The filmmakers share how the sequel to ‘PAW Patrol: The Movie’ got its story from the franchise’s catchphrase, ‘No Job is Too Big, No Pup is Too Small,’ with the furry first responders finding out that even the smallest pup can make the biggest difference; film hits theaters September 29.
For the last decade, a group of animated rescue pups has taught children around the world to hold tight to the multi-dimensional philosophy, “No job is too big, no pup is too small!” PAW Patrol’s main tagline is unquestionably a good lesson to teach small kids, who at times may feel helpless in a big world. But when PAW Patrol: The Movie’s Cal Brunker and Bob Barlen questioned where the phrase could have originated for this group of furry first responders, that’s when they knew they had the ingredients for a great film sequel.
“We answer that question in this movie, and the genesis directly relates to Skye and her relationship with Ryder over the years,” says Brunker, who produced and directed that very sequel, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie. The second 3DCG film in the franchise, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie, releases in theaters Friday, September 29, from Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies, and Spin Master Entertainment.
Producer and screenwriter Barlen adds, “It’s something you've heard hundreds of times on the show, so it’s great to delve into that while expanding the PAW Patrol universe.”
This year, the award-winning preschool series celebrates its 10-year anniversary with 10 seasons (Season 11 was just greenlit) and two, soon to be three, movies under the franchises’ belt – the third movie was just announced, coming in 2026.
PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie starts with a magical meteor crash landing in Adventure City, giving the PAW Patrol pups superpowers and transforming them into The Mighty Pups! For Skye, the smallest member of the team, her new powers are a dream come true. But things take a turn for the worse when the pups' archrival Humdinger breaks out of jail and teams up with Victoria Vance, a meteor-obsessed mad scientist, to steal the superpowers and turn themselves into supervillains. With the fate of Adventure City hanging in the balance, The Mighty Pups must stop the supervillains before it's too late, and Skye will need to learn that even the smallest pup can make the biggest difference.
“It is a really rich emotional area, and it’s not sarcastic or ironic,” says Barlen. “We wear our hearts on our sleeves, and our characters do too. We take it very seriously. For a lot of kids, this is going to be their first movie, or the first movie in the theater, and it's such an honor to be making a movie that is going to lead some kid to a life of loving cinema.”
One of the biggest challenges, according to Barlen and Brunker, was attempting to “write the biggest movie we could possibly write” while juxtaposing all the epic, super-powered fight and rescue sequences with a very personal story.
“The level of complexity is a huge jump from the first movie and there's an expectation to have a lot of spectacle on screen,” notes Brunker. “There are sequences where we’ve got the pups’ jet flying through the sky while meteors are coming at them, and the pups are blasting lasers and flying through these explosions. We're always looking to push the limits and make these films as big of a theatrical experience as we can.”
And working with high-powered animated effects, with bigger sets, bigger action, at high speed added further complications.
“The world of 3D exists in a box,” explains Brunker, whose team collaborated with French visual effects and animation company Mikros Animation for the production. “But when you have a jet flying at full speed, the scale of things starts to get really big and suddenly the characters are disappearing out of the frame. So, we have to figure out tricks like adjusting the gravity so we can see the explosion longer. We've also got crazy scale changes. One of the villains in the movie turns into a giant and is running down the street and the road is exploding with every step. There are effects everywhere in this.”
Roughly 60 people in total made up The Mighty Movie’s effects department, all working to make sure each explosion and blast looked phenomenal without giving audiences action fatigue, and without taking too much attention away from the subject of the film: Skye.
“These action set pieces are there to either be a stumbling block for a character to get over or to reveal something about them,” says Brunker. “And I think you can engage the audience more, and not risk them tuning out, if they feel they're part of that character arc.”
The Mighty Movie also joins a long list of superhero cinema titles, from Marvel to DC, and the creatives, fans of the superhero classics themselves, are aware that while their core audience is young children, there will also be older siblings and parents in attendance. And it won’t be their first rodeo with meteor crashes, galactic battles, or diabolical villains.
“There were expectations of the genre that we wanted to deliver on,” says Brunker. “We wanted to see the heroes and the villains square off. We want to see the moment they get their powers and that sense of discovery. We want to see just when you think things are in control, it gets out of control.”
Barlen adds, “We strive to make a true family movie where it's going to be exciting and action-packed, but not too scary, where everyone in the family can legitimately enjoy themselves when they're watching this.”
And that goes for other animators in the audience as well. Animated films, whether for adult or children, can all be calling cards to other creatives. This means that, on top of an emotionally moving story and engaging action, Barlen and Brunker jumped at the chance to give some flare and sparkle to the PAW Patrol animation and showcase the film as a true work of art.
“Our pitch to the team was that, from across the room, this should look like PAW Patrol but, as you get closer and closer, there’s all this detail and so much more detail to look at,” says Brunker. “We rebuilt the dogs to have anatomically correct legs so that they move in more puppy-like ways. The Mikros animators also used a vehicle paint shader that's got little flecks of metal in the color, like on real cars. We got into the details on all this stuff. And if you look at the way the vehicles transform, it's quite an engineering feat. There are a few people on the team who geek out on the vehicle side, and they'll map out how this whole thing's going to actually transform and fit back together during the effects sequence.”
He adds, “We’ve made two movies with Mikros now and they’re incredible craftspeople. And a lot of the artists from the first movie had such a good time that they came back and worked on this one as well. They’ve even made their own custom shirts of character moments. The studio has this incredible kind of family atmosphere. It's a lovely place to make a movie.”
Spin Master was also a valuable partner in coming up with core mock-ups of transforming vehicles, crafted by hand, that would be presented to the production team, who understood the power of maintaining that bridge between the PAW Patrol movies and the toys that would follow.
“We've got talking puppies with superpowers, but we rooted as much as we could in reality so that it adds to that engagement,” says Barlen. “We don’t have these cars going from tiny balls into full vehicles. It’s not all magical. It’s actually engineered and figured out so that you believe what you’re watching.”
It’s why Brunker felt the need to up the realism on the dogs themselves this time around.
“They don't just float like cartoony animals,” he says. “It’s not wily Coyote. It's grounded so that audiences can be genuinely worried about characters and truly feel the need to celebrate when they succeed.”
From genius inventors to true artisans, Brunker and Barlen say working on this second PAW Patrol movie has been an elevated experience and they hope audiences share the sentiment.
“Movies that stick with us are the ones that lead to emotional experiences,” notes Brunker. “It’s good to have a laugh. And we've got jokes in this movie. But, to really connect, you have to feel for a character, and feel like you’re on their journey with them. Because, in some ways, you become that character. And you get to have that feeling of overcoming challenges. And I think that is ultimately more satisfying than anything. These are wholesome, heroic stories. And they're cute puppies. You can’t go wrong.”