The “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” film franchise and book series follows Greg Heffley, a boy who dreams of fame and fortune but has to navigate middle school with his best friend, Rowley. Though Greg believes he has it all figured out, he soon realizes that some things come easier to others and not him. As details of his hilarious – and often disastrous – attempts to fit in and fill the pages of his journal, Greg learns to appreciate true friends and the satisfaction that comes from standing up for what is right.
One decade and four live-action film adaptations later, Disney reboots the film franchise by taking an animated approach that aligns closely to Diary of a Wimpy Kid author and screenwriter Jeff Kinney’s illustrations. And that isn’t the only change. The animated film also introduces Brady Noon as the third actor to Greg Heffley, the main protagonist.
ThatsItLA had the chance to join their fellow journalists to participate in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” virtual press conference. There, Kinney and Noon spoke about what it was like to bring “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” to life in an animated format, the screenwriting process, and being fans of the book.
Kinney, who originally wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist, tried to overcome numerous difficulties getting syndicated. But when that wasn’t working, he had the brilliant idea to do something long-form like a novel for cartoons. “I worked on it for a long time, eight years. And then finally I showed it to somebody who liked it,” he said. “And that’s what got me started and publish it.”
Flash forward years later, now Kinney’s work is a long-running success story that continues to expand with every new “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book. They are such a hit that the author has just published his 16th book. So the film adaptation possibilities and screenwriting opportunities are tremendous. “It was really exciting, you know, to see the characters jump from the page to the screen in a fully rendered CGI environment,” Kinney said. “It was just so cool to do, especially doing it with Disney.”
The screenwriter also took some time to compliment Noon for his efforts to bring the beloved character that he’s been writing for nearly 15 years, to life. “Brady has just done such a good job of bringing this character to life,” Kinney added. “I feel like you’re going to be seeing Greg Heffley on the page on the screen for the first time, which is really cool.”
As a fan of the books and the live-action film franchise, Noon “gathered as much information” as he possibly could because he wanted the role and was excited knowing the fact that he had the opportunity to audition for something incredible. “Just the fact that there was another movie coming out was the most exciting part for me. Even if I didn’t get I was still very excited,” he said.
Noon was very familiar with the books and films and considers himself a fan of the franchise. During the virtual press junket, he reminiscenced about spending his school library days trying to get his hands on the books because they were considered the most prized possessions at the time.
So when it came time to audition for the part of Greg, Noon jumped at the chance to play the part. “I instantly went to the book. I actually reread the book, and I did a lot of homework and research on previous live actions and all the books and everything,” he said. “And I just gathered as much information as I possibly could because I really wanted it and I was even excited knowing the fact that I had the opportunity to audition for something that’s incredible. The fact that there was another movie coming out was the most exciting part for me, even if I didn’t get I was still very excited.”
For Noon, being able to voice Greg was more than just a fun experience. It was an opportunity to play a part that helped shape him as a person. I do feel like he is a person. I try and be nice to everyone but sometimes, along the way, I do mess up just like Greg and just like everyone else,” he said. “But in the end, I always try to make things right and to make amends with everyone. I feel it’s a very strong message and something that I learned from Greg that I carry throughout my life now.”
That message and relatability is one of the reasons why the “Diary of a Wimpy” kid resonates with its readers around the globe. “I think that everybody sees Greg as one of them. You know, like, if I go to China or Brazil or Israel, New Zealand, it’s like, they don’t think of Greg as this American kid who lives far away. They think he could be their friend or their neighbor,” Kinney said. “I think that’s really cool. If you think of Greg Heffley as he is designed on the page, he’s really simple. He’s about as blank as a character can be. And I think that allows people to kind of project themselves onto Greg, which is good. I think that the stories are really relatable. I think that people like this, your family, is probably like this in some ways.”
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” launches on Disney+ on December 3, 2021.