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Set Visit: TMNT (2/2)

01.31.2007

After round one with Kevin Munroe and Tom Gray regarding TMNT, I received a couple of e-mails asking whether it was a remake or a sequel. Well I’m happy to report that information is coming up here, in Part 2 of my on-set visit. We also talked about why it felt like the right time to bring the Turtles back… a little bit of nostalgia and a whole lotta, we can do it cheap this time around, was a big reason for it. Kevin also talked more about GATCHAMAN which may be looking at a 2008 release.

And with all this Turtle talk, whether it’s the watered down PG rating or how closely they will stick to the comics, one thing is for sure. Those few moments I saw, I’m kinda looking forward to it. There looks to be a lot of action and a little bit of darkness going for it (as much as they can with a PG). And sue me but I love Sarah Michelle… But as for why now in 2007, Mr. Gray felt the time was right as did Mr. Munroe and they were nice enough guys so hey, I’ll be there. Read on and let us know what you think.

Why do you think is behind this bringing back all these properties from the '80s, Transformers, Turtles? Is it nostalgia?

KM:  We had a couple of designers working with us who are working on Speed Racer now, and stuff like that is fun to me, I know it sort of comes out as corny to a few people but I think as long as it's inspired and it feels cool, if it taps into that energy of what it felt like back then. I'm not gonna pimp GATCHAMAN, but it’s like the same with that. When you sit back and look at it now, it just doesn’t hold up. But, when you sit back and remember how fun it was to build those ships with the Legos.

So you building on the memories people had of a fun time?

KM:  Yeah. I think there's a lot there. You can't go ahead and just update suits and stick a generic story, so to me, it a lot about how you recreate a vibe. We talk about that with the Turtles too, there's a lot of stuff that happens in between panels that you don't see, but for some reason as you're reading the comic book you get the idea that all that action that happens. And that's what this is about, that sort of energy matched with the energy the alumni had whenever they were watching it the first time through. I think that is the intention, that makes these movies more inspired than half the ones in development around town that just sort of get born out of A + B = C.

TG:  I also think that the mindset of the studios is so play it safe. You know, Superman was what… 30, 40 years before they made a picture. Today, I was on Rocky 1 when I was at United Artists and [now it's] Rocky 6! You know, you're taking DUKES OF HAZZARD and putting new stars in them and we'll jack it up and make it for 150 million and people will buy it and we'll just blow it out there on a 75-million dollar marketing campaign and everybody will show up. And we're going 6,500 prints and we'll get our money back and we'll flip it on the DVD and boom we've got our pay cable in there, they flash it through the formula, it comes out. Profit. Green light.

I think this is why we are seeing in this cinema business, so many of these recent, and Turtles included, that are not 40 years old or something like that. It's truncating in because the ideas are more, you're in a revenue stream, were not in the film business anymore. We have seven decisions to make decisions, guys that head that revenue stream has an input into your movie-making process. Merchandising, pay cable; every one of these things, foreign, are entering into the decision-making process. I'm not sure if that's the way to go.

I think that's why we have, the company, has gone the other way by taking, not American projects, but we're gonna make ASTRO BOY, we're gonna make GATCHAMAN, because these are that were overseas and all culture, it's coming out of two experiences, out of the Asian/Japanese. Korean paradigm and out of the black culture and to a certain degree, the Latino culture, because it's different, it's unusual. So our company being… this was just the beginning of what we wanted to do and the only connection is, when I joined this company, I happened to produce the first three, so if I never was involved in it, we would have never made this movie, but, it was the way you go.

And then, our owner, who is 29 years old, grew up with GATCHAMAN and ASTRO BOY. And artists like Kevin who've had a great appreciation for this said, you know what, let's not do the happy talking pictures anymore. Cat Tail was a picture about happy cats and dogs and we said, "Next!" We had 10 million in the movie, but we put in the shelf because there are too many of them. So we thought, with the superhero, if we really execute well on the Superhero, we have a better chance at success. 

So when are we gonna see El Zombo or something?

KM:  It's funny, it always pops us every four months, somebody will call up and say, 'oh this so and so producer saw it and just loves the idea of it.' So you chase it. Its Dark Horse so they're never gonna let it die, which is cool. We're actually talking about trying to do another series of it, going back to it, which is fun, it was cool. I did that and I did Olympus Heights after that and it was like a fun comic book run right before coming here. There's actually video of me on my first day and I look so tired. I had just finished the run on El Zombo and we'd just been up for like, two days in a row, trying to get everything finished. It's not a fun job, but it's cool. Who knows? El Zombo would be fun to do.

This is not a [remake]?  The existing movies exist in this storyline right? So does the animated series?

KM:  I'd say it’s more the movie; if you had to place it someplace, it'd be with the movies rather than the animated series. We acknowledge the adventure that they've been on. I think if you just look at the three movies, knowing they've been on those adventures that pretty much encompass anything that the animated series could do when you go from mutant, doing the whole TCR stuff to the traveling in time. It's a pretty broad spectrum. So yeah, it's a reworked story, we didn't have much interest in doing a reboot story and retelling the origin story, everybody knows it.

That's the same reason why Shredder not in it, in this first one, at least. Just the idea of having them reborn as a family and then sort of, how do you tell an origin story without telling an origin story, now is that they've been through all these adventures and Splinter as a worried father is concerned that having a common foe is the only thing that binds them together as a family. That's not the right thing to bind you together as family. So, the family is sort of falling apart at the beginning of the movie and its about coming together as a team and as a family, so at the end you sort of end with this world that you want to go back to and you want to revisit and it doesn't feel like we're treading in the same water all over again.

You just said, Shredder's not in the first movie, do you have stories set up for the second and third?

KM:  We're just talking about it. Ask us March 26.

TG:  Sure, I think that if March 26 comes and it's not a turkey then sure, I think we have to look at it.

You’re talking about bringing it back to PG from a PG-13. Will there be a longer or more aggressive cut on the DVD?

TG:  I think that would be up to the studios, you know, their DVD department, if they wanted to push it a little bit. I'm not sure that that would be constructive. It might offset some people saying, "Wow, wait a minute, these guys really cut this back." And we didn't really cut it back, to be honest. If that cut that we really wanted to make was it, we'd be PG-13. So we pulled back some of the things that were pointed out to us, the sharpness, or some of the monsters were too over the top, we pulled back in the effects and the music, so, it's not gonna really...it's not that dramatic. Again, if thing does work, I don't know if the studio would allow us to do a 13 again. I certainly would like to do it, grow the franchise in that direction. But I'm not sure they would look at it economically and say, well, you're gonna cut out a huge sector of our audience so you know, don't do it. 

Are we also gonna see a new comic book or new series to go along with the film?

KM:  I think Mirage is doing, they're doing like five prequels. It's funny because when we developed the story we had a lot of, sort of, origin stories of where everybody had been leading up to the events in the film, and so they actually took some of those ideas that we talked about, like, April was at when the film starts, where Raf was. They are actually doing prequel comics. I forget when they are releasing, it's pretty soon. I think there's one per character plus April. And then I think they also have a comic book version of the movie. It's more Mirages’ call than ours, but there's definitely stuff there to play with.

Kevin, besides getting this made, what has been your biggest challenge?

Coming into work this morning. [Laughing]  I think setting up the studio in Hong Kong that was a really big challenge. Other than getting it made, that's the first thing that comes to mind. The fact that we have, like, 400 people in Hong Kong and half of them this is like there first job so it was half art-school half movie production and so it was a lot of communication and a lot of back and forth. It’s amazing, I an constantly surprised by stuff, like there are 80 animators over there and only a handful speak English and the idea that there is so much subtext to a lot of the animation and a lot of the acting and it's just being interpreted by our Hong Kong-born animation director, who just goes there and acts it out.

Same thing with the action, they just push their desks aside and it looks like FIGHT CLUB. There's 20 Chinese guys just beating on each other. We mentioned before it’s like here in the West how animators grow up with a healthy dose of Chuck Jones and Disney. They grew up with a pedigree of Hong Kong cinema and that kind of background, so there’s so much that comes naturally. And over half of them have trained in martial arts too so it was really neat, we set up the camera here and just go nuts. We talked about getting a choreographer for the beginning, and while it looks cool for the DVD to show us doing this, it's really just a side step.

Can you talk more about the work flow?

It's a very high-end TV model. All the front end and back end is here in the sense that we have a director, art director, storyboards, all the designs are being done out, [all] the lighting keys are done out here. We even do the pre-vis is here. We basically shoot the movie in 3D before we send it over. And then in Hong Kong, they handle the modeling, the actual lightning and the physical production of the thing. We just go back and forth every night we sit down and BTC with Hong Kong, a lot of communication back and forth. It's not nearly as cool as having 400 hundred people just down the hall from you, but its pretty close.  And lots of trips to Hong Kong and getting pulled around for eighteen hour days and then everything comes back here and then we color correct here and we do all the editing, sound effects and everything is done here for the film so that’s it in a nutshell.

How much prep is there and have you started on GATCHAMAN?

KM:  We’re working on a script right now.  And we’re doing pre-production on it right now and some early board stuff too.

When do you start on that?

TG:  We’ve started.  It’s gonna be PG-13.

CG?

TG:  CGI, yeah.

What have you learned on TURTLES that’s going to pay off on GATCHAMAN?

KM:  On a broader scope, I think the learning curve for the company has done a lot.  Especially the team over in Hong Kong; there’s a shorthand.  I mean, most of the same crew that worked on TURTLES is working on GATCHAMAN.  Which is cool because we’re trying to do it in a quick production schedule from the idea that now we’ve got this shorthand, it’s like that thing we did there, let’s do that.  And for GATCHAMAN, I think story stuff we’ve learned in the sense of what we have to lock down and what we don’t have to lock down.  There was a lot of stuff with TURTLES where we designed a lot of stuff which wound up getting cut.

Which is great cuz those other designs could be for future sequels.  But there was a lot of sort of time that we kind of fritted around with, design stuff with Turtles that just got cut because it looked right on the board but when we got there is was 120 minute long running time, we we’re like, ‘we need to pull back a little bit.’  That and also it’s pushing the aesthetics even more beyond TURTLES and that’s not really a slight against TURTLES because in the Turtles it works great for that.  [GATCHAMAN] can’t just be the sci-fi version of the TURTLES it’s got to be something a little bit more original.

Let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to jimmyo@joblo.com.

Source: JoBlo.com

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