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The Scene That Explains the Surprisingly Great Sequel ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’

You don’t have to be a fairy-tale character to know what happens in enchanted forests. They’re places for self-discovery and reflection, for “peculiar passing moments” that transform you. And they were a perfect place for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish director Joel Crawford and his team to deposit the swashbuckling Puss (Antonio Banderas), who finds himself in an existential crisis—as well as a full-fledged adventure—in the Oscar-nominated animated feature.

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

Puss finds plenty of challenges in that forest, from a reunion with his skeptical enemy-turned-lover-turned-enemy Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) to a mercenary trio of bears plus Goldilocks (Florence Pugh). But the greatest challenge, of course, lies within. In one key sequence late in the film, he comes literally face-to-face with his past lives and makes a choice: Does he linger with the boastful, fearless Pusses of his past, or move on to something new? 

Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation.

The Scene

Journeying through the enchanted forest in search of the Last Wish— a fallen star that will grant a wish to whoever finds it first—Puss, Kitty, and the eternally optimistic Perrito (Harvey Guillén) are guided by a map that changes the entire landscape based on who’s looking at it. Cheerful Perrito gets the Pocketful of Posies and River of Relaxation; quick-draw Puss gets the Valley of Incineration and then, eventually, the Cave of Lost Souls, where he’s separated from his group and must enter alone. 

Down to his ninth life and haunted by the literal specter of death (a wolf voiced menacingly by Wagner Moura), Puss is confronted by giant slabs of stones that reflect his past lives: the overconfident Puss who was poisoned by shellfish, the drunken Puss who walked off a tall tower, etc. They’re having a blast, but, thanks to his journey through the forest, Puss has already changed. “You guys are jerks, which is very conflicting for me,” he tells them. When the Wolf arrives and chases Puss through the tunnel exit, the walls turning a terrifying bloodred, it’s clear just how much this Puss has evolved—even if he’s still running from death for now. 

Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation.

How It Happened

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

“We’ve all collectively been through a lot,” says Crawford, who has three kids of his own. “So [it’s] finding a way that you’re bringing the audience into a fantastical, fun, safe world. No matter what walk of life people come from, no matter what age they come from, they see a talking cat with boots on and they’re automatically experiencing his emotions.”

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