Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Part of the Korean music group g.o.d., Yoon Park got his Hollywood debut with Warner Bro's Speed Racer. Now he gets to play Yamcha in the upcoming Dragonball: Evolution. Definitely one of the chillest guys we met in Durango, he sat down with us and chatted about his fan zest for Dragon Ball, and how excited he was to be involved with the project.
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.
Can you describe Yamcha?
I know the anime, but when I got the script, I got the feeling that outwardly, this guy is very tough, but when you get to know him, it seems like he's been scarred. He has tough armor on, he's been scarred somewhere down the line, whether it's from society, or from a business deal, or from heartache, or whatever. So he puts the armor on to try and pull one over on anyone, because he has no remorse. He doesn't care.
As long as he gets a one-up on someone, he doesn't care. He's a little bit different from all the other characters, because everyone has a specialty. Like Bulma is a weapons specialist, she's a scientist, she's smart. Goku, Roshi, and Chi Chi are all ultra disciplined martial artists. This guy's just the normal guy. He's basically a desert rat, but he's not as tough as he may seem to be on the outside.
And Yamcha built his own truck?
That's right. Like I said, he's a desert rat, so what he does is he waits for people. He builds a trap. He traps these guys and what he usually does is he digs a hole and makes people fall into them. He acts like he's gonna help them out, but before he helps them out, he needs something from them, and that's how he gets these little trinkets from everyone. And then he puts his truck together. It's not the best looking truck in the world, but you can tell there is all kinds of scraps of metal all put together. That's what he does. He's just a plain as the breeze desert rat. He's a hustler. *laughs* He's a swindler. He gets things from other people. He doesn't care what they feel, because he's been scorched. He's like, "Hey man, I'm gonna get mine."
In the cartoons, he has a little critter side kick. You don't have one in the movie.
That's right. With an anime going into a motion picture, I think it's a very hard thing to do, because first of all, it's huge in the United States, Europe, Mexico. You can't make it exactly like the anime. I don't want to say the wrong words, but you don't want to make it too cheesy. If it's going to be too much like the anime, then I guess it's going to be cheesy, so the director's job, which he's doing a really great job, is to make it in between that.
As a recording artist in Korea, if you put out a new album, you know what fans want. If you give them what they want 100%, it's no fun to them anymore. There is nothing new. So what you have to do is meet that fine line of 50% of what you want to give to them, and 50% of what they want to see. You meet in the middle, and that goes a long way, because then you're growing. Just like what I think about this project. If you were to make it too much like the anime, why not just watch the anime?
So they incorporated things into it where it's somewhat realistic, but fantasy and anime put together. All the special effects and stuff are almost just like anime. But the characters themselves, and the way they're portrayed, we try to portray them as much like the anime as possible. By the same token, you have to put in your flavor to make it more real.
Did you go back and look at the shows to do research?
Oh yeah. Dude, when I was younger, I had all these dolls. My cousin's got the video games, too, and so for me, it wasn't that hard to get.
Do you feel a responsibility to the fans?
Oh yeah. Being from Asia, you know, there are a lot of fans. As soon as they found out I was going to be on Dragon Ball... I have a Myspace, and all these Dragon Ball fans are coming on and asking me questions, like, "Is he going to this?", "Is he going to do that?" And you're just going, "oh my God." I don't want to let down my fans in Korea and all over the world who know me as a recording artist, because this is my first attempt to do Hollywood movies. Well, I just finished Speed Racer in Berlin. This is the second project and it's a really flattering project for me. It's huge. In Asia they know me, but in the United States, they don't know me from a can of paint. *laughs* It was really flattering for me to get the role because I actually won him in an audition.
Are your friends or family excited?
My nephew is really excited. He's in Korea right now, but I talked to my sister, and he's so ecstatic about it. He's like, "I'm going to be playing with my uncle's doll." I remember when I first got the role. I mean, In Asia it's huge. Dragon Ball and like, Pokémon. All these cartoons are to us when we were young, like Bugs Bunny was here. Or Tom and Jerry. But even more so, it's because back in the day, when we were younger, animation was just animation for animations sake. That's just all it was, but nowadays, there are the video games there's the toys, the anime, and now they have that cosplay where people have conventions and dress up as their favorite anime characters. It's like a lifestyle, you know. It's like a culture, so it's really huge.
How do you think this project will cross over for American audiences?
You'd be surprised how many fans there are in the United States. It's huge. I think it's going to have a pretty good effect on the newer generation who maybe doesn't really know about Dragon Ball, and then on the people who were Dragon Ball fans. I'm impressed with the special effects they could pull off. It's amazing. It's crazy. I was like, "Woah, dude, this is just like the cartoon."
Do you feel more pressure, not only to make the fans happy, but as an Asian actor?
I'm doing the best that I can. It was really flattering for me to get the role, and when I got the role, it was like me, instead of just becoming the character 100%. I tried to make the character into me, so that it wouldn't feel so awkward and cheesy, because Yamcha is a pretty quirky guy. He's kind of sarcasti,c you know. But when it comes to being next to a girl in the cartoon, he's usually very shy. His nose bleeds and all this stuff, but in the movie, you don't go to that extreme. But you still see it when he's next to Bulma once and a while. He's attracted to Bulma, but I don't think he really has that much confidence in himself.
We heard that on the set, you'll start rapping.
You know, to me, that comes out naturally like brushing my teeth. *laughs* I've been doing it for so long. The filming goes until like 7, 8 in the morning sometimes, and you get delirious. Emmy's a singer, so a lot of the times when we get delirious like that, I'll be in the car and I'll start, "bmp ba-dmp, chssh" and start messing around, and she'll start singing a line. I'll rap to that line. Also, I'm bass vocalist in my group, so we just mess around like that. And Justin says, "Dude, I can't sing worth beans," but he'll start putting stuff in. We actually recorded some of it. You can hear Chow in the background going, "yeah!" And it was just really funny. He is the coolest guy, because to me, he's a big star. All these guys are Hollywood stars, like Justin and Emmy. Eriko's a Japanese star, but they're all so humble and like family. It just makes it that much better to work with. Chow Yun Fat, to me, is a huge star, but he's really humble and he jokes around just as much as a 20-year-old kid would, or even more. So it's really enjoyable.
So you are going to be in two American versions of legendary anime. How does that make you feel?
I'm totally stoked on that one, because it was like heaven. With Speed Racer, I had even taken trips to Japan and bought those little plastic models with the little saw blade and everything. I collect, and it might sound geeky or whatever, but I collect little vintage Japanese robots and comic books and stuff like that. It was seriously big. It was awesome.
Are you a fan of American comic books?
Oh yeah. I don't want to give my age out, but I've been collecting for a long time. I just stopped around 10 years ago, because I had to go overseas, but I collect X-Men. I have old stuff, and I have new stuff like Teen Titans. Everything. I have them all.
Would you be interested in being in one of those types of American comic book movies?
I'd be stoked for that, too, but I don't know if there are that many Asian roles you could play in there. But yeah, I'd be stoked to be on one of those. When I was auditioning for this Yamcha role, I told Jim, "Even if you don't pick me for this role, just let me be in the background somewhere. I'll shovel manure!"
Have you been able to drive the truck? How fast does it go?
It doesn't go too fast, because those tires are huge. It's a huge tire with a body lift, but you have to understand that if you are going to do that, you are going to beef up the transmission, too. And you have to put it in a low gear. When you are driving it, it's like, bleh. But it's funny, because before we shot it, I practiced for four days. I was out there driving around and going around these, and going "whoosh! Yeah! This is going to be awesome!" Then the shoot day comes, and I'm like, "Okay, he runs out of the temple and get in the car!" Then, action! I drive five feet, then they go, "stop!" I asked if I could drive it anymore, and they said, "No, that's it." So the stunt guy's doing all the stunts, and I was like, "What? What did I do all that for?"