“Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” is a Movie About Being Different

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Based on the best-selling book by Stephan Pastis, the Disney+ original movie “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” follows the hilarious exploits of Timmy Failure, a quirky, deadpan 5th grader from Portland who, along with a 1,500-pound polar bear named Total, operates Total Failure Inc., a detective agency. Somewhat of an outsider at his elementary school, Timmy is clueless but confident and wants to see his detective agency become the best in the world. But first, he must navigate the world of adults around him, including his overburdened mother Patty, her well-meaning boyfriend Crispin, his teacher and nemesis Mr. Crocus, and Mr. Jenkins, a school mandated guidance counselor, and figure out what it means to be normal when you know deep down inside you’re different.

“Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” is directed by Tom McCarthy from a screenplay by Tom McCarthy and Stephan Pastis based on the book by Pastis. The producers are Jim Whitaker, p.g.a., and Tom McCarthy, p.g.a., with Michael Bederman and Kate Churchill serving as executive producers. The film stars: Winslow Fegley as Timmy Failure, Ophelia Lovibond as Patty Failure, Kyle Bornheimer as Crispin, Wallace Shawn as Mr. Crocus and Craig Robinson as Mr. Jenkins.

For the title role of Timmy Failure, a unique young boy with a polar bear as his sidekick, the filmmakers auditioned thousands of kids before meeting Winslow Fegley. “He’s the one who was able to play Timmy from a point of view of being just himself and, at the same time, not understand there’s a hint of irony in any of the humor that’s played,” says producer Jim Whitaker. “He plays it straight, uniquely, and as a result of that, brilliantly.”

“Right off the bat, Winslow had a quality and look that felt right,” says director Tom McCarthy. “He just had a really good command of language and for a young actor, he has a lot of poise and a tremendous amount of presence. And he has a quality that no matter what he’s still somewhat accessible, and Timmy can be the kind of character that pushes people away. Timmy’s a different kid, he doesn’t have a lot of friends, and he’s a tough kid to get close to, so you need someone who can play both sides of that.”

British actress Ophelia Lovibond (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) was cast as Patty Failure, a single mom struggling to survive economically while raising her son Timmy.

“The script is unlike anything else I’d read, and even though it was described as being for children, I genuinely enjoyed it…it really made me laugh,” says Lovibond. “The character of Timmy is so unusual…he just captures your imagination.”

“Patty is a hardworking hipster who’s trying to hold together a household, several jobs, and at the same time be able to allow for this very different kid to be who he is,” adds Whitaker. “Ophelia has done a beautiful job with the role. She’s a Brit undercover who looks and acts like she’s from Portland.”

Principal filming on “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” started in June 2018 in the greater Vancouver, British Columbia, area before continuing on to Portland. Most of the soundstage work took place in Vancouver and the majority of the location work in Portland. According to production designer Philip Messina (“The Hunger Games”), “Director Tom McCarthy did not want to cheat Portland. There’s close proximity between Vancouver and Portland, but Portland has a unique sensibility that we wanted to convey on screen.”

New Orleans was Timmy Failure’s home in the books, but the filmmakers felt Portland was the perfect place for the film’s setting. “Tom had a really specific vision that the city Timmy lived in had to be as different and as weird as the character of Timmy himself, and Portland fits that bill perfectly,” says producer Jim Whitaker. “It’s a city that marches to the beat of its own drum; it celebrates being weird and it celebrates being different, which perfectly mirrors the theme of the movie, which is, it’s okay to be different.”

With that in mind, the filmmakers set out to make Portland a character of its own, filming at such iconic locations in and around the city as the Portland Zoo, the Irvington neighborhood, the Cathedral Park neighborhood, the Alberta district and the Bonneville Dam. “We pulled every possible location that felt different, unusual and still based on character to give it a strong sense of Portland,” says Whitaker.

“Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” is a live-action kids’ movie that adults will find entertaining as well. “Disney hasn’t made a film like this in quite a while,” says director Tom McCarthy. “It is part independent film, part classical, and it breaks some rules and presents a character that we haven’t seen represented before.”

“The central message of Timmy Failure is to be true to who you are. No matter how unique you are, how different you are, be true to who you are,” says producer Jim Whitaker.

“Everyone who worked on this film came at it from different backgrounds and none of us had really made a movie for children before,” continues McCarthy. “We were excited to try and elevate that as much as possible and play it and experience it as Timmy does…that’s what we set out to do, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

“Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” is now streaming on Disney+.

Robbie Bulus
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