Ron's Gone Wrong arrives in theaters this weekend, bringing a stacked roster of voice talent (including Jack Dylan Grazer, Zach Galifianakis, and Olivia Colman) to characters in a story making a commentary about the real world's use of social media. As the kids of Ron's Gone Wrong maneuver through the world, their best friend is a B*Bot, a friendly robot not unlike an iPhone on wheels. When Ron gets a defective B*Bot, he is forced to find himself and his friends in new ways which are more like the old ways of adventure and true social interaction without a screen as a conduit. For Ron's Gone Wrong writers Sarah Smith and Peter Baynhem, the inspirations for the new animated film come from real life experiences with the pros and cons of social media.
"We're talking to ourselves as anxious parents right there going like, 'You're on your screen too much time,' you know?" Smith tells ComicBook.com. "But hang on a minute because they are making friends, as well? So honestly, it really literally is that, wanting to make a movie for your own kid, for each other's kids, kids we know, parents we know that are struggling with this whole new world, this digital playground that our kids are playing in and we don't really understand what the rules should be. It seemed like a super important thing and it touches on the most important thing that kids are dealing with, which is the life of friendship."
As many people who work publicly will experience, there is always going to be a negative remark from someone whose face will never be revealed. Smith had an account of just that. "I once had an anonymous thing said on a social media, like once, I don't know, 15 years ago, and it was really horrible to have that experience," Smith recalled. "And it's amazing how that one thing by somebody you have no idea who they are, have they even ever met you, can really affect your feeling. It's a bit like reviews, right? How many great ones there are, one person says a thing and you're wondering who is anonymous? And we wanted to put that in this movie, actually, because it's such a powerful thing, the idea that there are people out there posting comments about each other. It's a difficult thing to deal with, I think."
Baynham, meanwhile, is not an avid social media user as he actively limits his time on such apps. As Baynham sees how social media can consume more time in one's day than might be healthy, that outcome is often reflected in the kids of Ron's Gone Wrong. "See, it's funny. I mean, my thing is more just that I have to literally take Twitter off my phone," Baynham said. "I've had to take it off my phone, then I put it back on, and then I've had to teach my phone to forget the password so I can't just blindly go into Twitter and get... And because I'm telling my daughter like, 'Get off,' she's into this thing called Laura Limpus, and she just scrolls these comics... Just like for hours. And I get off there and think, 'Well, you get off Twitter.' It's just this thing where you go, 'We've got to try and figure this out somehow.'"
In Ron's Gone Wrong, their experiences and fun, animated take on the pros and cons of social media and the technology behind it is delivered in a not-so-subtle metaphorical manner. The lighthearted film is a coming of age story, in many ways, for Grazer's Barney who spends his time with a funny, defective B*Bot voiced by Galifianakis. Ron's Gone Wrong is now playing in theaters.