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Captain Underpants

A brief encounter with Captain Underpants director David Soren

May 10, 2017

Maybe it makes sense that David Soren (Animation ’96) is the director of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. After all, as a kid, he taught himself to draw by copying Peanuts comic strips and then started creating his own. In that way, he’s a bit like the film’s heroes, George and Harold, fourth-grade pranksters who create a comic about a brief-clad superhero who thwarts evil. George and Harold’s creation comes to life after they hypnotize their mean-spirited principal, convince him he is Captain Underpants, and get into plenty of silly situations.

This June, those adventures are sure to be part of the summer break for kids checking out Soren’s film. The books have long been a favourite among the elementary-school set – there are more than 50 million copies in print in North America. They seem animation-ready thanks to their fun illustrations – complete with fight scenes drawn into flip books – and action-packed, irrepressible plots. It’s been 20 years since author Dav Pilkey published the first of 12 books to date in the series, and Soren says many studios have long wanted to turn the stories into a film.

Soren says DreamWorks was eager to make the film soon after acquiring the rights, and he was excited to take it on. He was fresh off directing Turbo, a 2013 film he created, wrote and directed about a little snail who dreams of winning the Indy 500, so he had plenty of experience to take on the project. As the director for Captain Underpants, Soren oversaw every detail on the film, from the design to the animation style, the camera shots and working directly with actors and composers to create the overall feel of the production. Over his 20-year career, he’s developed the skills needed to make the film. Besides Turbo, he directed Merry Madagascar and he’s worked on many DreamWorks titles including Shrek, Over the Hedge and Chicken Run. DreamWorks offered him a storyboarding job directly after he graduated from Sheridan, a position that he accepted because he wanted to tell stories through film. He says his time at Sheridan gave him the fundamentals he needed to launch his career.

“Starting with a strong classical, hand-drawn education in animation has been invaluable. No matter how the technology evolves, the fundamentals of movement, design, of what makes a drawing appealing – those skills never go out of date.”

Now, he awaits the film’s premiere on June 2. But before all the box office tallies and reviews roll in, he says the film has already earned the only accolade that really matters. “We showed Dav Pilkey, about six months ago, a very early cut of the film,” Soren says. “I was anxious about how he would react. At the end he was very teary and emotional – in a good way, I hope.”

David Soren