Giant fighting robots in a movie that takes itself seriously? This may put the Transformers franchise to shame. You have to see the teaser trailer for yourself to believe it...
Last month, news broke that another movie about giant fighting robots was in the works. The project is based on a 1970s Japanese anime series and toy line called Gaiking, which spawned a 20-issue Marvel Comics miniseries titles Shogun Warriors. These robots not only preceded the largely popular Transformers line, but seem to have a much more faithful cult following.
The story chronicled the battle between the crew of the semi-transformable carrier Daikū Maryū (known as the Kargosaur in the US version) and the Super Robot Gaiking invented by Dr. "Hightech" Daimonji against an invading race of aliens called the Dark Horror Army from the planet Zela whose home planet is facing destruction by a black hole as their population starts to mutate and deform. Simple enough, right?
Heat Vision managed to catch up Jules Urbach, the man who is spearheading the project. For this film, Urbach and his team are using next generation scanning technology, called Lightstage, which has already won an Academy Award for its use in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. What follows is an interview between Heat Vision and Urbach; in which he discusses how he came into the project, and why he feels it will be a successful venture:
What can you tell us about the genesis of the "Gaiking" movie?
"It came out of our work with Fincher. We were talking about doing something for "Heavy Metal."
"At the time, it was Kevin Eastman and a few other guys that were going to do a bunch of shorts for him, and he said to me, "I can give you seven minutes if you come up with something cool." And being such a huge fan of these properties, I had been touch with Toei for years. Going back to 2002, I've been asking them to the rights of "Captain Harlock." And it turned out that the rights to "Gaiking" were more or less available.
"So when Fincher's project came up, I said I want to do a super robot short. And he said sure, but you got to pick two "Heavy Metal" songs. So I picked Nightwish's "Dark Chest of Wonders" and "Planet Hell," and went ahead planning out a seven-minute "Gaiking" short with Toei's blessing.
"But "Heavy Metal," it was at Paramount at one point, it was at another studio, then Cameron got involved, and it lost its home. We ended up taking "Gaiking" and just worked on it and worked on it, and it kept building and building.
"And at some point, Toei said, "Wait a minute, you guys can do a whole movie now at this quality." They backed us and then other people came on board and we were able to turn this into a pretty big film."
"Transformers" is pretty huge. and there's a "Voltron" movie in the works. Is there room for something like "Gaiking" that isn't that well known here?
""Voltron" really took off because of the great cartoon. "Gaiking" never had that and neither did "Shogun Warriors" as a whole. The only thing we had was "Four Spies" here in the U.S. And that was only shown on the East coast for a little bit. I can only imagine how this property would have been perceived if we had a normal cartoon.
"In France or Italy, this is bigger than Spider-Man. Toei understands this will do very well in Europe, where the cartoon is well-known. They approached us because they wanted somebody outside Japan to take a crack at this.
"Our goal was to figure out a way that would be appealing to an American audience. And while there's a lot of people who played with the toys, we are not counting on any of that. For most people, this will be completely new. And I think we did a good job introducing it, even from that little teaser. It's just been exciting to be introducing it to a lot of people and seeing their reaction."
Are you worried about the title being a little inaccessible? Why not go with "Shogun Warriors"?
"We wanted to introduce one robot and thought it should be the focus of the film. It's like you want to introduce Superman before you introduce the Justice League, right?
"The title is something that we're still looking at. It's in the mix. We are very aware of the possible limitations. I can't speak for Toei, so I can't speak how it will be used in the marketing of that film. We just want to use it wisely."
There was a time when there were a lot of giant robot cartoons. And now with special effects technology being where it is, we're poised for a movement in movies. What do you think is the appeal of giant robots?
"Gaiking and those kinds of robots, you're talking about giant robots that are piloted by humans. You're not talking about Transformers, where they are their own characters. These robots are the extension of the pilots; they are really like giant suits of armor. So it's really the people inside them that are the characters. That is a huge differentiator. Gaiking is one pilot. It's really the pilot expressing himself through this giant mecha."
So what's the status of “Gaiking” now?
"I guess you can say we're in preproduction. The reason we released the teaser when we did is we're done designing the robot. And even a lot of the costumes and the characters. We basically put as much as was ready to be shown in the teaser. And the next step is get a writer -- we have a treatment for the movie -- and get a full-blown script. That should be done in the next three months.
"And we're looking at 2012 as a potential release date, but it's not set. It could be 2013."
Im not familiar with Shogun Warriors but that teaser was pretty awesome, and I do love me some giant robot action. With this coming, along with the planned live action adaption of both Robotech and Voltron, it looks like the next few years are gonna be giant robot crazy.