For filmmaker and animator Tom McGrath, “being back in Chicago again just makes me smile.” In town recently to promote his latest film, “The Boss Baby” (opening Friday), McGrath shared a few thoughts about why he’s such a big fan of Our Town.
“It dates back to when I was a kid [in Washington state], but also, in Los Angeles there’s a kind of big Chicago group of people working in the entertainment industry, and they always stick together. Fortunately for me, I’ve become good friends with them, and separately, also have always had friends who live here.
“As a child, I was fascinated by Chicago. Schwinn bicycles were made here. Bally pinball machines were made here. I remember wanting to come to Chicago and was so happy that when I did, it lived up to my fantasy of how cool I thought Chicago would be,” said McGrath.
The filmmaker noted that he’s a stickler for things being soundly constructed. “I feel that things from Chicago — like that Schwinn bike I had as a kid — are so well-built. For example, I recently bought a pair of wall sconces at an antique shop in Winnetka. They are so solid. They represent good design and good construction for me — yet another positive thing that came out of Chicago.”
In addition, McGrath noted “that whenever I come to Chicago or go up to the North Shore, I do try to make a point of heading to Walker Bros. [Original Pancake House].”
As for “The Boss Baby,” McGrath said he knew he wanted to turn Marla Frazee’s kids book into an animated film from the moment he first saw it.
“We saw this cute little baby in a business suit and it just clicked. As any parent knows, when a baby comes into your life, it will take over. It will boss you around. Plus, my first thought was, ‘Who would be the perfect voice for a baby in a suit? Alec Baldwin!‘ He was the first and only choice. Having worked with him before on the ‘Madagascar’ movies [in which he voiced Makunga], I knew how funny he is, and he knows where the comedy is in every line. We wanted not only to create a film that was funny for the kids, but for the parents too.”
Sibling rivalry is a big issue in “The Boss Baby,” and McGrath admitted making this film is “a really personal story for me. I have an older brother I tortured growing up. He’s two years older than me. Trust me. I was the boss baby in my family. I came into my brother’s life and turned his world upside down.
“Families can be difficult. When it comes to your siblings, you either come out of it in the end as best friends or nemeses. Fortunately for my brother and me, we came out of it as best friends.
“So, this film is my 50-year-in-the-making apology letter to my brother! It celebrates what it means to be a family.”