projects do you have in store – I hear that recently you sold your musical horror films, to Universal Pictures. What’s up with that?
A: We’re in development on the Monster Mash right now with Universal and we’re working on just getting the script in a good place so we can shoot it. I’m really excited for that because obviously, I am obsessed with Halloween. I grew up in Michigan, going out to the cider mills, going to Blake’s. Going up to Tilson Street in Romeo and seeing all the houses decorated. My girlfriend and I like to come home every year for Theatre Bizarre at the Masonic Temple. Detroit just goes off for Halloween. It’s one of the Halloween capitals of the country.
More:Detroit’s Theatre Bizarre fills 8 floors, 350K square feet of Masonic Temple
There’s a lot in the Monster Mash film, there’s a lot of good Easter eggs that really tie into Detroit and a lot of our Halloween culture. I’m really excited to film that, we’re still in the script phase, and we’re still in development. It might be a minute before we shoot that. But other than that, I’m trying to develop more musical concepts. At some point in my life, I would absolutely love to come back and make a true Motown musical.
Q: I have to ask, are musicals like your thing?
A: I’ve tried to watch almost every musical that’s ever existed. I’m not as big on actually going to the theater, it’s something I never really did. Just because it was always really pricey, so I always watch musical films. I love the fact that with musicals, you can break so many rules, one genre film where you can go full fantasy, and the audience accepts it and that’s a really fun space to play with. I absolutely adore musicals and I would love to make many, many more.
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Q: Before I let you go, can you give your best advice to aspiring filmmakers?
A: Number one, is to create what you know. Don’t try to make a movie or take a job in an area that you’re not passionate about. If you grew up with a certain type of music if your grandma and grandpa played a certain type of music, and you’re obsessed with that music, make a movie about that music.
If you grew up in a neighborhood that has something very specific to it, make a movie about that neighborhood. If you had a best friend, that was a character, if you could remember anything they said in their whole life and all the advice that they gave you, make a movie about that friend. Whatever interests you, whether it’s historical, whether it’s pop culture, make a movie about that because when you go and pitch a movie to Hollywood, you have to be the person in the room that knows the most about that topic.
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Q: One more thing when and where can the audience see Blue’s Big City Adventure?
A: Blue’s Big City Adventure comes out on Paramount Plus on Nov. 18. You can get a free trial if you don’t already have it. I would advise everyone to make sure their volume is cranked up to 11, and watch it on the biggest screen possible. Because it’s a big fun movie, the kids are going to hopefully get up and dance and sing along to it.


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