Spy movies are often packed with violence, even though most tend to showcase characters with secret gadgets that should, in essence, do away with the brutality. As revealed by the LA Times, “Spies in Disguise” directors Troy Quane and Nick Bruno exemplify this very aversion by scrapping animated violence for more profound uses of intelligence to overcome evil. 

“When we really watched some of our favorite scenes [in spy movies] the spectacle is in the surprise. It doesn’t have to be violent,” Bruno said. “So with Walter’s gadgetry, we always wanted it to feel surprising and big and fun. That was the spectacle, and you didn’t feel like you missed big fiery explosions and firefights.”

The “Spies in Disguise” cast includes Will Smith as renowned super-spy Lance Sterling and Tom Holland as Walter Beckett, a tinkering genius and gadget-maker. The film follows Lance having to rely upon Walter after he succumbs to a major accident, which turns him into a pigeon. 

“Walter is not only a genius that came up with really cool gadgets, but those gadgets represent something,” Quane explained. “They represent a point of view and a philosophy to challenge that ‘fight fire with fire’ idea that Lance came into the world with.”

Beckett himself tells Lance in the movie, “When we fight fire with fire, we all get burned.”

The two “Spies in Disguise” characters are what drive the overall conflict, rather than an overarching enemy, though that’s not to say there’s no “Spies in Disguise” villain. The animated feature is a perfect example of how violence in Hollywood movies can be toned down without diminishing the action and character development, in addition to why it’s a fundamental breakthrough. 

“No bad guy is saying ‘I’m a bad guy. I’m going to do bad things,’” Bruno said. “Everyone’s trying to do what they feel is best for them or who they represent.”

While “Spies in Disguise” may be an animated Disney movie (acquired in the 20th Century Fox buyout), it seemingly stands above the movies it mirrors. One “Spies in Disguise” review by The Washington Post emphasized its theme of nonviolence as a key to the movie’s integrity, awarding it a 3 out of 4 stars. 

Quane added, “It’s not always gonna be easy and there’s gonna be people who doubt you, but there’s power in being true to who you are."

Spies in Disguise movie Pictured is the movie poster for “Spies in Disguise” from 20th Century Fox. Photo: 20th Century Fox