Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days Exclusive: Author Jeff Kinney Talks Screen Success

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Even though author Jeff Kinney is about to witness the third release of a film based on his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, he admitted to us in our exclusive interview that this one is different.

Zachary Gordon in Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days

“We think we’ve created a good piece of entertainment here and we hope people will come see the movie during the summer. That’s new for us because the last two years we’ve been in the early spring or March. This is the first time we’re staking a claim to a weekend in the summer and we’re really excited to see whether or not families will go see a Wimpy Kid movie during the dog days,” Kinney said of Fox's Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.

The title is apt and it could not be more of a perfect time to release the film, especially considering the Dog Days subtitle of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid moniker.

“I think it worked really well. I think it’s very apropos to have this movie which is the summer doldrums in a way coming out right in the middle of them. I think that it’s nice,” Kinney said.

“A lot of people who I’ve talked to that have seen early trailers of the movie say it reminds them of what it was like to be a kid and to experience that -- the town pool, the boardwalk and things like that. So I think that people are going to see a little bit of their own childhoods in this movie.”

He clearly doesn’t get as nervous for a film’s release as he did the first time. “I think when the first movie came out everybody was so nervous because we didn’t know. We felt like it was a simple pass/fail. We didn’t know how it would do, if people had an appetite for this kind of an experience,” he reported. “Now, we have a better sense of how things will play out.”

Kinney recalled for us what it was like the first time he saw his literary and artistic incarnations come to life with real live actors for the silver screen in 2010.

“I think that for me it was kind of a progressive experience because I had been on set for about half of the filming, so I got to see some dailies and I got to see the actors actually being filmed in the moment,” the author said.
Jeff Kinney Photo

“It’s really neat to see the characters really and truly on the big screen. It really brought it to life in a different way than anything I could have imagined.”

One of the keys to the cinematic success of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Kinney believes, is the impeccable casting.

“I think that the casting is the best part of the movies. I really can’t believe how… I would call it luck except that I’ve come to appreciate how much skill is involved in picking a cast of characters like this. It’s such a giant ensemble cast and you don’t see that in many movies, so I think it’s a privilege to have my characters portrayed by these actors,” he said.

When he first created the Wimpy Kid character, he felt he had crafted someone kids of all ages could relate to. “Most of the time in children’s literature, the main character is a kid who really acts like a miniature adult,” he said.

“I wanted to create a character who is a little bit less hero-like and who didn’t always do the right thing, because I think that kids will be able to see themselves in the characters in these books if I did that.”

The original inspiration for the Wimpy Kid series arose out of what Kinney first saw as a career swing and miss. “My writing these books was a result of my failure to become a newspaper cartoonist,” Kinney said.
Zachary Gordon and Steve Zahn in Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days

“That had been the dream for me -- to break into the comics in the newspaper. And after a few years of getting rejection letters and no real hope of getting syndicated, I decided to take a different tack and try to create a book that had comics as a sort of Trojan horse. I’ve had some twists and turns along the way but now I feel like I’m a real cartoonist.”

As he continues the series, Kinney does not let the success of films such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days influence future installments of his literary series.

“My process really is the same. I don’t let the movies influence my writing,” he said. “But I do sometimes allow myself to imagine what it would be like to film a particular scene, especially when I’m writing about set pieces.”

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