Debuting on Netflix globally on November 9th was the new Netflix Original animated movie The Soccer Football Movie featuring the voices of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Megan Rapinoe, and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. Following the film’s release, we got to speak to writer Deeki Deke about the new movie.
Deke is a writer based out of Burbank, California, and is best known for being involved in the beloved Netflix Original animation series, The Cuphead Show! serving as head writer.
The project was first revealed back in October 2022 and is directed by Mitch Schauer best known for the likes of The Angry Beavers and Space Jam.
If you’re thinking, “this is the first time I’ve ever heard of The Soccer Football Movie”, then you wouldn’t be alone. Marketing for this movie by Netflix has been under the radar, to say the least.
What’s on Netflix: Can you talk us through how The Soccer Football Movie came to be? When did Netflix pick it up?
In 2018, Netflix wanted to do an animated series involving soccer and asked me to pitch an idea.
They wanted it to be an action show about soccer stars, but I pitched a story about a group of kids having to save their soccer heroes, with a lot of weird comedy and horror. I developed it as a series, wrote it, and then there was an executive shuffle and it seemed like the project was dead. I went on to do The Cuphead Show! in 2019. Midway through that, the soccer project got a greenlight and I had to rewrite it quickly – what was a 2D animated series with one set of soccer stars had morphed into a CGI movie with a totally different set of soccer stars and a whole new villain.
It is so difficult to get anything original made, so every time there’s a chance to get a project going, you give it your all and try to make it work with what you’re given under the circumstances presented to you.
What’s on Netflix: In the movie, there are several big football stars (Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Megan Rapinoe) + the legend Al Yankovic. What was it like writing for them and working with them? How did they find the process?
Netflix chose which soccer stars they wanted to work with, and their instincts were spot on – Zlatan and Megan are huge personalities and gifted athletes, but I just wanted the movie to be funny. Luckily, both of them are hilarious – they could easily have careers doing comedy in front of the camera or doing voicework.
]They instantly got the weird tone we were going for. We recorded during the height of the pandemic, so Megan had to create a makeshift recording booth inside a closet in the middle of the summer. Despite the discomfort, she knocked it out of the park. Both of them are just so naturally funny and charismatic that you’re inspired to keep giving them more jokes.
As for “Weird Al,” it was a dream come true to work with one of my childhood heroes. He plays himself in the movie, but a heightened version of himself who is a genetic scientist, the town’s mayor, a wannabe soccer star, a renowned brain surgeon, and also a scenery-chewing villain.
His performance is so funny, and he finds comedy in every breath – every little nuance and mumble that his character makes is infused with energy and humor. Writing for him was such a joy because he takes everything you give him to another stratosphere of hilarity. Growing up an awkward skinny queer kid in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, I idolized Weird Al for how authentically “weird” he is, how true to himself he is, and how unashamed he was of his nerdiness and goofiness. The first time I met him, I tried to convey in words how much he meant to me as a kid and became overwhelmed with emotion, which he understood completely – he’s got such empathy for his fellow nerds and is understanding and kind when he senses us nerding out over him. He’s a huge inspiration on many levels.
There’s a fantastic cast of voice performers in the movie, including sports announcer Rob Stone, another gifted comic performer – his VO during the climactic game is priceless!
What’s on Netflix: How big was the team that worked on the movie and what did you animate with?
The team was pretty small – this wasn’t a Pixar or Sony movie where you have years to noodle around with storyboards. I wish it was like that! But we had to move very quickly to finish the movie so its release would align with the World Cup.
A production house in LA supervised the designs, and it was animated in Canada by L’Atelier Animation. They are an incredible studio and infused this production with a level of quality that goes far beyond our low budget. I can’t say enough positive things about L’Atelier and we’re so lucky they were involved.
Compared to most movies and even TV shows, this is a super low budget production.
As an example, a studio movie like Mitchells vs the Machines costs at least $50 million, and that movie is awesome and I loved it so much – but we had about $45 million less on this one, and that’s okay!
I should clarify when I say low budget, I don’t mean that to be a knock – I got my start writing for Troma, so I love low budget and see it as a badge of honor. We had team of artists who put a lot of love into it – every penny is in the movie. I was very fortunate that the director Mitch Schauer understands comedy and has a passion for horror – I had never worked with him before but we have a lot of the same influences and he is absolutely awesome.
What’s on Netflix: You’ve mentioned publicly that Netflix hasn’t given your movie much promo ahead of time – can you speculate why that is? Has Netflix talked to you in advance that there wouldn’t be much?
I don’t think they know what to do with the horror-comedy part – they seem very comfortable showing the “wish fulfillment” scenes of the kids meeting their idols, but if you watch it, their idols are actually trying to kill them! So it was disheartening that they didn’t want to lean into the weirder, scarier, more interesting elements for promotion.
But I get it – Netflix has a lot of stuff on their service to promote and marketing an original horror-comedy for kids does present challenges.
What’s on Netflix: While I have you, The Cuphead Show! has been received very well by critics and audiences alike, how have you found working on that show for Netflix?
It was the best team I’ve ever worked with and my favorite job by far. I’ll give Netflix a hard time for their passive approach to marketing, but my experience in-house on The Cuphead Show was incredible. It was easily the best job I’ve ever had and the most talented group of people you could ever hope to work with. Our executive team really trusted us, and from my position I’ve never felt more creatively inspired and more supported by studio than when I was working on that show.
What’s on Netflix: Can you give us any teases as to what to expect from season 3 and any clues as to when it’ll arrive and whether it will be the final season?
There better be more – I have too many episode ideas! I’m hopeful there’s a renewal or a continuation in some form, but we’ll see. The new episodes come out on November 18th – you can expect a higher-stakes arc across the episodes, more danger, more Ms. Chalice, and two particularly amazing episodes that feature The Devil as you’ve never seen him before.
The Soccer Football Movie is streaming now on Netflix.
You can find Deeki Deke through various social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.