The defining scene of the epic blockbuster ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’

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You don’t have to be a fairy tale character to know what happens in magical forests. They are places for self-discovery and reflection, for “special passing moments” that change you. And they were a perfect place for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish director Joel Crawford and his team to deposit the Puss swallow (Antonio Banderas), who finds himself in dire straits—as well as full-blown adventure—in the Oscar-nominated animated feature.

“We were looking for metaphors that could be visually stunning, take you to a new world, but have meaning,” says Crawford, who picked up the franchise ribs for the sequel to 2011. Puss in Boots. “This forest works like a gauntlet, testing everyone who comes through it.”

Puss faces many challenges in that forest, from a reunion with his dubious enemy-turned-enemy Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) to three mercenaries of bears as well as Goldilocks (Florence Pugh). But the biggest challenge, of course, lies within. In one key sequence late in the film, he literally comes face to face with his past life and makes a choice: Does he live with the proud Pusses, fearless in his days gone, or moving on to something new?

Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation.

The View

Traveling through the enchanted forest in search of the last wish – a fallen star that grants a wish to the first person to find it – Puss, Kitty, and the eternally hopeful Perrito (Harvey Guillen) are guided by a map that changes the entire landscape based on who is looking at it. A cheerful Perrito gets a Pocketful of Posies and a River of Relaxation; Puss draws quickly and finds the Burning Valley and then, finally, the Cave of Lost Souls, where he is separated from his group and must enter alone.

Down to his ninth life and haunted by the literal specter of death (a werewolf voiced menacingly by Wagner Moura), Puss faces large slabs of stone that represent his past life: the overconfident Puss who was poisoned by a shellfish, the drunken Puss who walked off a tall tower, etc. through the forest, Puss has already changed. “You guys are very controversial to me,” he tells them. When the Wolf arrives and chases Puss through the exit of the tunnel, the walls turning scary blood, it is clear how much this Puss has evolved – even if he still running from death for now.

Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation.

How It Happened

Banderas, who has voiced Puss since 2004 Shrek 2, feeling a personal connection to the character and his desperate need. After a heart attack in 2017, he says, “My life changed for the better. I had the opportunity to evaluate everything that was happening in my life at that time, and to reorder and regroup my life in a different way.” Puss in Boots is a film for families, of course, but Banderas believes that children have faced their own reckoning over the past three pandemic years. “That situation was filled with an incredible number of questions that we don’t have answers to,” he says. “That will affect the world of cinema in general, and the world of cinema for children in particular.”

“We’ve all been through a lot together,” said Crawford, who has three children of his own. “So [it’s] find a way in which you take the audience to a very fun, safe world. No matter what walk of life people come from, no matter what age they come, they see a talking cat with boots on and they automatically know his feelings.”

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