SPOILER ALERT! SORT OF!
If you and your local young’un caught Illumination and Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets this weekend, chances are you were immensely entertained by one of the film’s best but strangest moments: a hallucination musical sequence set to the unmistakable tunes of the musical Grease.
When Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and Max (Louis C.K.) find themselves running loose in a sausage factory, the two mutts lose all self-control and indulge in a sausage fest the likes of which few dogs ever get the chance to experience. But with great sausage comes great hallucination, and a truly memorable scene in the box office-blowing hit.
The dancing sausage dream sequence is so unexpectedly outrageous, EW just had to ask co-director Chris Renaud to explain.
Originally, Renaud says, the scene was scored to Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” — fitting for two dogs left to their own devices in a miraculous haven of mixed meats. “It was written as Max and Duke gorging themselves, and I thought that maybe it should induce… have you ever heard the term ‘meat drunk?’” Renaud asks. “Say a lion has eaten too much — it makes them sleepy. So I was thinking, what if the meat induces a hallucination for them? And I was thinking specifically of Dumbo, where there’s a scene where the mouse and Dumbo actually drink some alcohol and they have this kind of out-of-body experience.”
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After conversations with the film’s production designer, art director, and a storyboard artist, Renaud landed on a different entry point than Dumbo: The wacky, manic entrance into Toontown from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, another memorable cartoon fever dream. From there, a new song underplayed the scene: Leslie Gore’s “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.”
But it was a Universal Music staffer who suggested “We Go Together” from Grease on a whim. “It just felt like it fit perfectly, truly,” says Renaud. “So we re-recorded it ourselves, with the sausages singing, versus the original cast from the film, which we temped in. Everyone had fun. We did a little bit of a Busby Berkeley thing there, even an Esther Williams thing. This old-timey feel that, if you notice even, with the characters having those black eyes, the old version of Mickey Mouse.”
It’s more than just a silly highlight scene, though. Renaud says the nature of the non sequitur was a formative one for the rest of the film. “It was an early victory for the movie in the sense that it was a scene that genuinely felt different,” he says. “It’s the kind of scene people either love or think, what the heck was that? I like to think the ‘I love it’ outweighs the ‘what the heck was that?’ crowd.” Moreover, it’s one of the scenes that’s stayed in the movie since its inception. “It’s played well since we’ve had it. A lot of these have changed around, but it’s been in the movie a long time. And I wanted to make sure that the dogs actually eat these hot dog people, which to me is what makes it funny and takes it just way over the top.”
“That’s the fun part of animation,” laughs Renaud. “You can do that and hopefully get away with it.”