This month, Berkeley Breathed’s beloved children’s book Mars Needs Moms is getting the big-screen treatment, and the film’s writer/director, Simon Wells, has the perfect pedigree: Not only has he worked on a multitude of animated films, but he also happens to be the great-grandson of H.G. Wells, the visionary sci-fi author who got Earthlings musing over the possibility of life on Mars a century ago. We visited with the younger Wells, whose heartwarming Martian concoction would certainly have made his great-grandfather proud.
American Way: What does it mean to be a storyteller and also the great-grandson of H.G. Wells?
Simon Wells: It’s a strange weight [to have] on one’s shoulders. I never met H.G. — he died well before I was born — but his presence was always felt in the family.
AW: Your great-grandfather had his vision of Mars. Berkeley Breathed had his. What’s yours?
SW: Our film deals with the civilization on Mars, which neither my great-grandfather nor Berkeley really did. That was ours to invent. I decided the Martians must be subterranean, and we built on that.
AW: The film, which you wrote with your wife, is really a love letter to mothers.
SW: Yes, we wrote this movie partly as a valentine to our own mothers — our parents in general — and partly so our children would understand how valuable their parents are [laughs].