Movie ‘Puss In Boots’ Gets Praise For Panic Attack Scene

Movie ‘Puss In Boots’ Gets Praise For Panic Attack Scene


One of the most moving and resonant sequences in a movie this awards season comes from an unlikely source: “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.”

The DreamWorks film, a sequel to a “Shrek” spinoff, follows the titular feline as he tries to restore eight of the nine lives he’s spent. He spends most of the film committing acts of daring with style and charm to spare, just as audiences expect Puss in Boots.

But during a crucial sequence, Gato loses his faith, and panic and fear threaten to consume him.

Cat slumps against a tree in a forest, huffing and puffing. His racing heartbeat drowns out every other sound in the forest where he lies. His friend, the good-natured therapy dog ​​Puppy, notices that the Cat is distressed and rests his head on our feline hero’s tummy. Cat exhales a few times, calmly strokes Puppy and is able to recover.

It’s a quiet, brief moment in a jovial film aimed at young viewers and families. but it is resonating with many viewers for his description of what it feels like to have a panic attack and the relief of coming out on the other side.

“That was one of our big goals: let’s take our audience on a journey that expresses the full range of emotions in life,” Joel Crawford, director of “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” said in an interview with CNN.

There are still hard-won victories, gags, and hard-earned wisdom in the film, but what gives “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” its staying power is its heart and honesty, even in a fairytale setting. fairies. Psychologists spoke to CNN about why it can be shocking to see panic attacks reflected on screen, and how a sword-wielding bipedal cat got it right.

A panic attack is “basically a wave of powerful physical fear that feels overwhelming,” said David Carbonell, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist who specializes in fear and phobias. Someone experiencing a panic attack may feel like their heart is beating faster than normal and have trouble catching their breath. Dizziness and tingling in the extremities are also common. But the common thread is always the fear that feels suffocating, even if that fear doesn’t match one’s circumstances.

Lynn Bufka, associate chief of practice transformation at the American Psychological Association and a physician, likened a panic attack to a desert encounter with a terrifying rattlesnake. Faced with a poisonous enemy, our body would trigger a physiological response to fear in front of us. But with a panic attack, there’s usually no obvious cause, and this unknown element can make a panic attack feel even scarier, she said.

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” takes place in the same fairy tale land as the “Shrek” series, with its anthropomorphic animals and ogres with hearts of gold. The new film features Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a villainous adult version of “Little Jack Horner” from the famous nursery rhyme, and Salma Hayek as a feline foil to Antonio Banderas’ Puss in Boots. They all search for a mythical wishing star that, if Puss can reach it first, could restore the first eight of her nine lives.

It’s all very fantastic and funny until it’s not. In a brief but crucial sequence, the cat is overcome with fear and cannot catch his breath. Even his comedy partner, Puppy, straightens up to calmly comfort Puss. It’s a sober moment in a jovial story.

That was intentional, Principal Crawford said. He told CNN that the moment was not one to laugh at, and that the film as a whole was aimed at portraying a more vulnerable side of the fearless cat that audiences are familiar with.

“(Seeing) an animated world is a great way to escape,” he said, while noting that challenging themes can be explored through the comfort of fiction.

The process began with the film’s writers Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow, who brought their own experiences to the film’s portrayal of fear and panic, as well as Crawford and co-director Januel Mercado. He then turned to storyboard artist Taylor Meacham, who drew on his own panic attacks to sketch out what the Cat would look like. Everything from the “tunnel vision” when viewers see Puss’s point of view to the pounding heartbeat that takes over the scene was gleaned from his experiences with panic, Meacham told CNN.

He also made sure the scene was slowed down to take the time “necessary for Puss in Boots to relax and breathe as he comes out of his attack,” he said. “The contrast of such intensity gradually to calm is another moment that I hope will feel real to viewers.”

Animator Prashanth Cavale even filmed himself for reference for the scene, adding “little squeezes and twitches” to add realistic texture to the scene, Cavale told CNN.

The goal, Crawford said, was to keep the moment from feeling “shallow or forced” and to keep it accessible to viewers of all ages.

“Fear, weakness, anxiety – if anyone has ever felt those emotions, which everyone is, we wanted to make sure this scene related to them,” Crawford said.

What audiences see in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is less what a panic attack looks like to a bystander and more what it feels like to have one. A panic attack is often unnoticeable to everyone except the person experiencing it, Bufka and Carbonell said. But in the moment, a panic attack can feel like a catastrophic event, even if it doesn’t on the outside.

“Puss in Boots” isn’t the first example of popular media featuring a character experiencing a panic attack. Tony Soprano suffered infamously from them on “The Sopranos,” though his were wildly exaggerated and unrealistic, it’s rare for people to break down during or after a panic attack, Carbonell said. HBO Max’s new series “Velma” also takes an intensified approach to panic attacks, showing both the exaggerated perspective of its bespectacled protagonist’s panic and subdued reality. (HBO and CNN share parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.)

Former ABC News journalist Dan Harris even had a panic attack live while reading a short story, though most co-workers and viewers didn’t know it at the time thanks to his seemingly calm demeanor.

Even if a panic attack portrayed on screen is not a universal representation of the psychological phenomenon, seeing a character have one, particularly in a movie like “Puss in Boots” which will see children and adults alike, can lead someone to Consider your own experiences. with panic and anxiety and seek help from an expert or loved ones, Bufka said.

“It really helps to normalize that this is happening and that you can recover,” he said.

When Gato finds comfort in his friend, the burly Puppy, who lends a paw for support without saying anything, the dog’s response is a good example for people to follow if they know their loved ones have panic attacks, Carbonell said.

“You want to undermine the panic and reduce it to reasonable proportions,” Carbonell said. Just being there for someone and not overwhelming them with suggestions can help them land.

Gato also accepts the help that Puppy offers him in silence. Fighting a panic attack, Carbonell said, can often make it longer and worse: the “quicksand of mental illness.” But letting it go and rediscovering calm is often the quickest way to get over it, she said.

For children, especially, seeing a character feel extreme fear and then find comfort in a loved one can be shocking, Bufka said, even if they aren’t familiar with the term “panic attack.”

“People don’t always have the language to express their emotions,” he said. “But it’s important to have it on screen, because it helps people feel seen, recognized and not alone.”

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