Couch Session: "The Clockwork Girl" Co-Creator Kevin Hanna

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Kevin is the co-creator of the comic book as well as the director of the animated film.
In an interesting and fun interview, Kevin Hanna discusses his multifaceted career, ranging from video games to TV shows and now feature films.
Seemingly a dedicated storyteller with a passion for connecting with fans and audiences, Kevin tells us all about what inspired him to lead such a versatile career.
He talks about The Clockwork Girl from its inception to the process of bringing the story to the big screen.
He also touches on his thoughts on the current state of the animated film industry as well as talking about video game projects and possible future movie projects through his own Frogchildren Studios.
- JL: You started your career in video games.
However, after a few years of that, you moved on to get into TV animation.
What made you make that jump and what got you into that new field? Kevin Hanna: I like telling good stories, and making cool things, whatever the medium.
For me, the line between video games and film and television has always been a slim one.
Whether experienced through passive or active participation of the viewer, **storytelling is storytelling**.
My job is to engage the audience, and keep them at the edge of their seat.
JL: Interesting.
As a gamer myself, I often feel video games aren't appreciated as a valid artistic medium like they should be.
Nor do most understand the value of storytelling in games.
Moving on, you returned to video games and found a job with Microsoft as one of the founding members of the Xbox team.
Yet, again you branch out, this time entering the comic book world.
What inspired you to get into that realm? KH: I just really love comics.
Where film and video games are a collaborative party that need many people to tell a story, comics allow the artist (for better or worse) to engage the reader unfiltered, and un-compromised.
I make comics for that reason.
JL: It's nice to see that you seem so dedicated to connecting with your audience and appear to have that mentality of just a natural-born storyteller.
Now, speaking on comic books, that of course leads us to The Clockwork Girl, which you created with Sean O'Reilly.
How did you two meet and get involved creating this comic together? KH: In 2003, I was at the Emerald City Comicon with a small booth, selling mini-comics, when an enthusiastic Canadian saw my image of the Tinkerer and said we had to work together.
Sean and I started our first project together immediately after on other comic projects.
As the years passed Sean went from small-press guy to become a high profile publisher and movie producer, and I went from animator to art director for Disney and then started my own animation studio.
Sean and I were talking one day and he brought up the Tinkerer image and nudged me to start doing something with it.
I came up with the basic concept and characters for The Clockwork Girl comic, and Sean expanded on the simple idea, adding more characters, defined the world and really brought the script to life.
Soon after, the Clockwork Girl's first issue came out in 2007.
Now Sean's producing and I'm directing the movie.
It's thrilling to think this may be the first time a creative team from a comic series is the same as the creative team of the movie adaptation, at least in the west.
Hayao Miyazaki got a pretty big head start on us in the east.
JL: Sounds like you two hit it off and have a very good working relationship.
I also find it interesting that the creators of the source material are the same as those doing the movie here.
Too often it feels like things get "lost in translation" so to speak with new people trying to convey the thoughts and ideas of the creators when moving from one medium to another.
For those readers who aren't familiar with the comic, can you tell us what The Clockwork Girl is all about? KH: The comic is a quiet, sweet story of boy meets girl in a world ruled by mad scientists.
Romeo and Juliet, but with monsters and robots.
JL: And of course, now, we'll be seeing The Clockwork Girl adapted into an animated feature film.
What possessed you to bring Tesla and gang to the feature film arena? KH: A lot of people, fans and filmmakers, wanted the characters and world of The Clockwork Girl brought to life on the big screen.
Sean and I most of all.
With the ball already rolling, Sean and myself felt that we could be the ones to do it right.
For the film, we really had to amp up the world.
I like the comic as is, but if we adapted it directly to film the movie would be 20 minutes long.
The Clockwork Girl film is an epic steampunk action adventure, a fairytale with anime action.
A little Robot Girl is the first of her kind and is brought into the world on the verge of a civil war.
She makes friends with her father's arch enemy, Huxley the monster boy, and the two of them uncover a conspiracy that sets the whole world against them.
With nothing but each other they have to fight on and save the world.
JL: Now, this will be your directorial debut, right? What inspired you to be the one to step behind the camera and helm this project? KH: This is my feature film directorial debut, but I've been directing television, video game cut scenes, and commercials for 16 years.
However, I'm in no way trying to say I'm an old pro.
This film is the hardest thing I've ever done and demanded me to stretch creatively in ways I didn't know were possible.
Part of my motivation to do this particular film was born out of my frustration with animated children's films.
I love Pixar, but the industry seems set on ripping them off in superficial ways, resulting in a very narrow gene pool.
We have only one flavor of animated feature film coming out right now, and I'd like to see it mixed up a bit.
That's what we're here to do with Clockwork Girl, try and add some much needed variety to animation.
JL: I can totally understand that.
Nowadays, it seems like everyone is trying to be Pixar.
Every time you turn around, it feels like your getting the same animated movie that you've seen before.
Granted some are good, but the market as a whole does feel a bit stale.
What has it been like for you watching your creation come to life on the screen and having people like Carrie-Anne Moss and Brad Garrett and Alexa Vega bring a real voice to your characters? KH: I've always heard interviews with directors gushing about their casts, and I've rolled my eyes.
After having been in the trenches of film production I understand why.
These guys have given it their all for this film, and really brought the characters to life.
It has been amazing, the casting has been dead on.
Brad Garrett is both hysterical and horrifying as T-Bolt.
Jesse McCartney's wry and rambunctious nature comes through in every line reading as Huxley.
Jeffrey Tambor, who plays the Tinkerer, brings a very real depth to the character beside being very funny.
The Tinkerer is very near and dear to me and Jeffrey does more with the character then I could have hoped.
Carrie-Anne brings her authority and power to Admiral Wells.
When she was off mic, she was friendly and personable, once she got behind the microphone she was a force of nature.
She must have been holding back as Trinity or Natalie from Memento, Carrie-Anne as Admiral Wells makes her other roles look gentle.
Alexa Vega is the Clockwork Girl, in every way.
Her joy for life, herhonesty, sense of wonder and even the way she moves all comes though on every frame.
The whole film hinges on her, and she pulls it of beautifully.
I have to give it to our producers and casting director who supported our casting for the characters rather then what comedian was trendy at the moment.
We don't have any 30 year-olds playing teenagers or goofballs playing serious roles.
This cast has gravity.
JL: It does indeed sound like an interesting cast.
And I do have to say it is refreshing to see a movie riding on its own merit rather than trying to bank on the name on whoever is hot today.
Is this going to be a theatrical release? Or are you looking more towards a straight-to-DVD type thing? KH: Full Theatrical! I can't go into specifics but look forward to watching The Clockwork Girl in a theater near you! JL: Hmm no specifics huh? So no kind of release date we can talk about? KH: Winter 2011! JL: Any plans to show the film at any festivals? KH: Again, we're in talks and working out the details, but do not have anything to announce officially.
JL: Considering the background you have, are there any plans to take The Clockwork Girl property to the video game medium possibly? KH: You bet! Same as above, we're talking to some great people now, and once the ink is dry we'll put the word out about the Clockwork Girl games/toys/etc.
Honestly I'm most excited about the toys.
All these transforming vehicles, monsters and robots are going to make for some wicked action figures.
JL: Wow.
Indeed sounds like you have big ambitions and plans for this franchise.
Now, getting a little off-topic while speaking of video games, your company Frogchildren Studios has been involved in many things, some of that being video games.
If I understand correctly this also includes working with Kinect.
You yourself were involved with the creation of Kinect Adventures, if I'm not mistaken.
Do you have any other video game properties that you're working on? Anything you can talk about? Any other Kinect projects you're working on? KH: My animation company Frogchildren Studios was only slightly involved with Kinect Adventures development.
We did a lot more work designing the ESPN experience for Xbox.
I directed and we designed the promo videos that helped bring ESPN on Xbox to life.
I'm not really a sports guy, but we were supercharged at Frogchildren Studios designing new ways of how people interact with their entertainment.
We have a few more Xbox videos/projects that we've already done or are upcoming, but all for things that we can't talk about yet! All I can say we're making cool things together.
JL: Finally, on the subject of future projects, do you have plans for any future TV or movie projects, to maybe further your career in the industry and as a director? Maybe a Sixteen Miles to Merricks adaptation? KH: I'm going to keep directing films until someone makes me stop.
Merricks is definitely on my radar (or anything by Merrick's author Barnaby Ward).
The Clockwork Girl film has been going fantastic and a lot of people are really liking what they're seeing, so I've been talking with a lot of great people about some great projects.
Nothing is official yet, so we'll see which project lands first.
This next year is a big one for us, so keep an eye out for what we do next.
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