This year may see the return of Wonder Woman and Spider-Man, but 2017 will also introduce a new superhero in a cape (and little else). Based on Dav Pilkey’s long-running and frequently banned kids’ books, the animated Captain Underpants follows George Beard (Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch), two fourth graders who hypnotize their tyrannical principal (Ed Helms) into stripping down, tying a curtain around his neck, and declaring himself Earth’s newest defender.
“[Helms] has managed to tap into the sheer stupidity of Captain Underpants,” director David Soren (Turbo) says, laughing. “He’s a delusional superhero who thinks he’s got all kinds of powers and has literally zero ability beyond just that of a middle-aged man.”
Since the original Captain Underpants was published in 1997, Pilkey has written more than a dozen books about the captain’s adventures, so when it came time to adapt that story for the big screen, the filmmakers had plenty of nemeses to choose from. They settled on the nefarious Professor Poopypants, voiced by Nick Kroll. “I mean, with a name like that, he’s kind of irresistible,” Soren says.
Soren adds that because the books are known for their irreverent, genre-bending style, the film plays with form in a similar way, switching between traditional CG animation and other media, from hand-drawn 2D comic scenes to sock puppet sequences. (Pilkey’s “Flip-o-Ramas” from the novels even play a role.)
“The lovely thing is that we have two creative boys at the center of this thing, so anything they dream up really is something we can just lean into heavily,” Soren says. “It constantly keeps the story feeling like it’s been made by two fourth graders, as opposed to me.”
Captain Underpants will hit theaters on June 2, 2017.