VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: ‘Despicable Me’ Creator Sergio Pablos On His Santa Claus Origins Film ‘Klaus,’ Jason Schwartzman
Klaus, a brand new animated Netflix film, presents a fictional origin story for the character of Santa Claus. The movie centers on a young, spoiled and unsuccessful postman named Jesper who travels to the North Pole and finds Saint Nicholas living in hiding. To redeem himself from his failure at the postal academy, he begins working alongside Santa Claus by receiving letters from children and forms a friendship with the legendary figure.
Sergio Pablos —a Spanish animator and screenwriter who is most known for creating the Despicable Me film franchise — spoke to uInterview exclusively about his new film, which marks his directorial debut. Pablos said the film, which is produced by Aniventure, drew inspiration from early Disney movies for its animation style. Pablos revealed that he came up with the concept for Klaus after seeing how many movies have recently fictionalized origin stories for classic figures from both history and folklore, like Joan of Arc, Napoleon and Dracula. The Spanish animator added that he initially hesitated about turning his idea for a Santa Claus origin story into a movie because he found it “corny.” However, he ultimately decided to pursue it because his research revealed there are so many interpretations of the character across different cultures that there is not really one accepted version of Santa Claus. Pablos explained that his origin story for the character came after evaluating both religious and secular interpretations of him.
“[I came up with] this idea of ‘what if Santa isn’t the main character?’ What if instead of that, he is a symbol of altruism and then I create another character who needs to learn that lesson?'” Pablos said. “That’s when Jesper the postman was born.”
“The driving force for me was, ‘what if everything that’s good about Santa came about through the actions of the most morally reproachable character I could conceive?'” he added.
Pablos also praised the casting directors for Klaus and confessed J.K. Simmons very quickly became the top choice for the character of Santa Claus given his previous work. The Spanish director said he had a shortlist of “six or seven names” for the voice of Santa Claus but ultimately realized Simmons was the best choice and didn’t give much thought to the other candidates.
“It was pretty clear that he would have been the perfect [Klaus], and he said yes,” Pablos said of the Oscar-winning actor.
Pablos also lauded Rashida Jones, another cast member, for assisting with the film’s script and called the actress and writer a “godsend” for helping him with the screenplay given that English is not his native language.
The director added that the character of Jesper proved to be one of the most difficult to cast, as the actor who portrayed him would need to strike a balance between passing off as both likable and unlikable. However, Pablos explained, Jason Schwartzman ultimately succeeded in showing both sides of the character.
“It took us a few attempts and sessions with Jason to figure out, but he was the one who figured it out,” Pablos said of Schwartzman’s nuanced portrayal of Jesper. “He found it and once he found it, not only could he perform it, but I could go back and write his version of [Jesper] a lot better.”
“Jason can turn a line of two words into a 20-minute rant, easy,” Pablos added of the actor. “It comes across as a lot more sincere because you have an actor who is looking for the words and that means the character is also thinking.”
Klaus also features the voices of Will Sasso, Norm Macdonald and Joan Cusack and is now in theaters. It will be released on Netflix on Nov. 15.