Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Gatchaman That Never Was

Lots of animated features never get made. Here's one of them.

Back in the late 2000s, Imagi Animation studios started working on a CGI-animated Gatchaman feature, which was to be released with Warner Bros. They even created the trailer (at the link above). For whatever reason, though, the movie was cancelled, and no one spoke of it ever again.

Until now, really. Earlier this summer, previous IMAGI Head of Layout and DP Adam Holmes uploaded a few pieces of animation from the defunct Gatchaman project, in various stages of production. ...

The Animation Guild organized Imagi eight years ago without a shot being fired. The Hong Kong company set up a satellite studio in Sherman Oaks, looking to hire a bunch of top-notch board artists and designers from California. But they quickly discovered that if they didn't sign a TAG contract, they weren't going to get the quality of staff they desired. So a contract was negotiated, and hesto presto! We had another signator animation studio in the San Fernando Valley.

Imagi ramped up production on several features, but Gatchaman was the first feature to be boarded at the new facility. (Astroboy was the first feature released, Gatchaman the maiden project.)

I used to go to Imagi at its Sherman Oaks Galleria location and kibitz with the story crews. I soon found out that Gatchaman was a complicated picture, and that management wasn't tying down the direction that it wanted to go. This proved frustrating for employees. A talented development crew made multiple passes on the 84-minute feature, but the mother studio could never make up its collective mind regarding story, and so Gatchaman was placed further back on the release slate.

Astroboy, another picture being boarded and designed, was judged by higher-ups to have more commercial potential, and so was pushed to the front of the line. The studio kept hiring; at Imagi's peak, there were three (maybe four) features in work and over 100 staffers. But the only feature to make it all the way to general release was Astro Boy.

When that movie flamed out at the box office, the studio cut its losses by shutting down its Valley outpost and relocating both story development and animation to Hong Kong.

After AB, Imagi made no other features. The failure of its first independent movie, coupled with the financial meltdown of 2008-2009, led to the closing of the studio. But for one brief moment in the middle of the Valley, Imagi dreamed big as it boarded and developed Gatchaman. (And a fragment of the results can be viewed at the link up above.)

Sorry it never happened.


Grant said...

Problem with gatchaman is the SAME problem with their astroboy: They both lack any CHARACTER. Action scenes are fun, but tiresome, without any character WITH CHARACTER to care about.

Those clips are basic animatics, the kind done a thousand times a day at companies all over the world.

In short spurts, for video games, commercials, or reels, they might be interesting. But as clips from a proposed feature film, they're pretty amateurish.

Remember, astroboy bombed because of this reason.

Alex Dudley said...

What about TMNT? Imagi made that before Astro Boy
Or was it not part of TAG at the time?

Steve Hulett said...

TMNT was produced for a conglomerate in Hong Kong, Imagi had no studio in California back then.

It was after Turtles that they set up a studio in L.A.

Unknown said...

Whooo boy, that tent thing was horribly directed.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Grant said...
Remember, astroboy bombed because of this reason.

I wanted to like Astroboy as well, but for the reasons stated above, I felt the same way about the movie as well. Too much emphasis on action and less on character certainly. I already knew of Astroboy before going to see this and was already fearing for the worst from the opening alone with it's floating city isolated from the rest of the planet the way they went with the premise.

Steve Hulett said...
TMNT was produced for a conglomerate in Hong Kong, Imagi had no studio in California back then.

Yeah I suppose some of us have to be reminded there if we thought that was a total US production (the only other Imagi thing I can think of, also not from here was the Highlander OVA they did with Japan's Madhouse Studios).

Chris Sobieniak said...

Just thought of this (at the very end of Astro Boy)!

JD Ryan said...

TMNT was done by a very small group of us in a basement in Encino for pennies. The Animation was done in Hong Kong, but the editing, boarding and Layout was done here in a damp moldy basement. TMNT grossed almost $100 million worldwide. Not bad for a small group of guys in a basement. The studio had promise, what happened when they grew was a travesty. Things got fast and furious. They should have focused on one thing at a time.

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