By Tori Hunt
If Jeff Kinney knows anything, he knows what it feels like to be a wimpy kid. The New York Times best-selling author of more than a dozen Diary of a Wimpy Kid books is also now creator, writer, and producer of the all-new animated feature Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules debuting on December 2 exclusively on Disney+. The CG movie follows last year’s Disney+ Original film Diary of a Wimpy Kid; both films are based on Kinney’s books.
But before Kinney was an award-winning author and screenwriter, he was a timid—dare we say wimpy—middle schooler hiding in locker rooms and bathrooms. Just like the movie’s main character, Greg, he was stuck in his awkward pre-teen years, struggling to relate to and learn from his older brother, named Rodrick in the stories, while wanting independence of his own. “We all have these similar experiences, which is what I try to draw from in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series,” Kinney says.
In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, Greg Heffley (voiced by Brady Noon) and his older brother Rodrick (voiced by Hunter Dillon) are left alone when their parents and baby brother Manny leave for the weekend. What ensues can only be described as chaotic, with epic parties and very loud music. Along the way, Rodrick teaches Greg a few rules, including “no nerd stuff,” “always go out in a blaze of glory,” and the reality that “life’s not fair.” Over the course of the weekend, Rodrick takes Greg under his wing to show him the ropes of rebelling and letting loose.
“The very first song [in the film] is called ‘Stuck in the Middle,’ and Greg is not only stuck in the middle of his family but also the middle of middle school,” Kinney shares. Being a middle child himself, the author knows a thing or two about being intimidated by an older sibling and jealous of the family baby. “My older brother was a lot like Rodrick,” he says. “He had a band in the basement, and he introduced me to that whole rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.”
Kinney’s Wimpy Kid books had previously been adapted as live-action films, but Kinney jumped on the opportunity to turn them into CG movies, with character designs based on the books’ original illustrations. “These books have always wanted to be made into animated feature films,” he says. “It was really cool to work with [the team at] Disney, who were willing partners.”
The movie features the late Ed Asner as the voice of Grandpa Heffley, a performance captured shortly before Asner’s passing last year. In memory of Asner’s incomparable contributions to the film, Kinney decided to dedicate Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules to him. “[Asner] delivers one of the best scenes in the movie,” he says. “It just made sense to dedicate the movie to him.”
Kinney is excited about the future of Diary of a Wimpy Kid films on Disney+. “Hopefully, we’ll get to do lots of these [films] over time,” he says.
Be sure to watch the premiere of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules on December 2, exclusively on Disney+, where Diary of a Wimpy Kid is also available to stream.