Stephan Pastis created a magical world where a precocious little boy can run his own detective agency along with his 1,200 pound best friend, a polar bear named Total. And on Thursday, January 30, 2020, we were invited to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood to celebrate director Tom McCarthy and Disney Plus bringing TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE to life.
It was no easy feat. “It was funny, making a movie with a kid that was this big [gestures toward the floor], but knowing there is this massive thing that is accompanying him everywhere,” production designer Philip Messina told us, about bringing Total to life.
Something as simple as having the polar bear walk between two cars becomes more involved. “Well, how far apart are the cars going to be? We don’t want to have to erase them all in post-production,” Messina said.
In fact, they carried a giant, plush polar bear around Portland while they were filming just to keep the sizing in perspective. Messina joked that it became someone’s job to lug around the heavy, fake bear.
Of course, logistics aside, there’s a much more important question when it comes to Total. Is he real or just a figment of Timmy’s imagination? “It’s up to you whether you believe the bear is there,” Messina said. But if you ask him, that’s irrelevant. “I think Timmy believes it. To me, that’s what matters,” Messina told us.
It’s a sweet sentiment. However, if you ask Santiago Veizaga, who plays Gunnar, it was a big mistake for Timmy to choose a polar bear when clearly the far superior choice for a sidekick is a monkey. “I don’t know how Timmy picked a polar bear,” Veizaga said. “What was in his head when he was thinking that?!”
Veizaga’s joking was good-natured though, as the cast was actually really close. “Everyone here, their energy is so amazing,” the young actor said. “I love when I see them. They’re like brothers and sisters now.” I know – could this kid be any cuter? But I’m happy to report that everyone in this movie is adorable, even a possibly evil, possibly Russian spy named Corrina Corrina.
Ai-Chan, the actress who plays her, arrived on the carpet in the dreamiest, asymmetrical dress with tulle for days. It was exactly the kind of thing I would’ve worn had I been hitting the red carpet as a pre-teen. But she’s more than just an aww-worthy ballerina princess. Carrier takes her job seriously, and told us how she prepared to play such a mysterious enigma of a character.
“It was a little bit hard in the beginning because I didn’t really know how to act,” Carrier admitted. “But then, with my dad, every night before work I wrote on notebook paper all the things that kind of described her [Corrina Corrina]. Then I took that in, did some lines, and then I went out there and got it.” Fun fact: If Carrier could have an imaginary animal sidekick, she would pick a horse.
And she’s not the only one. Chloe Coleman, who plays Molly Moskins, told us she’d choose the noble steed as well. We also learned that, like Molly, Coleman likes to stand out. When asked how she relates to her character, Coleman told us, “She’s an activist. She’s a feminist. So she really goes for it, and she’s not afraid to push the limits.” I don’t know about you, but in one breath, this little superstar in the making has just reinforced my faith in the youth of America.
That’s getting off-topic, however, because you’re here to read about TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE. Another fan of the failure who’s anything but is Community actress Yvette Nicole Brown. She told us how excited she was to see the movie – and its leading man, Winslow Fegley. “He’s a little star waiting to happen,” Brown said. “He’s a 57-year-old in a 10-year-old’s body. That’s what I’ve decided.”
Fegley, who looked slick as hell in a navy blue suit, purple pocket square, and coordinating bow tie, certainly sounded wise beyond his years when we talked to him. “Timmy sometimes jumps into things. He sometimes acts impulsively and he’s very spontaneous,” Fegley said, admitting, “And that’s kind of me, you know?” But sometimes it’s better not to overthink things, isn’t it? “Because sometimes then you get nervous or something,” he added. Did this little boy just talk to me on a red carpet about analysis paralysis?!
Don’t worry though – he followed it by telling me he wished he could have a giant version of his dog Mochi as his sidekick. So, he’s not without childlike whimsy. And neither is Kei, who plays Timmy’s friend Rollo Tookus.
“Rollo’s kind of that good kid who doesn’t really want to get in trouble. That’s me,” said Kei, who couldn’t hide his excitement at attending his first world premiere. He also happened to have a killer idea for an animal sidekick. “Well, my animal would be a pigeon, because they blend in around the city and they can fly, so you could get an aerial view. They can also fit into small places,” Kei said.
Kyle Bornheimer, however, stuck with his character Crispin as the perfect righthand man. “Crispin’s this great character who sort of acts like a kid anyway. He comes into Timmy’s life dating Timmy’s mom, and Timmy expects this guy to bulldoze in and try to be a replacement [father figure], but Crispin almost ends up like a buddy,” Bornheimer said. “He’s this innocent guy who means well but doesn’t always have the right plan for that. But it comes from a great place, and he has a great heart.”
So, how do you make such a heartwarming movie with such a sweet cast? With a little help, says Pastis. When it came to writing his first screenplay, Pastis felt like he had a bit of a crutch in Tom McCarthy. “Even though I hadn’t written one [screenplay], Tom had written numerous. So, I read the screenplay books, and then I turned everything to Tom, and he went over it with a fine-tooth comb,” Pastis told us.
He describes working alongside McCarthy as like having a tutor. “I got paid to do this, but I really should’ve paid to do this. Because to sit with Tom for two years and learn every day was huge. Everybody would like that,” Pastis said. And we agree.
So, why should you watch TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE? (As if you needed a reason after reading about this unbelievable cast!) “Because, hopefully, it makes you laugh,” Pastis said. “And at its heart, there’s good stuff in there that will make you feel things. It’s sweet.”
Sweet seems like a good summation of everything I witnessed and experienced on the red carpet for TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE. So, if you, like me, are always down for a serotonin boost, then be sure to check out Tom McCarthy’s TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE when it debuts on Disney Plus February 7.