What if your best friend was a robot and could share photos and videos for you on social media as well as connect you with new friends? Well that is what 20th Century Studios’ newest film Ron’s Gone Wrong poses to answer, although not everything works out the way it’s supposed to! Let’s take a deeper dive into this film.

About Ron’s Gone Wrong

Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer) longs to fit in at Nonsuch Middle School and believes that the only way to do that is to obtain the coveted brand new B*Bot like the rest of the kids at his school. For his birthday Barney receives a B*Bot from his Father (Ed Helms) and Grandmother (Olivia Colman). Barney is ecstatic and cannot wait to take it to school to show everyone and start fitting in, but quickly discovers that his B*Bot is defective. He decides to take it back to the Bubble Store. On the way they run into a group of bullies and the B*Bot stands up for him. Barney decides he likes the B*Bot just the way it is and decides to teach it how to be a best friend instead. Barney decides to name him Ron (B*Bot Ron is voiced by Zach Galifianakis) as that is the first 3 letters of his serial number and from there they go on a fantastic journey of learning about each other, what it means to accept others for who they are and that friendship is not just a one way street.

Ron’s Gone Wrong Behind-the-Scenes

The Meaning Of Friendship

In the behind the scenes production notes the filmmakers talked a lot about their memories of childhood and compared notes about their kids, who all asked the same question:

What do I do when I don’t have anyone to talk to at recess?

What’s more, everyone personally knew kids who had been trolled online. It got the filmmakers thinking about every parent’s lament. “Like every parent, I experienced that awful moment when my kid came home saying, ‘I didn’t have anyone to play with today,’ says co-director/co-writer/executive producer Sarah Smith. “Your heart breaks. But now they face the pressures of social media too, making it even harder.”

Co-director Sarah Smith drew inspiration from the Spike Jonze film Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with an AI operating system. “I remember thinking, we need to make that film for kids because children are so immersed in the online experience and they have no filter,” she says. “They don’t get a sense that maybe that’s not a reliable voice, or that something else may be going on.” Her was definitely an interesting take on our society and the way we interact with social media and technology and I definitely believe they hit the nail on the head with Ron’s Gone Wrong as well. 

(L-R): Ron (voiced by Zack Galifianakis) and Barney (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer). © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Lighting and Design

Lighting played a big part in this movie, setting the tone of the whole story. The visual beauty and overall look of Ron’s Gone Wrong can, in part, be attributed to the extraordinary production design work of Aurélien Predal and Nathan Crowley. “Nathan was the production designer on many of Christopher Nolan’s films and does incredible, huge, high-tech things,” says Sarah Smith. “He helped us with a big picture overview early on to be super ambitious in designing the technology world of Bubble.”

RON’S GONE WRONG – (Center): Savanah (voiced by Kylie Cantrall). © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“Aurélien was someone whose work I had been following for a long time…he’s kind of a rock star and is well known for his sense of design,” says co-director JP Vine (story artist on Cars 3). “He initially came on as art director at the beginning of the project and then we brought in Nathan to provide us with an overview and help with the initial structuring of the movie. Working with a real live-action kind of process was some of the most fun I’ve had because we would take the script apart, page to page, and just fill a room with references, which is part of Nathan’s process. And he was really excited to get to work in animation and have the chance to look at these big, architectural ideas.”

Making a Movie during a Pandemic

The movie crew was only together for 18 months before they all had to go into lockdown because of Covid-19 safety protocols. Every facet of filmmaking was affected. Illustrators used remote dial-ins to the CG pipeline, where the film’s directors and producers then reviewed materials via Zoom. Editorial was run online with the help of tools like Clearview and Evercast. The digital team had VPN dial-in so shots could be shared, played back from the server and then discussed. Pix was used to screen early cuts of the film for Locksmith team members and the studio.

Locksmith’s studio is right in the middle of London, and pre-Covid the filmmakers would often socialize in the evenings after a long day at the office. “All of those elements were suddenly gone,” says Vine, “so, it became very intense and very focused, but kind of relentless.” To offset this when they could not get together in person each Friday, the Ron’s Gone Wrong crew used Zoom for their weekly production status meeting. Line producer David Park (“Coco”) had the idea to inject some whimsy into the proceedings by creating “themed” meetings. Each week, everyone on the call dressed up according to that week’s theme: mimic your favorite BBC Broadcaster; insert yourself into your favorite album 6 cover (Sergeant Pepper, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence were particular favorites), LGBTQ Pride Week; fashions from a favorite decade, etc. “It kept us sane, to be honest!” says Vine. “Making any animated movie is a marathon and is very punishing on a crew so finding ways to inject some fun into this particularly daunting set of circumstances made all the difference.” 

RON’S GONE WRONG – (L-R): Ron (voiced by Zack Galifianakis) and Barney (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer). © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Ron’s Gone Wrong fun Easter Eggs

  • The beginning of the film parodies Apple’s big release presentations 
  • Be on the lookout for Captain Marvel B*Bot Skin as well as Marvel’s Black Panther and Iron Man  
  • Be on the lookout for Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers as Skins for B*Bot from Star Wars

Let us know if you find any other IP’s on the Bots! 

RON’S GONE WRONG – (Bottom row, center): Ron (voiced by Zack Galifianakis). © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
RON’S GONE WRONG – Ron (voiced by Zack Galifianakis). © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Ron’s Gone Wrong Review

Ron’s Gone Wrong is a heartwarming movie about a middle school-aged boy who feels out of place and the robot he befriends. It was funny and at times sad but has a very good message for adults as well as kids. Zach Galifianakis pours sweetness and innocence in his portrayal of B*Bot Ron. You could tell that Ron just wanted to soak up everything he could learn about his Registered Owner Barney. Barney was a very awkward and very relatable character for both kids and adults, because adults sometimes feel awkward meeting new friends. 

The friendship between Ron and Barney felt authentic from the moment Ron turned “on” and the two started learning from each other. Ron may not be in touch with his original programming, but he intuitively knows what Barney needs. For example, at bedtime Barney wants to keep the light on while they sleep, and he does not outright say “I’m afraid of the dark.” But when the light shorts out, Ron did the sweetest thing and turned on his torso light so Barney could sleep. What a perfect way to showcase how Ron was learning things about Barney without being told.

Ron’s Gone Wrong is a social commentary on how we live our lives today and how we interact with our friends and family. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated our interpersonal relationships from being in-person to more online and social media. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, there are negative aspects. 

This film is filled with messages that make great talking points for kids and adults. Be who you are and accept others for who they are. Your best friend doesn’t have to look like you or act like you, and you can still be close because that’s how we learn about other people. 

“Friendship is a two way street.”

-Ron’s Gone Wrong

This quote from Jack Dylan Grazer (voice of Barney) sums up the movie and the idea of friendship, “There is more than an algorithm in a friendship…it should never be an orchestrated thing,” he says. “It should always be something that comes naturally where you find yourself taking different journeys that somehow merge with one another. It should be the most natural interaction you can have with a person, but there should be a strong bond of trust and confidence and reliability, and love too. If you do not love your best friend, ditch ‘em!”

Ron’s Gone Wrong opens in U.S. theaters on October 22, 2021. Will you see it in the theater? What did you think? Please let us know on Facebook or Instagram, and join our Facebook Group for family friendly camaraderie.

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