Author Jeff Kinney takes us through the journey of Disney+’s upcoming animated movie ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’

Jeff Kinney clicked by Filip Wolak

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a 2007 publication is still resonating with the audience as author Jeff Kinney sprinkles it with loads of humour and family bonding moments. The book with 250+ million copies sold worldwide and featuring as the longest running series on the New York Times children’s series bestseller list is set to premier on 3 December on Disney+ as an animated movie.

For the bestselling writer, who aspired to be a cartoonist, it is an ecstatic moment seeing his work being adapted as a Disney animation film. Earlier, the immensely popular work has been adapted as live-action films but Kinney is very eager to see how the audience reacts to the animated version, where the creator can relate to Greg (protagonist) better.

In an interview with Animation Xpress, writer-producer of the film, who is the recipient of many regional and national awards around the globe including two Children’s Choice Book Awards and six Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards for Favourite Book spoke about the budding days of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which has now blossomed into a global sensation!

Here’s the excerpt of it:

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid was born after eight years of hard work. Since you worked on the book over the years, please tell us about its journey. 

I had the idea for Diary of a Wimpy Kid when I was 28. As soon as I had the idea for a story about Greg Heffley, I wanted to get right to work. But I wanted to get a big tranche of humorous material before I actually started writing. So I filled up an “idea book,” which took me four years, and then spent another four years writing the first draft, which was 1,300 pages long. Once I was done, I took a sample to New York Comic Con, where I ran into an editor by the name of Charlie Kochman. He liked my work, and that’s how my publishing journey took off! 

2.The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book was published in 2007 and became an instant bestseller. Now the first-ever animated movie that is about to hit the screens is based on your first book. What do you think has kept its immense popularity and evergreen appeal alive? 

I think Wimpy Kid is still going strong because kids can see themselves in Greg, and they can see their own families in the Heffley family. The stories are timeless and placeless, which helps keep the Wimpy Kid universe evergreen. And of course I always strive to make the stories as funny as possible! 

3. Please share some details of the creative process of adapting the written words into 3D animation. 

I treated the screenwriting like a live-action screenplay. Honestly, I wasn’t concerned with the differences between an animated film and a live action film. But the director Swindon Scott and the team of animators did a great job of bringing that extra something to the performances. The way the process works is this: we go from a screenplay to a rough 2D animatic. The 2D animatics is like live-action storyboards. Then we make a big jump to a rough 3D animatic, which looks like bad late-80s CGI. Then we take an even bigger leap to a fully-lit, fully-rendered environment. That’s when your eyes go pop. 

4. Was ‘Greg Heffley’ inspired by anyone whom you knew? 

Yes, myself! Greg is a messy person. He’s not fully-formed. He’s a twisted version of myself at the same age. 

5. The 16th book Big Shot is about a school basketball tournament. We have been enjoying Greg’s school life since the beginning. Do the readers get to witness a grown-up Greg? 

Greg’s a cartoon character, so he’s stuck right where he is. And middle school is a really awful place to be stuck! But I think aging Greg would spoil the fun. 

6. There are live-action adaptations of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and now there will be the animated movie. How are you feeling? 

I’m really excited to find out how the Disney+ film is going to be received. This is the first time we’re seeing screen Greg looking just like book Greg. It’s like the books have come to life. 

7. Would you like to share anything interesting about the best-selling series? Also, is there any upcoming collaboration with any other studio apart from Disney?

Something not many people know is that I tend to write my books in my car, at a cemetery. It’s the only place I can go where I can write in peace! 

8. Is there any more screen adaptation planned with Disney+ and other platforms? 

Yes, I’m working on something new for Disney+ now, but I have to keep it under wraps! I’ll spill the beans as soon as I get the green light! 

We are also releasing Rodrick Rules next year, and we’ve got some more stuff up our sleeves. It’s my dream to adapt multiple books — as many as we can! I’d also like to expand the Wimpy Kid universe to tell more stories. 

9. Please share something about yourself. You are also a cartoonist and also started writing. Did you always dream about becoming an author? 

My big dream was to become a newspaper cartoonist, like my heroes, Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, and Gary Larson. But that didn’t work out for me — the syndicates didn’t like my stuff. So I had to figure out another way to get my cartoons published. I chose books. I started writing Diary of a Wimpy Kid 22 years ago, when I was 28. 

10. What are your other interests apart from writing and drawing? 

You know, I don’t really have many hobbies! I like going to Celtics games with my kids. And I like to take them skiing!