Christmas came early this year! IESB’s got an exclusive interview and concept images from Gatchaman!
Gatchaman is slated for a 2009 release from Warner Bros. but the IESB was able to get an exclusive sneak peek thanks to our good buddy director Kevin Munroe!
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about our love for all things geek when the subject of Gatchaman came up.
Before Transformers became the pop culture sensation in the 80’s there was another series that helped spawn the 5 member hero team formula and the success of many super sentai-type anime from Japan, that series was Gatchaman.
Because of my age, ahem, I didn’t catch Gatchaman until the mid 80’s transformed for an American audience in the form of G-Force/Battle of the Planets. That was when my obsession for the ninja team began.
Thanks to success of Gatchaman, the 90’s had various sentai warriors of their own like the very popular Power Ranger series.
But from Transformers of the ‘80’s to the Power Rangers of the ‘90’s, no series has ever been able to remain so timeless and original like the O.G. Gatchaman.
Kevin Munroe, the director of the recent animated hit TMNT, is directing the big screen adaptation of Gatchaman for Imagi Animation. I figured an interview was worth a try but considering the film is still quite a ways from completion, I didn’t know how much he would be able to talk about.
But, never fear boys and girls, Kevin was gung-ho to talk and he also arranged to show me some really cool Gatchaman goodies at Imagi Animation Studios along with co-director Tom Tanaka! Oh yeah, and he threw a few stills our way…AWESOME!
Kevin and his team have been working on Gatchaman since early 2006 and are looking to push beyond the success they had with TMNT.
Munroe says, “Turtles was great, and it’s just, how do you push beyond that and I think Turtles introduced a new way…it looked different and it felt different…it’s about how to push that hyper reality more-so and to also deal with it’s human elements so we don’t get really stiff, lifeless kinds of faces.”
In keeping with that goal and staying away from the “pretty but porcelain” limited facial movement look of typical CG, Munroe is testing some more extreme facial structures in order to get the subtleties just right.
Something that creates the dreaded lifeless face is the lack of “reaction in the eyes when you smile,” says Munroe. So he and his team have been hard at work testing 3D models of the characters and performing range of motion tests.
He showed various test shots and 3D models of Katse, Dr. Nambu and Jun. Oh and by the way, Jun? She’s hot! ‘Nuff said.
I saw various tests on these characters and it’s just amazing how a film such as this comes together. The hard work put into the most miniscule of things seems so tedious and difficult, but Munroe and his guys keep at it to get just the right reaction, the right expressions, from their characters.
Fans of the franchise can breathe a sigh of relief, Munroe and Tanaka definitely consider themselves Gatchaman purists and say the whole point is to stay as close as possible to the original versions but at the same time add some sleekness to it so it’s not just “tights.”
Tanaka added that they are going for something more realistic this time around than the Turtles’ human characters were.
Munroe says, “I try to describe it to people, it’s not cartoon-ey and it’s not photo-real. It’s really pushing the western style of animation, something very cool and different.”
He continued to tell us about the first time we meet Gatchaman member, Joe, “it’s this insane car chase. We tried to use the Bourne movies as a starting point but then add like a CG camera inside of it.”
The Fiery Phoenix has gotten a polish in its new CG home as well. I was shown the fire test of the ship and its ‘flame up.’ The test was incredible! It still has the bay doors and everything but so much more modern and sleek. But you see the ship and it’s like, yeah, that’s the Phoenix, it’s not completely re-imagined or redesigned, but it has a modern and “fast” look and feel.
Munroe confides that the flame transformation of the ship comes at a pivotal and climatic point in the story.
This brings up a major question on fan’s minds, considering the confusion of the multiple incarnations of the TV series, what’s this story all about?
Tanaka adds, “Fans of the tv show will remember that they never talked about how the Gatchaman started, how the war between the Gatchaman and Galactor started...”
Munroe: “What was the first invasion like…”
Tanaka: “So this is, we’re actually the prequel to the TV show in a sense, and the idea that the mythology of the Gatchaman is not just restricted to technology, there is a mystical aspect as well.”
Munroe: “We aren’t reinventing it, we are trying to deliver a very satisfying future storyline but at the same time, look at it and go, wow that would fit really well into the cupboard that is now the tv show.”
The action is going to, “take place on, we’re keeping the word Utoland for now, on an island, a UN sponsored island, [where they] bring the best of the best from all these different cultures,” says Munroe.
On Utoland island, Munroe tells us the landscape is packed full of buildings that are so tall that it’s permanently nighttime at ground level. He compares it to “Beat the Devil” by Tony Scott (a BMW films short film from The Hire series). It’s got a lot of neon and is very much alive. Filled with billboards, Utoland is a very animated environment.
IESB: “Is UN the United Nations?”
Munroe: “We are trying to get United Nations…”
Tanaka: “Unless there’s a legal issue…”
Munroe: “And if it’s not, it’s going to be the Galactic Counsel of blah blah blah…but it’s the UN.”
So far as the timeline, Tanaka says it’s set in the year 21XX.
Munroe adds, “The world has gotten worse in terms of politics and economy and this island has been created as a beacon of hope for mankind to show that yes there is still hope and we can get along and function together and have a common sharing of ideas.”
He continued, “We’ve got politics, terrorism, the island is the beacon of hope and the Gatchaman become the symbol of that hope for all of mankind because it takes what happens in this movie to united everybody together to fight back. It’s bigger than just a simple alien invasion story…”
Tanaka: “But there is an alien invasion.”
Munroe: “Yeah! But more!”
We find our heroes at the end of Act 1, with a completely destroyed city after the aforementioned alien invasion. There’s no place to go but bigger! Munroe says Act 3 blows the invasion away.
The image below shows Utoland at the end of Act 1 - Click for high rez
The team also plans to use the color direction of the film to help move the story along. For instance, when the “bad guys” come, the electricity of the city is turned off so the canyon becomes completely dark and static. Completely opposite of it’s usual busy, daily life.
Munroe believes that for this movie to succeed, there are a couple of things you have to take as given, “one of them is, you know, if you go into the Arclight and see the live action Gatchaman playing side by side the CG Gatchaman, you have to say, there is more of a reason to see the CG version…this has to deliver more than what you would in your standard live-action interpretation and that includes the scope and that includes the camera, the style and this total immersiveness you can get with CGI so it demands to be a bit bigger and a bit crazier in scope. If you get it and you go, ‘I could’ve shot that live-action,’ then we’ve failed. Or at least if you say, ‘Wow, that would have cost 200+ [million] to do that movie [live-action]’ then we’re in the right ballpark.”
“Make sure it looks really expensive,” Tanaka added.
There were some things that were cut out or reworked in Turtles, like the ninja throwing stars, will Munroe and his team run into those problems again?
Munroe commented, “We’ve got a couple of key characters, and bad things happen to them, a key character dies at one point. And if you sat back and tried to ‘ok’ that with everybody, some people may say, maybe you should think about not letting that happen. But at the end of the day, that moment is one of the best moments in the film and it’s one of the most moving moments and one of the greatest moments that helps all the characters grow. And if you try to sit back and try and limit yourself storytelling-wise for a rating, it’s stupid. So I’d rather have it up there on screen to show that it works…”
They are working with scribe Paul Dini about whom Munroe says is, “not only a phenomenal writer, but he's a great collaborator. He understands everything we love about this property. There isn't another writer out there more suited for this project. I wouldn't want to do this movie without him."
They are still on target for a PG-13 rating but may need to make some final changes to the title itself. Will it remain as Gatchaman? Kevin Munroe says he's not sure. It may change to the more commonly known Americanized title of G-Force. If that's the case, producer Jerry Bruckheimer will have to change his film's title "G-Force" starring Nicolas Cage that's also due out in 2009 as the Gatchaman franchise would most definitely win that title match.
The team behind Gatchaman hope to reveal some goodies at Comic Con 2008 in San Diego, California.
Munroe says, he would like “A big presence [at Comic Con], it’d be cool to reveal what the suits look like to everyone. A trailer would be great. It’s just up to what Warners wants to do and what Imagi wants to do.”
We’ll find out come next summer! Will SDCC attendees be treated to a Gatchaman trailer? Well, for now you can revel in the images Kevin gave us below.