Every family road trip, no matter how meticulously mapped out, will face at least one unforeseen crisis. Maybe it’s a blown tire on a little-traveled back road. Maybe it’s a beloved stuffed animal left at a rest stop, 150 miles back. And maybe it’s a global tech uprising, where the world’s electronic devices gain sentience and join forces in an attempt to exterminate all humanity.
Such is the premise of Connected, Sony’s upcoming animated film from director Mike Rianda and producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. EW has an exclusive first look at the adventure comedy (in theaters Sept. 18), which marries the banality of a family road trip — the cramped car, the stops at Waffle House — with the action-movie shenanigans of the robot apocalypse.
“I tried to think about the two things that I loved the most,” Rianda explains, “which was my crazy family… and also killer robots.”
Broad City alum Abbi Jacobson voices Katie Mitchell, an artsy aspiring film nerd who’s just been accepted to her dream college. Katie’s eager to start a new chapter — alone — but her nature-loving dad Rick (voiced by Danny McBride) decides that driving Katie to college is the perfect opportunity to bond as a family and maybe put down the screens for a few days. And so Katie, Rick, mom Linda (Maya Rudolph), little brother Aaron (Rianda), and the pudgy family pug Monchi hit the road — only for their journey to be derailed by international tech problems, as phones and even household appliances turn deadly.
“The big whiz-bang of the tech uprising [and] robot apocalypse makes for a lot of exciting action and comedy, but at the end of the day, the heart of this thing is this family,” Miller explains.
“It’s one thing to fight the robot apocalypse, and that’s kind of a fun premise,” Lord adds. “But it’s much more interesting to have your dad trying to teach you to drive stick during the robot apocalypse.”
Lord and Miller befriended Rianda while they were wandering the Sony Animation hallways together; the duo were finishing 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as Rianda (best known for his work on Disney’s brilliant series Gravity Falls) was starting to develop Connected. “We thought he was a kindred spirit because he also sleeps in his office and doesn’t come home from work,” Lord says with a laugh.
Some of the state-of-the-art animation technology developed for Spider-Verse has been used and built on to create Connected, particularly to experiment with different art models. The grittier human world is rendered in a messier, more hand-drawn style, while the robots are all CG shine and chrome.
“It’s sort of a love letter to our imperfect human world, where it’s lovingly done but everything is kind of rumbly and a little bit wobbly,” Rianda says. “We wanted to show those imperfections, and we wanted to show them lovingly.”
Also included in the cast are Eric Andre, who voices the tech inventor Mark Bowman, and Olivia Colman, who plays the Siri-esque voice assistant PAL. It’s a rare animated role for the Oscar winner and Crown alum, and Rianda teases that she’s both hilarious and menacing. “This is our Olivia Colman friendship agenda,” Lord admits. “This is just the first step of our plan [to] become best friends with Olivia Colman.”