Hiram Garcia, his sister Dany Garcia, and action-star Dwayne Johnson, have produced Warner Bros.’ new animated comedy – debuting in theaters today - through the family business they founded in 2012 - Seven Bucks Productions.
When Warner Bros. first pitched Seven Bucks Productions president Hiram Garcia the idea to meld a story of shelter pets with DC’s 1960s comic “Legion of Super-Pets,” he saw an opportunity to not only dive into their first animated feature film, but also tell a story with the same foundation that built Seven Bucks: the bonds of family.
“Being able to tell a story that, at the core, is about the love between humans and their pets, and the idea of shelter pets finding homes with their soul mates, was just a lot of the messaging that we like,” says Garcia, whose sister Dany Garcia co-created the company with famed action star Dwayne Johnson. “It’s important to us to tell stories that are fun but also leave the audience floating and feeling a bit better than they did coming into it. So, this kind of story feels like it served on all those points. We also get to pour some goodness back into the world that I think needs more fun and light-hearted, family-friendly entertainment.”
Hitting theaters today, July 29, DC League of Super-Pets, directed by The LEGO Batman Movie’s Jared Stern and Wreck-It Ralph’s Sam Levine, is a 3D computer-animated superhero comedy produced by Warner Animation Group, DC Entertainment, and Seven Bucks, with animation produced by Animal Logic.
The story focuses on Krypto, the Super-Dog of his best friend and owner, Superman, who spends his days side-by-side on crime fighting missions in Metropolis with the famous Justice League hero. That is, until Superman is kidnapped. Now, Krypto must master his own powers for a rescue mission. The Super-Dog also assembles a team of shelter-pets who were given super-powers: a hound named Ace with the power of super-strength, a pig named PB who can grow to giant-size, a turtle named Merton with super-speed, and a squirrel named Chip who has gained powers of electricity.
“It was really intriguing to us to have this group of heroes where you know the Justice League so well, and you know Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman are the most iconic superheroes in the world,” says Garcia. “But to be able to tell a story that's just slightly off-kilter from them to the vantage point of their amazing pets was really fun to us. And all of us are massive animal lovers, as I have my dog snoring behind me.”
The origin story of Seven Bucks – known for producing films like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Red Notice, Jungle Cruise, Skyscraper and Rampage – is a bit off-kilter as well, beginning back when Garcia was still in high school and meeting his sister’s University of Miami boyfriend.
“I met DJ when I was 14 or 15,” remembers Garcia. “I was visiting from school in New Jersey, where Dany and I grew up, and DJ and I just hit it off. I think the first time we met, we started playing Sega hockey. And I remember going to the movies together. We all just became close. We've always had a very similar drive and love of telling stories and being able to do things, in big ways, to inspire people and leave audiences floating. Because of that, we've always been connected through our endeavors.”
Garcia eventually followed in his sister’s footsteps and enrolled at University of Miami, during Johnson’s last year. It wasn’t long after Johnson made his first film appearance on The Mummy Returns that Garcia joined his then brother-in-law in Hollywood, first as a creative assistant on films like The Scorpion King, then as producer on Johnson’s more famous films such as Hercules, Central Intelligence, Baywatch, and Fighting with My Family.
“DJ and Dany got married, had a beautiful daughter, my niece, they eventually got divorced, and somehow got closer, and ended up working together when they founded Seven Bucks Productions in 2012,” says Garcia. “We’re a whole reality show as I like to say. Dany's husband now helps train DJ and it’s this whole big, wonderful family that we have. And here we are now, years later, having a really good time, being able to tell DC comic stories on the big screen.”
Garcia has been a comic book fan for a long time and admits to actually being “slightly offended” when he took the call from his agent about DC League of Super-Pets. Our agent called us, and he goes, ‘Look, Warner Bros. wants you guys for a project and, I don’t know if you’re familiar, but Superman has a dog…’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I know Superman has a dog. His name is Krypto and he’s the greatest dog in the world,’” recalls Garcia. “I really came at this as a comic book nerd. Dany, DJ, and I, we're massive comic book fans. And we've been passionate about getting into the DC Universe and being able to tell stories based on DC properties.”
Though the team had already worked on DC’s Black Adam, Garcia says Super-Pets was an exciting opportunity to reach a new demographic of audiences.
“Black Adam is a very edgy, force-of-nature movie,” he notes. “And we saw this great opportunity with DC League of Super-Pets to do something a little bit more kid-friendly, something a little bit more family-friendly. This was an opportunity to tell a story in a really fun way, covering an audience that we feel hasn't really been taken care of in the superhero space as much, especially in the animated space.”
So, Garcia and the team at Seven Bucks immediately got involved, working with Stern and Levine, along with producer Patricia Hicks, to start revising and tweaking the script.
And then, they started assembling the cast.
“One of our first calls was to our close friend, Kevin Hart,” says Garcia. “Bringing him and DJ together on a project is a Grand Slam. We also wanted to really build that contentious relationship between Ace and Krypto and Kevin is always game to have some fun and give DJ a hard time.”
Though Hart and Johnson did manage to spend some time recording lines together, most of the voice work was done separately by the actors, in makeshift recording booths they put together themselves.
“Even though animation was able to function a little bit better than live productions during COVID, it was still a challenge,” says Garcia. “Our actors were spread out all over the world and we were sending mobile kits to them so they could set up recording booths wherever they were. I remember Kevin was international at one point and we worked with his team to set up a mattress teepee with blankets over it. It was good for sound recording but Kevin was sweating to death.”
Super-Pets’ release was also pushed back due to VFX challenges and difficulty getting shots completed as planned. But, Garcia explains, because of “resilient actors and passionate filmmakers,” Super-Pets is finally in the theaters.
“Kudos to our production team and the filmmakers,” he says. “There's so much love and emotion and passion poured into this film. It was logistically really challenging, but still a really fun process and I think it does come through in the film. It doesn’t just take a village; it takes a whole city to make movies. And I had the privilege of working with so many talented, wonderful people that truly cared and love this film so much and felt so much personal connection to it.”
According to Garcia, the dedication it takes to finish an animated film, is similar to what it takes to build and maintain a business like Seven Bucks, where people experience so many ups and downs.
“At the core of Seven Bucks is a family bond that starts with the three of us and has grown into this wonderful company with a ton of great employees,” says Garcia. “The process of making an animated movie is tough and it takes a very long time. But there’s also a special bond that comes when you get to make a film like this. We've been working on it for so long, with so many passionate people behind it, and now we're finally at that moment where we get to set this film free, out into the world and watch the joy that it can bring to families and kids all over the place.”
He adds, “Everyone wants to be able to tell stories. And there’s a power and beauty that comes when people come together for a bigger goal and a bigger mission. This movie heavily required all hands-on deck and it’s been a true honor.”