Sam Rhodes, Fanboy Comics Creative Director: Hi, this is Sam Rhodes from Fanboy Comics, and I’m here with award winning movie producer Aron Warner who received an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature [for] the blockbuster, Shrek. We’re here to talk about his upcoming projects with his production company, Strange Weather, as well as his first comic book series, Pariah, scheduled to be released at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International and published by Sea Lion Publishing. Mr. Warner, welcome and thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
Aron Warner: Oh, thanks for having me, Sam.
SR: Sure. Um, so you’re in New Zealand right now, as you were just telling me, and you’re working on a project right now with Cirque du Soleil and James Cameron, and it’s a 3-D feature film. What can you tell us about this project?
AW: Uh, it’s basically... it’s showing um . . . I’d say the best of the Cirque shows of Las Vegas in a way that you’ve never seen them before and couldn’t see them even if you were there and had the best backstage passes you could get. Also, we put cameras in places that people wouldn’t have previously dared to put cameras. And, we shot some amazing footage of these incredible set pieces and members of the Cirque shows. And, Andrew Adamson, who is directing the project, found a way to tie them all together in a narrative. It just kinda made this beautiful, amazing, moving film that, you know after having fifteen years of visual effects crammed down our throats, to see something where people are doing just... by themselves that are doing things. It’s a celebration of what the human body can really do and accomplish. And, ultimately, I’m blown away by it. And, I kind of didn’t know what I was getting into but now I’m like, “Wow!” this is really cool!
SR: That’s... It sounds awesome! It sounds awesome. I’ve seen one Cirque show in my life, and, if anybody has gone to see one, just seeing it, it’s mind blowing. So . . .
AW: The nice thing about this is it’s hard to go see Cirque shows if they’re not in your town, and, if they are, they’re not there very long. So, this is a way for people who wouldn’t necessarily have access to be able to see kinda the best of . . .
SR: Cool. Do you have any idea for a release date? When we can expect this?
AW: No. It’s still being discussed.
SR: Okay. Cool.
AW: I’d guess it’s either, you know, by the end of this year or early next year.
SR: Okay, cool! Uh, any ideas for a title? Everything online is saying it’s just untitled. Any ideas there?
AW: (Laughs) Uh, no. I have a bunch of really funny joke ones that I won’t tell you, but no, nothing yet.
SR: (Laughs) Save it for the bonus features on the DVD.
AW: Exactly. Exactly.
SR: Cool. Great yeah, it sounds awesome. Now we know your voice from the Big Bad Wolf in the Shrek films, and, according to Deadline Hollywood, you’re producing this show AND you’re playing a key role in the Cirque project. Is that true? Can you talk to us a little about your role?
SR: Not true.
AW: (Laughs) No.
SR: (Laughs) Okay.
AW: Is that really in Deadline?
SR: Deadline Hollywood said you “were playing a key role in the project.”
AW: Yeah, if I am playing a key role, I don’t remember having done it. (laughs)
SR: Okay. I’ll talk to Deadline, we’ll get that straightened out. Okay, cool. Well, let me ask you a little about the premise of the show and the plot. The premise of the show is stated as quote, “There are worlds beyond dreams, illusions, and imagination where human beings are capable of anything, where love rules and everything your heart yearns for is beautifully incredibly real.” Can you talk to us a little bit about that and about sort of the plot? Like, what kind of plot we can expect. I don’t know if you can reveal that yet, though.
AW: Honestly, it’s showy. It’s a love story and it’s about two people that meet briefly and are destined to be together. And, [they] spend the film trying to find each other. And, that’s as much as I’ll tell you really. It’s more about really seeing these performances and being part of them and having them feel like they some sort of context so they’re not just coming out of nowhere. And, it’s as much like a musical piece as anything, cause there’s so much amazing music that ties it all together. It’s kind of a trip to be honest with you. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen in a movie theater before.
SR: Cool. Well let me ask you about... Let me switch over to Strange Weather and Beasts of Burden, which Strange Weather has just optioned. Beasts of Burden is a comic by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, and you guys are adapting that. How excited are you about that project?
AW: I’m thrilled about that project. I mean, it’s funny, it’s one of those things that if someone just read you the premise, you’d go, “Yeah, I guess, you know. I mean that sounds cute.” And then, you read the graphic novel and it’s got a tone, and an honesty, and a guilelessness that I think is kind of incredible. And, it’s got a sense of humor that’s not snarky, it’s like real. And, these are real characters and real... I won’t say people, because they’re not people, but they’re as real as you get and that appeals directly to the kinds of movies we like to make, that are grounded and have some element of either fantasy or something in there that makes it interesting or unique and also actually feels sort of grounded in reality really. It’s kind of a perfect combo of elements for us.
SR: Cool, yeah. Now let me, for those listening who don’t know, Beasts of Burden follows a group of suburban dogs and a cat, uh, who basically just handle some supernatural goings-on in the neighborhood. Um, let me ask you, Aron, are you guys hoping to use CG animation for this movie?
AW: Yeah, I think it’d have to be an animated film. In terms of what the look of it will be, that’s all up for discussion and in the very early stages of development.
SR: Okay, cool. Yeah, I mean one thing I was gonna ask you about and maybe you don’t have an answer yet for me is one of the coolest things about the comic is Jill Thompson’s watercolor artwork, which is just incredible! And, I just wondered if that was gonna influence the art style in the movie.
AW: I would say it would have to. You know? I mean I think it’s kind of an integral part of what makes this... What gives you the right feeling from reading the book. And, you need to translate that somehow. It’s easy enough to do. I mean, my feeling is that CG animation is at its infancy, and people haven’t really explored much of where you can go with it yet. You know, it’s all been pretty traditional so far, and I think we’ve got a lot of opportunities to get painterly and to you know really get crazy, with things like the lighting. I’m very excited about that prospect, as well.
SR: Cool, yeah, that sounds amazing. It sounds like you guys are really going at it in the right direction. And, I know it’s early, so again, I apologize, maybe you can’t answer this question yet, but Beasts of Burden, the series, sort of walks a line with language, gore, violence... it’s not too hardcore, but there is that in there. Are you guys thinking you’re gonna tone that down a little bit, or, you know, make it more family friendly?
AW: You know, it’s a good question. Because you know it’s a line we’ll always walk. I think for us who either have families or, you know, spend a lot of time around kids. We know the lines you shouldn’t cross, because, even if you only alienate ten percent of the audience, it’s not worth it, to be able to say “shit” once or twice. It won’t really buy you anything. But, at the same time, if the stuff is integral to who the characters are and what they’re trying to say and what they’re trying to express, then it’s a worthwhile line to cross. So, we always found, especially in the Shrek films, that it’s a case by case basis. And, really dependent on if there’s a need for it or not. And, I think we’ll approach this the same way. You know, we don’t go out of our way to make films for a certain audience; we end up going out of our way to basically make films for ourselves and then hope that they will translate. And, I’m sure we’ll go about that the same way here. We haven’t started the uh... You know there’s a bunch of other people calculating behind us saying, “Well, you need to do this. You need to do that.” But, we’ll end up doing what we always do, which is make the best movie we can and letting it speak for itself.
SR: Cool. Cool. Now, Strange Weather, I read, has optioned Paul Melko’s Sci-Fi novel, The Walls of the Universe.
SR: Are you guys hoping to do live action for that or CG as well for that?
AW: Yeah, that’s definitely a live action; it’s being adapted right now. And, we’re very excited about that, as well.
SR: Nice. Alright, so let’s talk about Pariah, a twelve-issue comic that you’ve created, and it was penned by, I’m probably gonna mispronounce it, but I’ve always said Philip “Guh-LAT.” I don’t know if that’s correct, though...
AW: It’s “Juh-LAT.”
SR: “Juh-LAT,” cool, penned by Philip Gelatt and illustrated by Brett Weldele. The first issue comes out at the San Diego Comic-Con, and I got a chance to read it and review it and it was amazing. I thought everyone did a great job!
AW: Oh, cool!
SR: Yeah. I just wanna know if... or can you talk to us a little about what your plans are for San Diego for the release?
AW: We’re definitely doing a signing. That’s pretty much all I know right now, in terms of the plan. The website is gonna come online. We shot some live-action companion pieces that will go along with the release, as well, that are really cool. And, I won’t really tell you what they are, but we’re going to start leaking them out there, and they’ll probably play- well, they’ll definitely play at Comic-Con as well.
AW: And, that’s really it. It’s just starting to get the word out about it, and it’s one of those things where we want to walk the line of not giving away... Cause the first four books are- then there’s the twelve books of an arc. The first four books are a definitive arc and end in a place that is surprising, and so we wanna get people excited about saying, “By the way, this is what’s happening.”
SR: Cool. Now, you’ve mentioned, I know you don’t want to talk too much about it, but- are those the webisodes you’re gonna do?
AW: Yeah and they’re not really, I mean, I wouldn’t say they’re webisodes as much as they are just like... how can I describe them... they’re basically like, “What If’s.” They represent some of the other kids’, who aren’t in the books, journeys at the beginning of the story and what’s happening to them where they are. They are more kind of “feel pieces” than anything, just to give you an idea of what the world that these guys live in would feel like.
SR: Cool. Cool. Let me ask you, what was it like working with Gelatt and Weldele?
AW: They’re awful. Uncooperative.
SR: Yeah, I figured as much.
SR: I figured.
AW: Um, it was amazing. Phil was a friend of Jeff Fierson, who I’ve worked with very closely. He’s one of the principles in our company. And, he introduced us and we hit it off and he loved the idea. And, Brett, we... I mean, it’s one of those stories where we walked around Comic-Con last year, like I’m going because I wanted to find an artist. So, everyone’s like, “You don’t find artists by doing that. You find artists by blah-blah.” So, we walked around [looking at] pretty much everybody's books and everybody’s tables. I found Brett and I’m like, “This is amazing!” This is unusual and it has a clarity and an ease of read that I really love, and, also, it just feels like it’s kind of outside. And, I like that, it fits the story well. And, we talked to Brett and I think he was suspicious and thought we were crazy, and it took a while for him to figure out that we were for real.
AW: And, the rest is history.
SR: Nice. Nice. So, you’re quoted as saying, “I came up with Pariah after reading an article about in vitro genetic manipulation. We take medications every day without fully understanding how they work. It’s kind of terrifying if you think about it.” It sounds like a really cool idea, and, again, the first issue is great. What made you decide to go with a comic for this particular idea?
AW: I’d never done one, and I liked the medium. I think it’s a way of storytelling that I hadn’t experienced before, and I thought it would be really cool. And, I feel like we have more latitude and we don’t have to stick to, “Okay, this is how it has to be.” This is the kind of language you have to have and you can’t have kids this age and you know? We can pretty much do what we want with these, and I like the freedom of that.
SR: Cool. Cool. Is there something personal for you about this story of teenage outcasts trying to fit in?
AW: Well, it’s personal for all of us, I would think. I mean we all have our own... Even people who aren’t outcasts feel like they’re outcasts. You know? And, some more than others. It’s definitely... yeah, it’s really personal.
AW: I also think it’s kind of topical in that we really are messing with our minds and bodies, and we’re doing stuff and we don’t know what the ramifications are. We are also always talking about curing things, and, sometimes, the cure is worse than the disease itself. Sometimes, the diseases aren’t really disease. Everyday things that we thought were 100 percent true get disproved. I just have this thing about the arrogance of thinking that we know everything, and people that are so-called experts that tell you, “This is the way it needs to be.” It speaks to that, as well.
SR: Cool. Cool. Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me today.
AW: My pleasure.
SR: We’re definitely eagerly awaiting the release of Pariah at San Diego Comic-Con which takes place from the 20th to the 24th of this month. Mr. Warner, best of luck and we can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next.
AW: Thanks a lot, Sam. Take it easy.
Get a first PEEK at Pariah on SDCC Preview Night!
Wednesday, July 20th, from 6:00 - 9:00 P.M.
PARIAH SIGNING at TR!CKSTER
Thursday, July 21st, from 12:00 - 2:00 P.M.
(directly across from SDCC at the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center)
Meet, Greet, and Signing with Creator Aron Warner, Writer Philip Gelatt, and Artist Brett Weldele!!!
Friday, July 22nd, at SDCC from 3:00 - 5:00 P.M.
Exhibitor Table E03