IGPX - Interview with Sean Akins and Jason Demarco

by Bamboo Dong, Sean Broestl,
ANN was lucky to be able to sit down with Sean Akins and Jason Demarco at San Diego Comic-Con 2005 and chat a bit about Toonami's upcoming series, Immortal Grand Prix. Because of its length, only the first half is posted. Join us again for the second half of the interview in a few days, when they talk about what it was like working with actors like Haley Joel Osmont and Mark Hamill, and the differences between the Japanese and American versions of the series!

Tell me about IGPX. How many episodes will there be?

SA: Well, we don't know. Right now, 26 is what we're scheduled to make. If it's a giant success, we'll make more of them. You just gotta play it by ear.

What are your hopes for the series? What are you looking forward to?

JD: Well, obviously you hope it's going to succeed. You hope it's going to do the numbers you feel it deserves to do. We really like the show, and it should do as well as anything on Toonami, because I think it holds up. I would also hope that it would, and it already has, open the door for more of these co-productions because as an anime fan, I get kind of tired of seeing anime brought over and destroyed, you know what I mean? Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. There're successful dubs and unsuccessful dubs, but I agree with what Sean was saying earlier [during the Comic-Con panel]. Toonami's next step has got to be making more co-productions that feel organic to our audience, but still have some of what we like about anime.

SA: It's kind of a two or three or four pronged fork. You really want to prove to the world that you can make a show and. That can lead to future opportunities, whether this show is a tremendous success or not. I think it looks really great. I think it'll reach an audience. I hope that the audience that we have intended it for embraces it and watches it, but once you've proven that you can do it, you can get more opportunities from that point on. It's really hard to go into somebody's office and be like, “Yo man, I can make shows!” and they'd be like, “Whatever.”

JD: Yeah, co-productions are a wonderful thing.

SA: Yeah it's all good. We made one, we'll make some more, whatever.

Do you plan on doing more with IG or are you still shopping around?

SA: We think IG's the best studio on the planet. We've talked to a lot of other studios, we had the opportunity to go to different places, but we chose to go to IG. We got a director we really like, we really like Maki [Terashima], [Mitsuhisa] Ishikawa's a great dude... I would hope to always have a show with them. We're probably going to work with the studio more. I mean, we have a 24-hour cartoon network so we need content. We need shows from everywhere and if I can be a guy that can get other shows made not only for Toonmai, but also different parts then we'll definitely do that. It'll probably be project to project. Maybe there's a show that's really appropriate to do at IG and maybe there's a show that's really not. I don't know what those would be, but as we move forward trying to identify different things to take to series to develop, I would probably guess that you would see us work with other studios. But, it's my intention to have a show going at IG going for the rest of my life, so we'll see what I can do.

Mitsuru Hongo (director of IGPX) was talking about his plans for season one earlier during the panel. Are there any big secret plans for the rest of the series?

SA: Well, there are secret plans, but we can't tell you the secret plans. Season one is the first 13 episodes, and then the second 13 episodes is season two.

So there's no plans for taking over the world? Giant merchandise conglomerate?

SA: Well, we don't know. You may see IGPX the Movie at the end. We have no idea. We're going to work our way through the series. If it goes up and people sort of respond to it and they want to see more, then the opportunity will be there to make something, whether that's another special, maybe a longer presentation, maybe another 13 episodes, or whatever it is. Right now the whole secret plan is to get 26 of these things done. That's where they stop right now.

Is it scripted so that the first 13 episodes have a real ending to them, or is there going to be a real cliffhanger at the end of episode 13?

SA: Well, uh... . Ehhhhh... ... ... Mm... ...

JD: Let's just say, there's two seasons. It's “the season of the IGPX” so it's like a baseball season. One through 13 is season one of our time, then there's a break that the viewer doesn't see. We start the story again after there's been a break from the end of season one and we begin season two with episode 14. So, we don't want to tell you what happens, but...

SA: I would imagine that you would feel satisfied with 13 episodes, you know what I mean? And then it'll come back and there'll be another 13 that can equally complement the first.

What exactly happened during the creative process?

SA: The concept itself was originally called Exoskeleton, and that was a property IG had in-house. We went over there and said, “Hey we really wanna make something. Got anything?”

JD: “You guys got shows? We need shows!”

SA: They had a bunch of different things we auditioned, a lot of material. Some was too old, some was too young, but this seemed like it was cool to us. It was a racing show. We thought that was different, and in the show there are rivals, so it's not like a classic hero/villain show. Like, there's a little something different. All those things are still at play, but it's not so basic. Once that was sort of established, we had lots of meetings with Hongo and IG. We talked about how the show had to be, the things that we wanted to see, and how we want it to feel. They generate short plot descriptions, we look at those things, then they write scripts, we look at those, we make notes... It kind of goes back and forth. We make suggestions, and we're currently writing the dub, so it's like we're all kind of writing it together. It all starts in Japan and starts with Hongo and his team of writers, then it comes to us for input, then it goes back, and comes back, and back and forth.

So they write most of it?

SA: They write most of it. It's their story. We're just working with them to guide them to have the show fit into where we want it to be.

So if it started out as a racing show, how did you get to the point where the IGPX 5-minute pilots were more of a Last Man Standing-type show?

SA: That was in the pilot. The pilot was Last Man Standing.

JD: It was one of the mech designers that suggested, “Why don't you just redesign the Satomi mech? What if it was like, a racing machine?” They were like, “What if it could transform and race and battle?” and he said, “Oh, that sounds cool!” We had a meeting with them and they said, “It's going to be a racing show,” and we're like “Oh! Uh, okay. Sure, that sounds great!”

SA: Yeah, it really came out of the blue. When you think about it, it makes more sense. Because, as it was structured before, if a character gets eliminated, you've got the last half of the show, but you don't have your characters in there. At least if they're in a race, they can continue to race. Even if they're behind, they're still involved in the story.

JD: There's a great deal of battle anime anyway, so that appealed to me. It's like, “Oh good, it won't be another, 'Come on, guys! Let's beat the crap out of this guy!'”

SA: Well, there's still tons of crap beating, but you get to race, which is the cool and different part.

Is this going to be released in Japan at the same time?

SA: It comes out in Japan in October. So, slightly before we launch it in the US.

Are they roughly the same? Like, same dialogue and stuff?

JD: I would say the gist of every story is the same. Like, there's never a point where a character's angry and we pretend they're not angry because we don't like them being angry. But, the words of how they're angry are probably different.

SA: We don't speak Japanese, so it's actually difficult for me to answer that question. We would imagine that it's a little bit different, but we always try to hold on to the integrity of the original work. At the same time, we don't want to make a project that sounds really stilted and translated. We want to make the dialogue flow and be easy, so that's sort of the way we work with it. We never just make something up, you know what I mean? It's usually sticking pretty close to what we believe is happening. So, pretty close, you know. I would assume.

JD:Slightly different mix.

SA: The mix is slightly different, but the intention in the very beginning was to make one show. This is honestly a show for the world. Cartoon Network's in 124 different countries all around the world, and Toonami's on... a number of them. Half of them, something like that. So I mean, this show will be in South America, in Italy, in Australia, in Taiwan... it should be everywhere. That's really the biggest win for us. That's sort of what we can bring to the table as Cartoon Network. We're the local brand. As cheesy as that sounds, it's true.

Part 2

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