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Anime Expo 2022 - Interview with One Piece Film Red Producer Shinji Shimizu

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Producer Shinji Shimizu's tenure at Toei Animation goes back decades. He has had a hand in bringing fans popular series like Gegege no Kitarō, Yes! Precure 5, Toriko, and of course, One Piece. Shimizu sat down with Anime News Network at Anime Expo to discuss the franchise's latest film entry, One Piece Film Red, its central music themes, and bringing popular character Shanks to the big screen.

You've been involved in the planning for multiple One Piece films. What separates One Piece Film Red from the previous movies?

Shinji Shimizu: In One Piece films of the past, there's always very strong, bad, dare I say stereotypical types of enemy figures that Luffy and his gang would beat up and fight, but with this movie, that is different. If you follow the series, you know that Luffy received his very iconic straw hat that sets off this entire adventure from Shanks. And Shanks is going to make an appearance in this movie. There's over ten films in The One Piece film catalog, and very often I would ask Oda-san, “Can we put Shanks in the next movie? Can we put Shanks in the next movie?” and he rejected me every time until Red, so I'm very excited for him to finally make an appearance.

Do you think you just wore him down and he finally agreed?

Shimizu: There are many, many arcs in One Piece and the final arc is going to be a very long and epic one. I think it more has to do with the timing. I would say the timing is right and even Oda-san himself understood that hey, this is the right moment to revisit Shanks. The big question mark that remains is, “Will Shanks and Luffy ever meet?” which, I can't answer that, so we'll have to find out.

Goro Taniguchi is a very interesting director who has helmed many unique projects. How is his style represented in One Piece Film Red?

Shimizu: Taniguchi-san is of course an amazing, amazing creator in his own right, and he can create original movies and screenplays if he wanted to. The idea that he took on this project featuring such a mega-franchise, I think it's really interesting, so it's an adventure for us, too, not just the characters. Like, how is this going to turn out? How is he going to direct it? But whatever it ends up being, I feel very confident that it's something that everyone can look forward to.

I hope it has some Back Arrow energy. I really enjoyed that show.

Shimizu: I haven't seen the final cut [of Film Red] yet myself so I'm looking forward to that too.

Music is a major theme in the promotion for the film and the character Uta herself. How were the musical artists chosen for the promotional campaign?

Shimizu: Oda-san himself is a huge music fan and he effectively created this “Oda Music Team” where he would stand at the center, and that team kind of moved as its own entity, negotiating with all the artists, identifying what the best fit would be. Of course Oda-san has final sign-off on every decision that the Oda Music Team makes. That was how the musical components were chosen.

What influenced Uta's character design?

Shimizu: It was all Oda. He did everything from a blank canvas. He designed the characters, the look, and everything.

Which different pirate groups can we expect to see?

Shimizu: It's an all-star cast!

Is this the first time we've seen the Red-Haired Pirates?

Shimizu: Yes, all of them are going to make an appearance for the first time.

It seems like they all have kind of a rock-and-roll theme?

Shimizu: You're right. There is a kind of rock-and-roll motif going on, and I think that's something Oda-san was very aware of when he was designing them.

What were some of the different visual concepts the staff came up with for Uta before settling on her current look?

Shimizu: He led the charge on the music and all the design this time so it's really Oda-san's movie, I would say.

Do you know if there are any specific rock artists that he enjoys, or maybe took some inspiration from? Like David Bowie or KISS?

Shimizu: Oda-san's really good with all genres of music, and that's actually something that I'd asked him during the production of this movie. “Hey, what's the angle or musical direction that we're going in?” And he said, “Shimizu, I don't think that even if I explained it to you, you'd understand because you're an old guy and a lot of the artists we're working with are from a much younger generation.” laughs

What was the criteria for Uta's speaking and singing voices and what drew staff to select Kaori Nazuka and Ado for the roles?

Shimizu: In terms of Nazuka, she had auditioned out of many voice actresses, and as far as Ado, she was imagined for the role from the beginning. With the current casting setup, there's two people playing the role of one character. Naturally, Nazuka is doing all the speaking and the acting and performing, and Ado is doing the musical performances, so their voice—tonally, texturally—is slightly different. Nazuka was very aware of what Ado was performing. She would listen to Ado's singing performances over and over to try and make sure her acting matched whatever Ado was singing, so that's how they were able to get one character with two actors.

As a crew, what would you say is the “vibe” of the Red-Haired Pirates compared to the Straw Hats?

Shimizu: I am not fully sure myself because I haven't seen the final cut yet of what Shanks' pirate troupe looks like, but if you can imagine the respective leaders—Luffy, given his personality, the kind of people he would gather and the kind of team members he would have as part of his crew, versus Shanks, and the kind of aura and vibe that he gives off, and the kind of people who would follow Shanks. I think there is certainly a different set of people who would choose to follow Shanks and his crew. So between them, there's a fundamentally different group of people that they've probably gathered. With respect to Shanks and his Red-Haired Pirates, of course I'm not fully sure myself at this stage, but what I do know is that there are definitely going to be very noteworthy or very respectable characters.

The trailers for Film Red include a lot of emotional scenes featuring Shanks and Uta. Should fans bring a lot of tissues to the theater?

Shimizu: Bring lots of boxes of tissues to the movie theater. When they were doing the ADR voice recording sessions, the staff members would be crying. Even Oda-san got a little misty-eyed.

The film will open in Japan on August 6. The film will have IMAX screenings in 27 theaters in Japan that will open alongside regular screenings. The film will also have MX4D, 4DX, and Dolby Atmos screenings on opening day. Crunchyroll will theatrically screen screen the upcoming One Piece Film Red anime film in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand this fall. The screenings will be available in both Japanese audio with English subtitles, and an English dub.

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