Howdy and welcome ya’ll back to the swankest little column on the web, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! Today’s column is all about the upcoming film release of Gene-Fusion, releasing from MTI Home Video on DVD this upcoming Tuesday, May 10th, 2011.
Based off the comic book published back in 2003 by Beckett Comics, Gene-Fusion is certain to delight fans of both American favorites like Justice League: Unlimited and anime fans of Yugi-Oh! It tells the story of: “In the year 2310. A new sport, Gene-Fusion is all the rage! In this exciting game, specially-trained athletes, called Fusers, design their own super-creature by combining three forms of animal DNA… Four teens, seemingly plucked from obscurity, are trained to be Fusers. They become instant celebrities as they perform before sold out crowds. But what they don’t know is that each of them has a role to play in an alien conspiracy to take over the world. Only through learning to work together as a team can these four, young heroes take on this alien threat and save the planet from destruction.“
I had a chance to talk to one of the film’s producers, Shaun McLaughlin, to tell us about it.
SHAUN McLAUGHLIN: GENE-FUSION was originally a comic book property created by Jeff Amano and published by Beckett Comics in 2003. The idea was to create a “next step” for kids who were enjoying POKEMON, which was “the” kids entertainment property at the time.
From what I understand, they were looking to do a movie awhile, there were a couple of deals that came and went. At the time, Beckett Entertainment and I were repped by the same people. When JUSTICE LEAGUE: UNLIMITED ended I was looking for my next project and the match was made. After that it moved pretty fast from me being brought in as a consultant and then the deal being made for me being a producer on the project.
CA: The animation on the film feels very much like TRANSFORMERS: BEAST MACHINES meets YUGI-OH!, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Can you tell us about the studio and about the director Francios Brisson?
SM: The studio was Pop 6, a Montreal firm who’s actually a partner in the film. We were looking for a director for 6 months. They kept presenting candidates that neither I, nor Gabriel Benson (who wrote the script and also produced) were not happy with. I had seen a few episodes of a Canadian/French co-production called NIGHT HOOD (aka ARSENE LUPIN) and I suspected a few of those directors would be Canadian and I was after them to find me someone from that show.
Finally they got in touch with Francios, who was a God send and just one of the most amazing guys I have ever met. He’s a terrific artist, a great story teller and just fun to be around. He’s almost mythic. He taught himself English by getting books he liked in the original English and sitting over a French/English dictionary, and his English is amazing. Sure better than my French. I got to the point where I could sit through meetings and understand what was going on, but I could never make myself understood when I spoke.
Once Francios was on board— smooth sailing. He had story board people and I think we picked 1 or 2 before he came on board and we’d done a lot of design– which he just made better. I’d work with him again in a second.
CA: There is a ton of great voice acting that helps move things along smoothly, especially the villains. Can you tell us about the voice actors?
SM: There was actually a lot of it’s recording done out of Montreal. People there have long, long resumes but again we wanted something different.
I come from a theatre background — that’s actually what my undergrad degree is in and I like to work with people in ensemble as much as possible. Also, I want naturalism in voice acting — my feeling is that you don’t always need to hit it harder (though there is great room for “bigger” characters).
We listened to audition MP3s sent to us and then went to Montreal where we did 5 days of auditions. I think we saw/heard about 300 people. In the end, we went with a mix of experienced and new people. some of the new people have done quite a bit of work since then. Kaniehtiio Horn :This was her first voice work, but since then she’s done a bunch of movies and TV including THE TROTSKY, 18 TO LIFE and a really terrific television film MOCCASIN FLATS: REDEMPTION. Alison Louder: This was also her first voice work and now she’s a regular on SYFY’s BEING HUMAN. John Stocker is a very experienced voice actor and director who’d done everything from STAR WARS: DRIODS and TRIPPING THE RIFT, to MISS SPIDER’S SUNNY PATCH KIDS. Mark Hauser and Ryan Rumsey were actors doing their first voice work–and once we heard them we knew they were the only people for the part.
As for Yax Galin — I don’t want to give too much away but I’ll just say it takes two people to make something that evil.
CA: You have worked on numerous animated projects from JUSTICE LEAGUE: UNLIMITED to STATIC SHOCK, and now GENE-FUSION. Did the process on GENE-FUSION differ from your process during your time at Warner Brothers Animation?
SM: The biggest difference was that the buck stopped with me. I had final say on just about everything–always making sure to check in that Gabriel was okay with what i wanted. You dream about that kind of control and then realize it’s all n you. I used to say that at Warners my job was to do everything Bruce Timm didn’t want to do. Now I didn’t have that luxury.
What I think worked out really well was that most of the people doubled as animators. For instace, the guy who designed the BG’s and the vehicles also animated them. This made for a much more integrated production where everyone was more invested. And we, especially Francios, could see the animation in progress. At WB, unless we hit come snag, the pre work went to the overseas studios and we didn’t see film until it was back. We could see and make adjustments as we went along.
CA: Are there any ideas/future plans in the works for more GENE-FUSION adventures?
SM: We sure want to. Gabriel knows where he wants to go with the story after this. The original idea for the movie was that it would be a DTV/backdoor pilot.
CA: Any other projects on the horizon after this that you can tell us about?
SM: Lots. There’s our webcomedy THE BULLPEN which you can see on YouTube (for now). I think you know something about that. And that, it turns out, may have a life beyond the internet. Maybe.
There’s also the movie version of CHEAPJACK SHAKESPEARE that seems to be lurching forward to filming this Summer. I also have a new stage play INTERNAL CONTINUITY that will be going up this September in Buffalo, NY.
On top of that, always keeping plates spinning. You can keep up with what we’re doing at www.cheapjackshakespeare.com.
CA: And lastly, let’s get your thoughts on this for fun, just throwing this out there: GENE-FUSION LIVE! Huh? I know you did a live stage adaptation of your comic CHEAPJACK SHAKESPEARE this past year; why not one of GENE-FUSION? Could be like that WALKING WITH DINOSAURS stadium show. Thoughts?
SM: It needs to be an ice show. Kids love ice shows.
CA: Ha ha! Awesome! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today, Shaun.
So there you guys have it! As for this reviewer here, I enjoyed Gene-Fusion quite a bit, and recommend picking it up when it’s released this Tuesday. You can check out the trailer for it right here!
Until next week guys!