I recently spoke with Todd Tucker, writer/director of “Monster Mutt,” a kid-friendly movie about a family dog who is kidnapped to be used as a test subject for a new super-energy drink. The dog escapes, but the drink turns him into a giant dog, and craziness ensues.
Monster Mutt was released Jan. 15 through Direct TV, VUDU and iTunes.
The film was previously released as an independent film to a limited market in 2010 and was available exclusively through Walmart, then through Walmart, Target and Amazon online. It was then released to six major territories worldwide.
The movie won the International Family Film Festival’s Best Feature Film Comedy Award in 2011.
Tucker wrote the story, then worked with script writer Timothy Dolan to develop the screenplay. He also directed the film and did the special effects.
The Monster Mutt is more like a fantasy puppet character, not CGI, which was the reason Tucker delayed a wider release.
“I knew that the muppet movie was going to be coming out relatively soon, so I kind of held off in a couple territories because I wanted the muppet movie to come out and kind of re-introduce that kind of a look again,” Tucker said. “Once it did, that’s when I got my domestic deal and everything kind of started taking off again.”
He said they did do a tiny bit of CGI for some of the more-complex facial expressions.
The film is targeted for 5- to 10-year-olds, and Tucker said it’s not scary at all and has a happy ending. It received 4 out of 5 Doves from the Dove Foundation. The foundation, www.dove.org, rates films according to their family-friendliness.
“It’s for kids who still believe in Santa Claus and parents who like movies that have heart,” Tucker said. “A kid who is playing video games where they’re shooting up zombies and blowing them to pieces will not be interested in watching a cute, lovable puppet dog run around, unless they could shoot it. But that’s not what I was going for.”
“I did all the things they tell you not to do. I made a movie using kids, dogs and other animals,” Tucker said. “But the kids were really talented and professional. One of the lead kids is Billy Unger, who is now the lead on Disney Channel’s ‘Lab Rats.’ And my other lead is Rhiannon Leigh Wryn, who is the lead in ‘The Last Mimzy.’”
At one point in the movie, the real dog was supposed to lick the giant puppet dog on the nose. “We put this kind of tacky syrup that the dog liked on the nose of the puppet, and it worked,” Tucker said. The dog licked the nose, stared at the puppet dog for a minute, then laid his head on it.”
Monster Mutt was filmed in Tucker’s home in Valencia and the surrounding neighborhood. He said his neighbors were supportive of the filming.
“One night at 3 a.m., we had a fire engine, a cop car and the Monster Mutt crashing through trash cans, and about 50 of my neighbors were watching, some sitting on lawn chairs,” Tucker said. “When we finished shooting, everyone applauded.”
The movie includes a soundtrack, and there’s a music video on YouTube.
Tucker said he’s uncertain whether there will be a sequel, although the movie is set up to allow for one and there’s already a plot line for it.
Todd Tucker’s background is in special effects makeup but he has also written and directed. His company, Illusion Industries, has done puppets, costumes and special effects makeup, and has some knowledge of CGI.
Tucker is president of Illusion Industries (illusionindustries.com), and Ron Halvas is CEO.
Tucker has worked on such films as “Dracula,” “Hook” and “Smurfs,” and recently worked on “Smurfs 2,” which will be released in the summer, and “GI Joe 2,” which is expected to be released in the spring.
In the Smurfs movies, Illusion Industries did the special effects makeup for Hank Azaria, who plays Gargamel.
“Smurfs 3” is in preproduction, and Tucker said he’s also working on two other films, which are being scripted and will be out for funding in March: one a dark fantasy and the other an action/horror film.
When I spoke with Tucker on Jan. 16, he was preparing to leave for Sundance Film Festival to support “The East,” a film for which his company did the special effects makeup.