How Matt Stawski Went from Detroit Punk to the Kids Film Blue's Big City Adventure

Matt Stawski grew up a Detroit punk fan, shooting his friends’ bands with equipment from a local TV and radio station. So of course he was the ideal person to direct Blue’s Big City Adventure, the new Blue’s Clues movie.

It’s actually not as weird as it sounds. Blue’s Big City Adventure is packed with light, color, and music. And Stawski found his way to it after directing videos for bands like Anti-Flag, which led to jobs directing videos for Fall Out Boy, Snoop Dogg, and CeeLo Green — including the latter’s giddily colorful 2010 video for “Forget You.” Stawski got the job after many other directors passed, in part because of the song’s original name.

Also Read: Blue’s Big City Adventure Flies the Rainbow Flag With Pride (Video)

“There’s the ‘F— You’ version, and the ‘Forget You’ version — radio friendly stuff. And the budget was nothing. We had like $60k to shoot that video in one day,” Stawski recalls. “A lot of bigger directors actually passed on it at the time. So I was like this young kid… that was doing like $10k, $20k hip-hop, punk rock and metal videos. I just threw together a very Motown, doo-wop-driven treatment, and CeeLo loved it.”

You can listen to our full MovieMaker podcast interview with Matt Stawski on Apple, Spotify, anywhere else you get podcasts, or here:

How Matt Stawski Went from Detroit Punk to the Kids Film Blue's Big City Adventure

Blue’s Big City Adventure, directed by Matt Stawski

Stawski brought his love for color to Blue’s Big City Adventure. His trademark saturated style is at least partly attributable to his trouble seeing color.

“First off, I’m colorblind,” he says. “So whenever we’re in coloring, I’m always pushing the saturation a lot. So part of me is like, man, if you look at my whole reel, it’s super colorful. And I’ve always been like, ‘Is it just too colorful?’ Because I don’t see color like other people. But people seem to like it. And I feel like a lot of times, when I’m in coloring, the colorist, or the DP is like, ‘Yo, you’re pushing it to 12. Like, let’s pull it back.’

“I’ve always wanted to do things that are just candy-coated and poppy,” he adds. “You know, when I go to a museum, I’m drawn to the art that you can see from a couple rooms away that is like big and colorful and sometimes doesn’t even have a story behind it.”

Blue’s Big City Adventure, of course, does have a story behind it. In the film, Josh (Joshua Dela Cruz) travels to New York City to audition for a Broadway show, but loses his handy-dandy notebook, which contains the address of his audition. He and Blue have to sing and dance their way across Manhattan, following some — you guessed it — clues. Along the way they meet new friends who are as eclectic and diverse as New York City itself. Of course, he’s left out some of the city’s grittier elements.

“You don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable, like you’re in the world of Taxi Driver or something like that,” he says.

It all comes back, again, to color.

“You always want the viewer to be like, ‘Okay, this is this is a comfortable New York City. This is a welcoming New York City,’ he says. “So I think keeping all the primary colors nice and rich, even in the moments where Josh and Blue are a little bit lost, is important. We’re not trying to do Taxi Driver, you know. This is the candy-coated New York City.”

Main image: Blue’s Big City Adventure director Matt Stawski. Photo by Niki Lopez.