On the Set: Dragonball Evolution
Interview with Tim Van Rellin

by Bamboo Dong, Apr 1st 2009

As we were touring the sets located in the factory, we were greeted by Tim Van Rellin, one of the producers. He showed us around a bit more, as well as answered some general questions about the film.

This interview was a recorded, group interview with multiple news organizations. Credit for the questions is attributed in part to Comic Book Movies, Comics2Film, IESB, IGN, MovieWeb, SciFi.


What's this called?

This is the genesis chamber. This is part of Lord Piccolo's alien transport. He has a thing called a dirigible, which is how he travels around. This is one area within it. And in this section of it, we called it the genesis chamber. It's where he created the Fu Luns, which are a sort of character we have within the film. He generates them in here to be able to send them down to our volcano set, which you will all see in a minute, to impede or try to stop Goku from getting the Dragonballs together.

Are the Fu Luns CGI?

No, no, they're real. We created them out of prosthetics, so they're prosthetic creatures.

Can you talk about what the design looks like?

Well, you'll be able to see a dead one when we are on the volcano set. He only had to create one because they regenerate themselves. So once he created one, they regenerate. And this set is the set where it happened. The floor is like this because it was lit from underneath, and the sides are clearly lit from the top, so it was like you were in this huge bubble of light. Unfortunately, all these sets that I'm showing you right now are called dead sets, because we've stripped all the set dressings out of it and we're just about to pull them down because we are finished with them and don't have anything else to do. When all the lights are on and everything's in here, it looks very futuristic. It looked great on film, absolutely great.

It already looks futuristic.

Yeah, exactly.

How much of the film have you seen?

Well, given the fact that we're on our last nine days or eight days of shooting, we're a long way along the line.

Do you have an editorial crew down here so you can edit as you're shooting?

Yes. Absolutely, yeah. We're editing as we go along. We were expecting the release date to be August 15th. It's not just us. There are people working on this in Los Angeles, and other places. It's spread all over the place.

Do you envision this as the start of a franchise?

Hopefully. Absolutely. I mean, certainly Fox does, I know. So Yeah, absolutely, we're hoping it's going to be very successful and then we'll do number two and number three. The mangas go on forever so as long as they can keep it going.

So the choice of Justin Chatwin was because he's young and he can continue on.

Yeah. Partly. Not only because he's young, but he kind of really fits that role. He fit the role of Goku. He does it exceedingly well. And Chow, he is our sort of our anchorman within it, and again very good. He's the older sort of master and teaches everybody how to do things because he is a master.

So you were working with a schedule that originally had the film releasing in August. What's the reason for the push back?

That, I don't know. You'll have to ask somebody at Fox that. I don't know the answer to that. I mean, studios change their minds on release patterns. It could be because of other films that are coming out at the time. There could be a number of different reasons as to why they decided they wanted to hold it back and put it out on a different date.

That must've been a relief for you to hear.

From a post point of view, absolutely, yeah. And for the director, too, because we had a 19-week post, which is very, very tight, especially for a movie like this. I mean, even for a normal movie, you have like 26 weeks and for something with a lot of special effects, you know, maybe it goes to 30, so it gives us a lot more breathing room in the post end.

But on the other hand, are you concerned that it won't get the greatest release?

Oh no, not at all. This is what you'd call a tentpole. It is a tentpole movie, so it's gonna get a good release date, that I know. And there is such a huge fanbase. Again, I didn't know about all this stuff but the fanbase in Latin America is enormous. It's obviously enormous in Asia. I know it's very big in Europe. I think probably America is the place where it is the least known.

Are there certain elements in the movie that reflect the intention to appeal to a broader demographic, rather than just kids?

The movie itself is kind of aimed, I think, for ages 8 to 30-year-olds, but it's also not just aimed at anime or manga fans. We want to bring in a much wider audience than that. That's for sure. We definitely want to do that.

What does that mean in terms of the action, the intensity level of the action scenes?

It's pretty high , the intensity level is pretty high. I mean we push it right to the limit. And there is a lot of new stuff. But I mean, you should ask Jim [Wong] a lot of those questions because that's really more his domain than mine.

What kind of new stuff?

In some shots, you'll see very slow motion of what happens, like if you punch something, and you see the sort of muscles and the shock and your wrist sort of changes. It's incredible. Because he sees things that the eye doesn't normally see. That's what makes the concept interesting. And obviously, you have to be careful when you do something like that, so that you don't overuse it because it gets boring. I've seen what we've done so far and it's great. It's awesome.

We walked out of the factory, and toward the outdoor sets. The day we went, there was a harsh, strong wind that was actually causing some minor damage to the sets. They were filming night scenes, though, so they were fairly confident that the wind would die down by then (which it did). The first thing we noticed was a huge volcano.

So this is, or was, our volcano. We've only got a small amount of insert shooting to do on it tonight, because you can see the wind is beginning to tear it apart. Basically what happens in the sequence is that our main characters climb to the top of this volcano, walk their way in through these sort of areas over there, toward your left, which has crevasses so they can get themselves in here. En route, they meet the Fu Luns that we just talked about. They try to impede them, so they have to have a battle with them. Because they regenerate, of course, that's a big problem for them. And then they find out that, in fact, they tuck them in here onto this green, which is in fact molten lava in CGI world. It then becomes stepping stones and they can make their way to the Dragonballs on the top of that little... you see that little sort of peaky bit, just to the right where the set's been destroyed? That's where the Dragon Ball is, and Mai, who is is Piccolo's accomplice, is flying in with her jet pack in order to get it, and they shoot her down. She and Goku have a little confrontation up there, but Goku manages to get the ball and they all disappear, so that's one more for his collection. This takes place just before the Toysan Temple part of the movie.

Is there a certain real-world fighting style that the characters use?

Well, yes and no. Some of it is, but we've created a new type of of fighting because we didn't want to do the same old boring thing. You can ask the stunt coordinator and he'll tell you.

You were talking a little about the wind and how it's affecting the production.

Yeah, well, for the last couple of days... On the next set, you'll see why. But you'll see some of the damage to it already. It's just these last few days, we've had very high winds and that creates big problems for us. We're shooting at night. We have to fly all our lighting overhead, and light through these big silk sheets, and of course they act like sails on a ship, and so they start going every which way. I can raise them up until the wind drops, which it usually does when it starts to get dark and the wind drops down.

Why did you pick Durango?

You'll see the reason why because the next set actually represents a real place in the state of Durango, which we, in fact, shot partly there, and this is a recreation of it. The main reason for coming and shooting here was two-fold. One, when I got the screenplay and read it and saw the sort of locations that required it, I kind of knew where to go because I don't make movies in the States. I make movies in all sorts of other odd places around the world, so I've got a big knowledge of where to go. There is also an economic aspect in it as well, and it takes a lot of money and takes a long time. We didn't have the time and we didn't have the money, so this place really worked well and the government here has been amazing. I mean, in terms of the help and and the stuff that they've given us... again, I've worked and traveled all over the world, and I've never had such cooperation from I've got with these guys here. It's amazing.

Have the winds effected your schedule at all?

They've affected it, yes, even today. We lose shooting time, so as a result, you have to wait until the wind dies down before we actually do some of our work, so yes it has an impact.

How many days behind are you?

Right now, probably a day and a half. But that's for the whole movie, so actually that's pretty good. You know, up until we moved out here onto these things, we were totally on schedule. It's only that wind factor that's created this sort of problem.

Do you have shooting to do in LA or are you already done?

Nope, everything that's going to be shot on this movie will be shot in Mexico. Literally everything.

Have you had to rebuild any of the set so far?

No. Not yet, thank God. See, you can see these sort of... little fissures and cracks in there, which of course in daylight just look as kind of odd, but at night time, they have a colored gel behind them and we light through it, so at nighttime, it all glows red. So it looks actually like behind the rock is actually is molten lava and you'll see that all over the set. So in fact, at night, it looks pretty. It really does. I mean, in the daytime, it looks a bit scrappy and mucky and things, but at nighttime, it looks amazing. You really think that you are actually in a volcano, because we have smoke coming out, and we have all this orange light.

I think when it finally gets cut into the film, it's going to look really, really cool. These are the areas where they have their encounters with the Fu Luns, who are in various parts trying to grab them. All at night. The Fu Luns are the same color, so you can't really see them.

The tour moved on towards a craggy mountainous set, which indeed resembled the mountain ranges of Durango. It would be here where, later that night, we'd see Piccolo give Goku a piece of his fist.

There is a real location in Durango where there are rocks that look exactly like these rocks do. And so what happens is that this Dragon Temple rises out of the ground and comes up and nicked it. In our world, it sits apart from even those rocks, and those rocks are all really shaped exactly like that. Kind of like what you see here. And the altar piece that you saw on the stage fits, to a degree, above right where this set ends. So it's way way up in the air. That middle section will obviously be created by CGI, and then we have the real top and the real bottom. And then what we do is, in order to make this set appear even bigger than it is, we change it into into four different areas during the day. In fact, it will happen tomorrow, after we finish tonight's work. We will lift out certain sections of what's in here and drop in new walls and just change the complete look of it, so as they have their battle, they are moving around from one area to another area to another area, so you get the feeling that the set is obviously four times the size than it actually is.

I see a dragon head hidden in the rocks. Is that all throughout this set?

Not throughout, but it is a Dragon Temple, so, you know, you have to see bits of dragons or paintings of dragons at the top of the stairs. There is a bit of a dragon coming down the edge of this rock here. You have to have that motif around.

The wind is a little problematic. I mean, you look up and you can see that the crane arm is actually moving in the wind. Yeah, that's a 90 foot crane. Moving it is not going to be easy. Once the wind dies down, then we'll be fine.

Do we see this at the end of the film?

This is at the grand finale when Goku and his all friends come here, and who ends up getting all the seven Dragonballs, and who ends up getting the wish before they all disappear around the world again and have to be found again. In episode two. *laughs*

Out the back, there are stairways so that we can actually get up there and do what exactly we want.

How much of this is walkable? This sort of thing we're on.

Well, obviously we stand here, but all these ledges here, they're all walkable. All these steps and things are walkable. These balconies, everything is walkable on the inside and the outside. In the backyard, the set actually continues on. There's a whole maze beyond all this that's actually out in the back.


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