DC League of Super-Pets Director Jared Stern Talks Assembling the Roster, Working With The Rock

The upcoming DC League of Super-Pets borrows from the stories of Krypto the Superdog and Ace the Bat-Hound from the comics, but the film also came out of some real-world inspiration. Director Jared Stern recently sat down with ComicBook, where he gave insight on where his inspiration for an animal assembly of superheroes first came about. 

"My wife volunteers at a local pet shelter, and I went one time because I am not a good human being. And while I was there, I noticed that the front room had these adorable little kittens, it's a miracle when any pet is adopted, but I had a feeling like those kittens have a good shot," Stern said. "And then in the back room, there were these older pets and some with various problems and it felt like they didn't have as good of a shot at getting adopted. And in fact, they lived there, they were the lifers. And it was sweet, it was great that the shelter took care of them, but I don't know why I had this thought, 'What if these pets got superpowers?' Maybe because they were feeling so powerless to me, 'What if they had powers?'"

This spark paired perfectly with Stern's existing partnership at Warner Bros. From there, DC League of Super-Pets was born.

"I was working already at Warner Bros. and with DC, and I knew of the Super-Pets. I smushed those two ideas together. That's the origin story of this perhaps origin story of our Super-Pets in our movie," Stern continued. "And so from there, I knew that I wanted a bunch of pets in a Metropolis animal shelter and it made sense for there to be a dog, obviously, like Ace, and perhaps there could be a squirrel like Chip and a turtle like Merton. And so it just fit with pets that you could find in a Metropolis shelter as I was digging. I wish we could have used all of the great pets in the DC canon, there's a lot."

He continued, "We love the original Legion of Super-Pets like Comet and Beppo, but they're Superman-centric. We wanted to get into potential pets for the whole Justice League. Our origin story delves into rescue pets who need a home so we leaned into DC animals who'd make sense at a Metropolis shelter, and just maybe match up with our Justice League."

(Photo: Kevin Scanlon)

This animated animal adventure marks a return to the world of comic book movies for a bulk of its cast. John Krasinski, who voices Superman, is coming fresh off his appearance as Reed Richards in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, while others like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jameela Jamil, who voice Krypto and Wonder Woman respectively, are suiting up in live-action hero projects later this year. The superhero familiarity extends to behind the camera, as Stern himself has experience in the DC realm. Stern previously worked on The LEGO Batman Movie, a 2017 spinoff of the critically acclaimed The LEGO Movie, which was just the latest in a career that has been all over animation.

"I've been very lucky for the beginning of my career. I've worked in animation for some amazing people, and I've just stolen as much as I possibly can," the filmmaker joked. "I started out at Disney Feature Animation and I worked with [John] Musker and [Ron] Clements, who did Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid and Moana recently. I was there for like five years and just soaking in as much as I could. And then from there, I went and worked with [Phil] Lord and [Christopher] Miller and all the other amazing people who worked on the LEGO movies for like five years. So I've been really fortunate to just have really good teachers."

Stern's time with the LEGO franchise taught him valuable skills that he has utilized in all of his subsequent projects.

"I think probably the most important thing I've learned, particularly on the LEGO movies, was to never settle, ever," Stern said. "And until they pry the movie from your cold, dead hands, we're just always trying to push ourselves to make it better, to never accept that something is okay or good enough, as original as possible, as funny as possible, as emotional as possible."

While Stern had comic book movie experience going into this, his vocal lead was making his debut in the genre across two different films simultaneously. The aforementioned Dwayne Johnson shot Black Adam at the same time as the Super-Pets production schedule.

"He would just go back and forth in between takes, he'd do one take of that and he'd come do ours," Stern said. "It was great. I mean, he obviously is a fan and is super invested in anything he does, he doesn't just do it like on a whim, he really puts his everything into it. So if there was anyone who could do two superhero movies at the same time, it's definitely Dwayne. I think when I first worked with him, when I started, I was really intimidated because he's the Rock and he's a big dude and he is a huge movie star, but he couldn't have set me at ease any more and is just such a thoughtful, gentle person underneath it, and smart and just always pushing to make the movie better in addition to how obviously talented he is."

Super-Pets goes beyond the surface with its presentation as well, as Stern teased that there's plenty of nuggets for eagle-eyed fans of DC lore to find.

"There's fun things on the shelves in Superman's apartment to look for I would say, the way you might keep like a bottle on your shelf or the artwork," Stern revealed. "There's fun things in his apartment to look for. And there's definitely fun things in that city scene that you were talking about from the trailer. There's a lot of billboards, all the restaurants either come from the comics or there are little winking things. There's some fun things like from comic book canon, and then just references to the wonderful people that we love and are fans of."

DC League of Super-Pets arrives in theaters Friday, July 29th. Watch Stern's full interview above!