An Interview with the Screenwriters of Hit Animated Film Home


HOMEHome, the new animated alien adventure movie by Dreamworks, has just landed in theatres and I took my son for the amazing ride. Directed by Tim Johnson and starring the voices of Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez, Home is the story of an alien called “Oh” who is here on Earth on the run from his own species, called the Boov. Oh joins forces with a young girl “Tip” who’s been separated from her mother and together they go on an epic adventure to save the planet, learn the meaning of friendship, and reunite Tip and her mother.

Beautifully animated, with wonderful voice performances by Jim Parsons and Rhianna, the movie is a classic buddy movie with two characters  from (literally) different worlds who have to work together to survive.  The Boov, as a species, don’t value friendship or other basic human characteristics and Tip’s intrepid spirit is a draw for the unusual alien Oh and the friendship forged is amusing and completely winning for the small set.

My son Joey, a seasoned critic at age nine, gave Home five out of five stars and was extremely excited when I told him I was going to talk to the writers. Tom Astle and Matt Ember wrote the script based on the novel titled “The True Meaning of Smekday” by Adam Rex. In 2007, director Tim Johnson read the book by Rex to his young boys and loved it. He got Dreamworks to option it and then Matt and Tom, whose credits include Get Smart, Failure to Launch and Epic, came aboard shortly thereafter.

HOME caton headThe Family Savvy (TFS): How much did you depart from the original book?

Matt: It was a relatively unknown book, but it did have fans and a small following. We focused on two big changes. The book all took place in the US we made it the whole world. – global. Secondly, Tim really wanted to make the story at least half from Oh’s point of view. We see a lot of alien movies where they are the enemy, but we rarely see it from the alien point of view.

TFS: You’re both parents – how did that play a role in conceiving the movie?

Matt: We’re both fans of the old Warner Brothers cartoons and they were great because they gave something for parents to laugh at and something for kids too. We’re writing for kids but we don’t want parents to blow their brains out either.

Home TFS: I know you’ve done live action movies. How is writing for animation different?

Tom: One thing that is cool about an animated movie is how much thought goes into the look of the movie. We’re used to focusing on character and story. Very early on a conceptual artist, Takao Noguchi, a character designer, proposed a geometry for the movie. What he proposed was the human world is essentially rectangles, the Boov (aliens) are essentially circles, bubbles, round ship and the Gork (the enemy) are triangles. These conceptual shapes and influences were very eye opening to us.

TFS: Critics have really responded to the casting and performances of Jim Parsons and Rhianna. Any inside scoop on that?

Matt: Tim wanted Jim Parsons early on. When we created Tip we all wanted an Afro Caribbean American so that an immigrant tale was part of her back story, like Oh’s. Rhianna’s name came up because she’s from Barbados, but we didn’t know if she even had any interest in this kind of thing… All of a sudden she’s in.

Tom: When actors come in to do animation they are frequently alone.  But during shooting, the producers were able to schedule Rhianna and Jim on similar days, and they got along really well. In real life, they are from two different worlds in the entertainment industry and since the characters they were playing are from two different worlds, it provided a nice synergy for the film.


TFS: Anything else?

Tom: I grew up memorizing Steve Martin’s comedy albums and so getting to work with Steve… that was a bucket list thing. (Steve Martin plays the wildly incompetent leader of the Boov)

At this point in the interview my son found us.

Joey: Did you guys write Home?   It was really good. I liked how the aliens turned colors. Like when Oh lied he turned green.

Tom: Now there’s a parent’s fantasy! Kids turning green when they lie.

Home has already grossed over 52 million and is appropriate for kids of all ages — Common Sense Media rates it appropriate for kids 6 and over.

Article written by Cary Bickley