are you feelings on Michael Bay? Is he our greatest living orchestrator of vehicular pandemonium, a merely proficient action filmmaker or the Great Satan of Hollywood? Whatever you believe, I can guarantee you this: Michael Bay doesn’t give a shit.

The more time I’ve spent around Bay, the more I’ve realized that he lives to work. The guy loves being out on location bellowing orders to his crew – who keep coming back to work with him despite an atmosphere on set that has been characterized as everything from "intense" to "abusive" – and getting the most out of a twelve-hour work day. He is incredibly proud of his efficacy in terms of time and budget (e.g. he has repeatedly insisted that Transformers came in at $150 million, which is, depending on whose numbers you trust, half of what last year’s Superman Returns cost), and completely disinterested in critical appreciation or invective. As he said to me after this press conference, it’s about sitting in the theater listening to his movie work over an audience – i.e. the people who register their approval in ticket and DVD sales, not in the pages of Film Comment (where his oeuvre has been seriously discussed, and not entirely negatively, at least once).

When it comes to big summer spectacle, Bay is the get – though, as with any other filmmaker regardless of stature, his considerable expertise alone can’t compensate for an unmarketable concept (as The Island proved in 2005). As you might’ve noticed, Transformers is more than a little marketable. It is also enormous in scope, visually astounding and loud as fuck. It is quintessential Bay.

Below is the full transcript of a press conference convened a couple of weeks ago at Junket Central (aka The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills). As usual, the questions range from astute to mind-bogglingly idiotic. But it’s worth a read, as Bay is feisty, funny and fairly unedited (he chews out a reporter who questions his 9/11 sensitivity). Give it a read. Just don’t blame me for the dumb shit.

Esteemed Press: I know all of my colleagues are going to have wonderful Transformers questions, but I wanted to know your reaction to Hot Fuzz, which was partially inspired by Bad Boys II. Also, you said you were offered Die Hard 4. If this hadn’t come together, would you have considered doing that?

Michael Bay: Die Hard 4? No, I don’t think so. Hot Fuzz? I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been finishing this movie. It’s really hard at the end of your post schedule; it’s such a grind that seeing a movie is the last thing you want to do when you go home. I thought this would be an easy post. On our budget, we had a hiatus scheduled because… I didn’t think the robots would be that hard. But I was directing them all the way to the very end.

Michael, there seem to be so many disparate elements to this movie. How do you balance the needs of your vision as a filmmaker with those of Spielberg and those of the fans? There are some Spielberg elements in here.

Listen, I make my own movie. I don’t have someone tell me what to do. I’ve always been inspired by Steven, but I was not a Transformer fan before I signed on to this movie. I think I was two years older [than the target age] when the toys came out, so I just discovered girls and… (laughter). But I quickly became after I went to Hasbro, where you heard about that Transformers School? I’m thinking, "What the fuck am I going to Hasbro for ‘Transformers School’?" I thought I was going to learn how to fold up robots. But, actually, I met with the CEO, and I went through the whole Transformers lore. I’ve been offered a lot of superhero movies and nothing’s really appealed to me, but, in the room, because I’ve been such a fan of Japanese anime, it hit me that if I make this really real it could be something very new and different. So I quickly became probably one of the bigger Transformer fans in the world. I tried to make this movie for non-Transformer fans, and I wanted it to be a little more adult, so I’m sure I’m going to get flack for "Hey, you made an edgy movie about a toy! How is that going to affect kids?" I know there are Transformer fans that are forty-years-old, so… you know, now that I’m rambling. (Laughter)

Michael, one of the things I kept hearing from the actors is what a great actor’s director you are. That’s something we haven’t heard before.

Press is very weird. The soundbite gets out there: "Michael Bay yells!" Listen, I visited James Cameron on the set of Titanic, and I’m very similar to the way he directs. He’s like an assistant director. I’m an assistant director on my own set. I move my own set; I shoot very fast and I never leave the set. I love working with actors. I love giving actors freedom. I love improv-ing with actors; it freaks studios out because they’re like, "That wasn’t in the script? What’s this? He’s wrecking the movie!?!?" And I’m like, "Trust me, it’s going to be funny because there’s a whole issue of tone in this movie." But when I’m doing action, I’m going to be your worst nightmare basketball coach, and that’s to get the energy and adrenaline going.

How much of what we see is improvised, and what about the Armageddon joke?

Well, that’s just me. This kid was so funny running, and I’m like, "Dude, you’ve got to say this." And it’s funny. You guys laughed, right? But, yeah, I’ll often add jokes along the way. A perfect example is, because I always hire actors who have good improv skill, Nic Cage in The Rock. There was really nothing funny in the script for The Rock, so that was all through improv and just trying to work with the guys and trying to make it funny. A good example [in Transformers] is the scene where the parents knock on the door to [Shia’s] bedroom when he’s hiding the robots. In the script, it said, "Maybe he’s m-a-s-." That was the joke. And that’s pretty lame. So we actually brought [the parents] in the room, and we just started this whole masturbation talk. And that’s because the mom is such an amazing… she’s in New York plays and–

She just won the Tony Award.

Did she really?

Best Actress in a Play. Beat Angela Lansbury for that.

Really? Well, congratulations.

Julie White.

I know it’s Julie White. (Laughter)

Don Murphy said you had no nostalgia for Transformers. Did that make it easier to make it, like a doctor operating on a stranger instead of a friend?

Listen, I’m a huge Transformer fan now. I’ve probably thought more about robots on Earth than anyone for the past year-and-a-half. I actually think because I wasn’t a fan makes it more accessible to other people.

Because you’re coming in fresh.

Right. Like, Megatron was a gun and… I don’t get that. I did get a lot of flack from fans on the net, like "MIchael Bay, you raped my childhood! Michael Bay, you suck! Michael Bay, we’re going to protest your office." They protested my old office apparently. (Laughter) That’s true! The death threats freaked me out. But I would listen to fans on the net, I really would. But I’m still going to make my movie, and I’m still going to put flames on Optimus.

That helped, actually.

There! See?

But you gave him lips.

Well, we did a lot of facial studies, and emotion is so hard without that kind of movement. We tried it, and it just didn’t work.

Michael, I have to ask: there’s talk that they’re hoping to make Transformers 2 sometime next year if this one’s as big a hit as everyone’s assuming it will be. But aren’t you going to be busy with Prince of Persia?

I don’t know. I leave my negotiation open because the president of Paramount is right behind you. (Indeed, Brad Grey looks up from his plate of fried hobo and gives us a friendly nod.) He could probably kill me. (Laughter from everyone, Grey not included.) I don’t know what I’m doing right now. There’s no script right now.

But you are directing Prince of Persia?

I don’t know. And I don’t. I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.


I really don’t know what I’m doing right now. I’m unemployed right now. I finished [Transformers], like, a week ago.

I wanted to ask you about the tone of the film. I was wondering how you managed to balance between what seemed to be a regular action film and the Transformers.

When Steven called me a year-and-a-half ago, he said, "I want you to direct Transformers. It’s a story about a boy who buys his first car." To me, that was a great hook. I hung up, and said, "Thank you." And then I said, "I’m not doing that stupid, silly toy movie." But I thought the hook was great, because that’s such a launching ground for a young adult into manhood… or [a young girl into] womanhood. It just made is somewhat more accessible. If you notice, I shot this movie more generic. I never in my life shot at a Burger King, or a guy riding on a pink bicycle, or a house that’s very suburbia. But it just makes it more acceptable and accessible to the ultra-slick, uber-action around it. The charm of the movie, to me, was… I kept having this image of this kid trying to hide robots from his parents behind his house. And that just stuck in my head as we wrote the script., I think It’s safe to say you didn’t get the reaction you’d hoped for from The Island. Did that affect how you directed this film?

I liked The Island. The thing about the reaction to The Island is that it worked really well overseas. I knew it would never be a smash, because it’s not that kind of movie. And I continue to have people come up to me and say, "God, that movie is so good." But no one knew about it in America. I mean, I asked 500 people before it came out, and they didn’t even know when it was coming out. You saw our poster campaign? We had a muddled campaign. I knew we were in trouble with that movie domestically four months out. I kept saying, "You should go with the Warners campaign", because they did foreign. It was a whole kind of microcosm study of studio marketing.

Did you change your attitude about directing? Did you think you might have to change your style?

No! The thing is, you get right back on the horse again. There are so many directors who go, "Oh, it didn’t open! Oh, I’m over!" You know what? Screw it! Get back on the horse! Let’s go! I finished The Island, and, three weeks later, I was doing Transformers.

Can you talk a little bit about the casting of Shia and, also, what you see as the underlying theme or message of the movie?

The underlying theme to me is "no sacrifice, no victory"; that was something I wanted to nail. My movies often deal with the hero archetype, and the boy becoming a man, kinda like Nic Cage becoming a hero in The Rock. With Shia, it’s the same thing: when he got to carry the cube and sacrifice his life.

Your first question was… casting Shia. You know, it’s very scary when you’re trying to hinge a whole movie on a kid. I had seen him in Constantine, and I thought, "He’s interesting, but he looks so old." And Ian Bryce, one of my producers, said, "You should look at this kid Shia." He was coming in, so I watched some of his other movies and I really liked him. Then I talked to Steven, and said, "I’m seeing Shia." And Steven said, "Oh, yeah, he’s great! I love Shia!" So he came in for the audition and nailed it. I liked his improv skill; I liked how he was very able to take direction. I didn’t want the geek, you know? What I like about Shia… I think every guy’s been in that circumstance by the pond or the lake where the stud comes up to you and gives you shit. And [Shia] comes right back at him with wit and humor, and every guy likes him right then and there. I think. Do you guys think so?

(The press room mumbles assent.)

I don’ t think there’s a kid today who could’ve done a better job. He’s a pain in the ass to work with, lemme tell ya! Let me tell you a funny story. I always like to put my actors in real circumstances. There’s a seventeen-story building downtown with a statue, and my producer said, "How do you want to shoot that? We’re going to do a bluescreen, right?" And I said, "Nah, fuck, we’re gonna put him up there!" And we put him on wires, and we rigged it – very safe. But there was only four-inches to stand on, and Shia’s like, "Yeah, I think I can do it. I’m going to go up there." So we’re ready to go – and mind you I would never go up there on my own; I would never do this – and he goes, "Oh, man, I can’t do it. I can’t go up there." And I go, "Dude, you’re going to embarrass yourself in front of the whole crew! You’re getting paid way more than those kids on Fear Factor! Get the fuck up there!" So he did it, and it was really scary, but he was on cloud nine when he did it.

Michael, do you ever foresee a time when you might want to do a little, intimate, low-budget character study sometime?

There’s this one I keep trying to do called Pain and Gain; it’s a really funny character story. I keep talking about it, and we’re going to be here next year talking about it again. I just keep getting asked to do these big movies. And sometimes it’s a fear that a big movie’s going to go away. You know what I’m saying. You know, Hollywood; it’s kind of tough right now.

What’s it about?

It’s a very Pulp Fiction-y true story about these knuckleheads who kidnap and murder… searching for the American Dream in all the wrong ways. It’s very funny.

Michael, we’ve seen how James Cameron went from making huge, physical action movies to computer-generated 3-D films. Could you ever see yourself moving in that direction?

Honestly, I think I’d want to shoot myself working on a bluescreen stage. I did maybe one, two days of bluescreen on this movie. I just hate it. I like doing things real. It’s just really hard to go there.

Did 9/11 change the ways you make action movies? I kept thinking of 9/11 through the last action tableaux with the plane flying through the building. I’m wondering if that even entered your mind at any point.

Are you kidding, lady? That’s a silly question. Of course it entered my mind. I don’t even want to go there, so let’s go on to the next question. (As the next question is being asked, Bay mutters disgustedly under his breath, "That’s fucking stupid.")

How conscious were you trying to appeal to a female audience? (The question is unintelligible, but there’s something about Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson being eye candy.)

I actually met with Josh for one of my Platinum Dunes movie, and got a sense of him in the room. That was something like four months prior. Then [Transformers] came up, and… it was a very efficient budget. I honestly had no money for stars, so I had to be very creative in picking people that I thought were going to break. After meeting him, I really liked him and wanted to work with him.

And Julie White’s character was great, too. There are great roles for women in this movie.

She didn’t have that many lines in the movie, but Kevin [Dunn] and her were just funny and kept doing stuff. I just love [Kevin’s] blue collar sensibility. I’ve always wanted to do that joke with the grass: that’s my lawyer! He does that to his kids; he doesn’t let them go on the grass. (Laughter)

So you were thinking about your female audience?

Of course!

As a filmmaker, you seem to get more of your budget onscreen than anyone else. You get $150 million, it looks like $250 million. What’s your secret?

My secret is that I shoot very, very fast. An average director will shoot twenty setups a day; I do about seventy-five. And they’re real setups. We work twelve-hour days. I don’t go overtime. But we work very hard. I worked with my same crew; I gave up thirty percent of my fee because they were going to ship me to Canada or Australia, and I said, "No, I want to shoot with my guys." It’s a team I’ve worked with for close to sixteen years. And I like keeping movies in Los Angeles if I can, especially keep them in the States. We just saved so much money because I had really good people. We just make it an efficient day. I think music videos gave me a sense of… I’m able to shoot shoot fast. And when the shit hits the fan, which it always does on a movie, you’ve got to figure out your Plan A or B. I do this system called "leapfrog". Like I said, the whole AD thing that gets out there: "MIchael Bay yells!". Well, Michael Bay’s being the assistant director. "Okay, three shots! We’re doing this! I want you to prep that! Blah, blah, blah!" We’re leapfrogging. We’re almost ready for the next shot. It’s hard. Actors don’t even go back to their trailers, as you’ve probably already heard. (Laughter) "Tyrese, put your clothes back on!" He’d always take his clothes off. (Laughter) And he had a lot of stuff to put back on.

A couple of quick comments and a question. Being someone who wasn’t familiar with Transformers other than knowing it existed, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Thank you.

I think you have a smash on your hands.

Well, we don’t trust the movie gods.

Take it from me. Also the fact that you brought on three African-American performers; I really appreciated that.

I’ve had good luck with that, you know. (Laughter)

But getting back to the thing about tone. I think, beyond the actors, it’s probably the key to the success of the movie. I’m just wondering how did you arrive at the tone?

It was just my gut. I know it’s Transformers. You can’t take it too seriously. But you wanted to get that sense of realism. That’s why the military involvement was very important, that we make it very real and credible. Those guys in the AWACS? Those are all real guys. I told them, "This is what’s going down on the ground. What would you say?" And, literally, within two minutes they were like "Bam, bam, bam!" So I just photographed what they said. I think you mix the realism with Tyrese being in the worst situation, and he says, "Man, if you could see this shit." I mean, that sounds real, but it comes in a funny way. I made little jabs here and there. "That’s way too smart for Iranian scientists." And how much do you get bugged by those outsourcing calls? (There’s a scene where one of the soldiers gets an Indian customer service rep on the phone in the middle of a heated battle.) I mean, it bugs me. When I forget to pay my AT&T bill, I get a call: "Meester Bay?" "Yeah, I know. I didn’t pay it." And I hang up.

Tyrese made a joke saying that he was running and jumping cars, and, then, at the end of all that, he had to say his line with a bomb exploding nearby. You’re a real bold action director, but you somehow manage to get real emotion in an action film. What is more important for you, and is there a balance?

When actors are doing action stuff, the crew jokes… (looks to producer Ian Bryce in the back of the room) Ian, don’t you call it "Bay-aos?" Right? But you try to have a little bit of chaos. It’s very organized, but you get them a little fritzed because it gives them more adrenaline. It’s a little bit of the unknown. They will have a lot of loud bombs going off on the set, if that’s what it calls for. I like to see the real emotion when they’re inside these action scenes?

You have a set team that you trust. Why do you still feel the need to be your own AD?

I just love it. I don’t know. It’s just my thing. My thing is, I’ll get to set usually four or five minutes after everyone’s there, because I don’t want to watch people eating burritos and eggs. I want to go to work. So they always go on the radio, "Bay’s coming in hot! He’s coming in hot!" (Laughter) It just keeps me really involved. It’s the creative part for me.

What was going on in your head last night as you watched the film with an audience?

I’ve got to apologize because the print was way over-saturated, meaning way too much color; it was way too red. So I was having a freak-out on that. We’re trying to figure out what the problem was, if it was a bad projector or something. But it was fun. Like I said, you guys were the first in the United States to see it.

Was it loud enough for you?

Yeah. Actually, I had to turn it down. (Laughter)

It’s got to be a pretty nerve-wracking experience testing a movie like this.

Yes. It’s so nerve-wracking. You want me to describe the testing process? I do little focus groups on my own. I’ll take thirty kids into a little screening room. I’ll do nine-year-olds to fifteen-year-olds, and then I do sixteen-year-olds to twenty-five-year-olds. And I have someone who has nothing to do with the movie come in and say, "You can say whatever you want about this movie." I show it in rough form, and they’re great. They’ll fill out little pages of what’s confusing them, what lines they thought sucked… they’re very blunt about it. There was something where they hated Megan. She said one line, and the women just turned off. I said, "We’ve got to deal with that." So then I get to the big test in Phoenix, where we did 450 people; it was all families. I’m like, "Eh, the kids are cute because they’re applauding at different things. And they all laughed at the masturbation thing." (Laughter) I’m like, "Okay, that went well." Then I went to the adult screening next door and introduced that. I’m doing the little sound button thing [in the house during the movie]. This guy sitting next to me is goes, "What’s that?" I said, "It’s just the sound." He’s like, "What do you do?" I said, "I’m the director. He’s like, "Oh." So the movie started, and they’re laughing and applauding at certain things, but I"m like "Oh, this sucks!" So I said to the guy next to me, "Do you like this kind of movie?" And he’s like, "Eh." I’m like, "Oh, great! It’s a kids movie!" All these emotions go through your head. Then we ran out and did a focus group with the kids. Twenty-six out of twenty-six gave it an "excellent". I’m like, "Oh, that’s interesting." Our scores were gigantic. I’m like, "Okay, that’s because it’s a kids’ movie." Then I went to the adult focus group, and we got the same score. We got a ninety-five. I’m like, "That’s weird." A lot of the older ladies, thirty-five to forty, are like, "I didn’t want to come here! I didn’t want to see this! I was dragged here!" But this one lady goes, "This kind of reinvents superheroes." She said a great line. "Retire the suits and the capes and whatever. This is totally new and different." But it’s so nerve-wracking. And that’s a long boring answer.

John Turturro mentioned that he based a lot of his character on you. Was that something you two discussed, and how did you feel about it?

I was scared to work with John Turturro. He came out a little quirky. When he had that hat at the dam, that was the first day I’d worked with him and I’m like, "I don’t know about this." But I grew to really like working with John. I don’t know if he based it on me, but I do think criminals are hot, by the way. (Laughter) But you should see his Scorsese imitation. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Michael, some of this movie plays almost like a recruiting video for the military. Could you talk about the military elements in the film?

To make the external alien invasion credible, you’re going to have to have the military. I just don’t like when you see, like, an Independence Day, and they don’t get military support. You’ve got a few jeeps and everything’s kind of mismatched and it’s all digital planes… and it’s just not credible. So you need that reality to ground this little kids story. I had a good relationship with them on Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, so I somehow convinced them. This is their largest cooperation since Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor. And Lawrence H. Suid, who’s the liaison at the Pentagon, said, "Well, you know, if aliens do land, the U.S. Military should be involved. (Laughter) But I’m always good at weaseling stuff that’s never been shot, like the F-22. And I think they let me because I really respect the military and I respect the soldiers, the men and women who really will sacrifice themselves. Those guys around Josh and Tyrese are all real guys; they’re all Special-Op SEALs.

If you look at the theme – no sacrifice, no victory – I think that’s the way they see it. They just want to be treated credibly. They want to be treated in a real light. If you’re fighting scorponoks, how would you do an air strike? So we literally show you exactly how it happens?

Are these SEALs retired?

No. Those are guys who have either taken leave – and some of them were actually going to get called back to Iraq. But this is the thing that happens to all of them: they get the Hollywood bug. We call one of them "Hollywood"; he trains Navy SEALs down in Coronado. I said, "Dude, just go back to being a SEAL".’d like to know about GM’s involvement in the introduction of the new Camaro through this.

I had $145 million. I needed to find a car company that could give me a bunch of vehicles and save $3 million. I opened it up to every car company. And I have a relationship with GM because I’ve done commercials for them, and they’ve helped me on my other movies by giving me flood-damaged cars, cars that have to be destroyed. So they took me to "skunk works", which is where they do the prototype cars in a secret place somewhere. I saw that [Camaro], and I said, "That’s Bumblebee." It helped save $3 million, and it was a great looking car.

We heard there was a GM guy on set who wouldn’t let them so much as smudge the leather, but when he wasn’t around you raced the gar through gravel at 145 mph.

(Over laughter) No! What’s with you people? We did have the one prototype. Prototypes are really hard because they cost, like, $5 million to make. We made our own. We had the .CAD files. That car [out front of the Four Seasons], which is a Saleen chassis, we made it in like six weeks in Detroit.

How have you changed as a filmmaker?

Gotten older, crankier. No, I’m not crankier. I crack a lot of jokes. I tease people.

But is this movie any different from your previous work?

Someone said to me in Australia, "After The Island, did you want to go back to your more safe roots?" I just thought this idea… could be a big idea, a fun movie idea and a fun summer movie. And I like the challenge of taking something that hasn’t been done and working with my team of artists for eight months, nine months, and my digital f/x company, to try to create characters that are made out of thin air. It’s like doing an animated movie. Working with animators is a great process. And the end result… if you look at Bumblebee, it looks like there’s a soul inside this thing.

How did you nail the comedic timing of the scene with the robots in the backyard when there was nothing there in the first place?

I do a series of animatics, which are crude cartoons. I’m working with the writers on creating a script, but it all starts down with the concept drawing. That becomes the tone of the movie. I showed Steven a picture of Megatron in the hangar, and he went, "Oh, my god! I love it! That’s the movie!" I’m like, "I know!" And that’s the tone. You build off of that. So in the backyard, we kept coming up with the beats and whatnot. I think the dog peeing was something we made up; that’s where we tie the little string to his leg and lift it up, and then they added in the squirt. (Laughter) It’s really good to work with someone like a Shia or Megan where they can see a cartoon even though they’re looking at window-washer poles – which is tough.

Michael, which directors do you like?

Oh, god. Everybody always asks me this question. I mean, from Kubrick to… I’ve always been a huge fan of the Coen Brothers. Raising Arizona was such an instrumental film in how I’ve done some of my commercials. Just that comic timing… a lot of people didn’t get that movie when it came out. But from Steven to Cameron to Scorsese… and, when I was young, as you’ve probably heard, I worked at Lucasfilm. When I was fifteen, I was a librarian, and I filed Raiders of the Lost Ark storyboards, and that’s how I got into the business.

I want to ask you a Michael Bay question. You just took a trip down memory lane there, but what about when you were eight or ten? Who inspired you to follow through?

When I was young, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I remember raising money, because they took me to the place where they gas the dogs and cats, and I was like, "Oh, my god, I can’t believe this exists in the world!" There were many different interests. I wanted to be a magician… but I realized there was no money in being a magician, so I gave it up and liquidated all my tricks to another competing group [of twelve-year-olds]. (Laughter)

But who in particular was saying, "Come on, Michael! Keep doing it!"

I think it was my parents really. They kind of encouraged me to do art. I bought a camera when I was thirteen, and I just loved taking pictures. My dad was an accountant. I remember… this is funny. When I was young, I was a big baseball player, but I had this model train set, and I would go into my world and make a very detailed HO gauge train set. I remember one summer I spent eight months building this thing. Fully detailed. I’d go into my imaginary world. And my dad and mom came into the bedroom one day and said, "Son, we think you need to get out more." (Laughter) That’s where I started imagining. That’s where I kind of made my own movies in my head.

After this film is a monster hit, will you be ready to jump back in and do a sequel. And have you thought about what characters you’d like to introduce in this film.

I’ve got some really cool stuff that I came up with for the first one that was just too expensive, but Steven was right: you should pull back and not have too many robots so you can focus more. But I wish I would’ve got into the faces more on some of the robots. I think it was Steven who said we should make it five against five or five against six.

But would you be willing to jump right back in?

I’d like a little break. (Laughter) We’ve got to get a story first.

Were you conscious of creating the first live-action giant robot movie?

Let me tell you, these robots didn’t come out good at first. It was hard. It was not all peaches-and-cream at ILM. There were a lot of angry phone calls like, "We have to do better!" They thought they were settling on something, and I said, "Nope, this is unacceptable." I kept pushing them. But we came up with a really good visual thing. I wanted them not to be clunky, lumbering robots. I looked at a lot of kung-fu movies. I wanted them to have a different type of movement, so I would just clip different things from different movies and reference those to the animators.

But if they sucked, the movie was doomed. You’ve got a lot of pressure there to make it work. And you’ve got a lot of pressure from the fans saying you raped their childhood, and complaining about the look of the robots. The fans wanted me to take these cartoons and literally blow them up, and it’s like the equivalent of Ghostbusters and the marshmallow man. It just wouldn’t work; they needed to be more complex then they really were.

opens July 2nd. To tide you over, here’s Mary Worth.