I'm betting your kids are excited about Ratchet and Clank! Last month I flew out to Hollywood to meet with Kevin Munroe, director of the soon-to-be-released film from Focus Features.
I've shared before that my kids are very into video games. My oldest wants to be an animator, and my younger daughter actually wants to study game design in college. They were both pretty excited when they heard I was not only going to be able to screen the movie, but also interview Kevin Munroe. Kevin has worked in both fields my daughters are interested in, which is pretty cool. In fact, we are waiting to hear whether my older daughter gets in to one of the art schools Kevin attended. It was exciting to be able to talk to him about that, and I appreciated him taking the time.
Ratchet and Clank Director, Kevin Munroe
Because he's worked in both animation and game design, one of our questions was about his experience.
Do you feel like you have an advantage in being able to translate this video game into a good movie?
KEVIN MUNROE: Yes and no. I think, at the end of the day, it’s all about just finding a good story, and really trying to find that. I came down to California, and I had animation training. And so where do you get a job? And video games at the time were really friendly with that. And so my first in was through video games. And the company had done a game called Earthworm Jim, that felt like you were playing a cartoon. So that always resonated. And from there, that project gave birth to a lot of projects like Ratchet and Clank, and these very character driven kind of properties. It doesn’t matter if it’s a game, a movie, or a TV show. It’s all about just experiencing a story anywhere. And so ultimately, it came down to that.
Ratchet and Clank has awesome music. I've already seen messages on Insomniac's message boards about wanting a CD compilation. Insomniac made the Ratchet & Clank game.
Can you talk about the music and the score?
The score was great. Evan Wise is the composer. It was his first film that he had fully composed, so it was fantastic. To me, it’s never about experience. It’s always about 'Do you want it?' and 'Do you have something to say?' And the best part was that Evan did, which was really great. He had been working for years, obviously, composing stuff. But just to be able to give him an entire film like that. It was a crazy journey because the movie has so many elements in it, in terms of comedy and action. It’s mixing a lot of tones, so you need something that sort of ties everything together. And to me, the music was the chance to really do that. It was great because he hit some parts that were really driving action, and other parts that just sort of had that ambling kind of heart. And then at the same time, he really worked-in this fun thing, where it was almost like a Carl Stalling Looney Tunes kind of vibe, where we’d have a joke, and then the score would go like, do-do-dodo. You know - like it’s funny, right? There is something about it; there are so few movies that you could get away with that, and definitely none of the big studio sort of animated films. So I think what was fun with this is that we sort of have an advantage with Ratchet, where you can give those sort of nods. And to do them musically was great.
What inspired you to write Ratchet and Clank?
There’s something called a first draft, where the first writer, T.J. Fixman, came in. And T.J. actually had worked in video games for over 10 years or so. He had a fantastic first draft that was just filled with so many characters, and so much story.
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was the game has been around since 2002. Whenever you have something that’s so big - it’s almost like Lord of the Rings, where you’ve got 10,000 stories that these guys have gone on and done - and adventures, and characters. And so the question really becomes - what’s the story you want to tell? We wanted to tell how Ratchet and Clank met, and how they got to become the heroes of the galaxy. Basically making sure that you can just tell the story. And then hopefully if everything goes well, we get to tell a whole bunch more stories.
Did you envision the actors that did their voices?
It’s funny - especially with animation, I don’t like to fall prey to the whole - ‘we need to get a name actor in there’. To me, it’s always just about the character. When we did the Ninja Turtle movie, in 2007, it was never about, ‘Can we get Brad Pitt to come do the voice of Leonardo’ - because it was always about, that character’s in there, so you need to have somebody who reflects that character. So what was great for Ratchet and Clank is everybody came along, and they just took the character and owned it, and sort of gave it their own twist, and developed it. It was great. In short, it was always about the character to me, and sort of finding the character, and never casting the name. But we lucked out, and we got both.
They really did get both with this incredible cast! I'll be sharing interviews with Bella Thorne and James Arnold Taylor soon, too!
The fans for this game are very, very passionate. What were some of the biggest challenges in bringing their video game world to the big screen?
Turtles fan groups were very, very wary, I think, because a lot of people have interpreted Ninja Turtles in a lot of different ways. So a lot of it was, “Okay, what are you gonna do with it? How are you gonna screw this up?” kind of thing; whereas like the Ratchet fans have been so supportive, which is crazy. So I’m sort of not used to that energy. It’s been an incredible fan base to work with. The biggest challenge is that games are such a user driven way of ingesting a story. It’s like comic books. You control how fast you flip. You control how much you stare at a panel. So you’re really directing it whenever you’re doing that. When you play the video games, it’s pretty much the same thing. The notion of any time you do an adaptation like that is that you have to find the tone of what works for the people who love it. Your job is to then translate that love into another medium. And so you try to take what people love about that, and stay true to that. So it has to be less about the details, and more about the feeling and the tone, because eventually it has to become a movie.
Are you more passionate about directing or writing?
Storytelling. That’s just a lame answer, but it’s true, because I love the combination of visuals, and words, and music, and color. I started out mostly doing character design. I think my first job was on Hey, Arnold at Nickelodeon, doing character design. And just the notion of, when you design a character well, just from the way they dress, to the way they stand, to the way their hair is, all that stuff, that can inform story; that can inform who they are. And I love the idea of when a design is so crisp and clear that you just go, “I need no words, at all.” So to me, I think that’s probably the directing aspect of it. I just love the combination of all those things, and figuring out, and the balance of it. And with this one, it was great, because I had never worked with Rainmaker before. They’re a fantastic studio.
Did working with George Lucas influence your creativity?
You kidding me? It’s funny because he’s one of the chief reasons I do what I do. It was 1977 when that first movie came out. And getting the toys, and coming back and re-creating that. The notion of taking these characters, and having them do stuff. I remember sitting down with my dad, it was the day after Christmas, and I’d gotten a Vader and a Storm Trooper. And I was trying to re-create the thing that I had seen in the movie. And so I told him, he was the Storm Trooper and I was Vader. And I said, “Tear this ship apart until you find those plans.” And my dad said, “But if we tear the ship apart, we’re gonna die in space.” And I was like, “Ahhhh.” And so I think that was the moment when I became a director. It was incredible. It was film school, all over again. I admire that guy so much.
Kevin Munroe was incredibly humble and spent so much time with us. I can't wait for you to see Ratchet and Clank when it hits theaters Nationwide on April 29, 2016!
Watch this "Awesome" clip!
I was also able to meet half of the amazing Ratchet and Clank duo! Ratchet and Kelly has a nice ring to it, too, don't you think?
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