This year at San Diego Comic Con 2016, Chief Editor Brandon Bui teams up with Polygon Senior Editor Phil Kollar, in a two-part interview with Kingsglaive Director Takeshi Nozue, Lead Writer and Localization Director Dan Inoue, Square Enix Senior Product Marketing Manager Mat Kishimoto, and voice and motion capture talents Liam Mulvey (Libertus) and Andrea Tivadar (Crowe Altius).
Phil Kollar: Hi everyone, to start off with, can you guys just go around and say your name and titles, so we have it on the record?
Takeshi Nozue: I’m the Director on Kingsglaive, Takeshi Nozue.
Dan Inoue: Lead Writer on Kingsglaive, my name is Dan Inoue. [Also was the translator on behalf of Takeshi Nozue for this interview]
Mat Kishimoto: Mat Kishimoto, Senior Product Manager for Final Fantasy XV.
Phil Kollar: So, one of the biggest challenges you guys have faced in making Kingsglaive is having to make a film that’s connected to a video game that’s about to come out, but also stand alone as a film. How did you approach this project and make sure there weren’t elements that would turn off players?
Takeshi Nozue: One of the main points behind it, the major decision, really, was that the hardware of the current generation consoles had not yet taken off around the world. We wanted to reach a wider audience, and the film allowed us to reach out to such an audience.
Brandon Bui: We’ve had our groundbreaking films like Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children come out, and now we have Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. How has the technology changed since then?
Takeshi Nozue: So, going back to Advent Children, we’ve been building our technology to reach this point and one of our main draws is the amount of emotion we can put into the characters’ faces; this is where we have seen the biggest advances and we’re proud of where it’s come.
Phil Kollar: Square Enix has had an interesting history with games; The Spirits Within didn’t quite do so great, but people loved Advent Children. With the positive reception of Kingsglaive, do you see Square Enix wanting to expand into multimedia setups outside of games?
Takeshi Nozue: I can’t speak for the company as a whole, but they’re making to do it. Personally, though, we intend to go as things go along.
Brandon Bui: We had the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event that revealed new anime (Brotherhood) and a full-blown movie. Is this kind of expansion going to be something that fans can look forward to in future installments?
Takeshi Nozue: Traditionally, the development team changes each time. For our team, this was a best-fit approach to telling our story. At the end of the day, it comes down to the development team in charge of the project.
Phil Kollar: One thing I read in an interview was that Kingsglaive was created with a Western audience in mind first. Can you elaborate and explain what that means with that rationale?
Takeshi Nozue: So, basically, the expressiveness of Western films are a huge aspect, and our technology allows us to portray these emotions. We could now incorporate that Western expressiveness into our film and help make this a worldwide hit.
Brandon Bui: One of the things I’ve been reading up about was that there was a discrepancy in the CGI. I’d like to first state that the CGI is phenomenal here. There was a disconnect in the eyes; for example, King Regis. His eyes looked a tad youthful for a king who has had plenty of experiences. How did you polish the eyes and the maturity in the process?
Takeshi Nozue: Ah, from Sakaguchi-san? [Dan and Takeshi laugh]
Dan Inoue: You’ve really done your homework! [laughing]
Takeshi Nozue: Sakaguchi gave us the advice after seeing the film, saying that he was too young in his appearance. We went back to the drawing boards, and starting looking at the eyes from a cellular level, and deconstructed it to create that more matured look, and did a lot of passes to get it to the current product. At the end of the day, Sakaguchi-san gave us the okay. [all laughing]
Phil Kollar: One thing that’s an interesting challenge that you face is that there’s a lot of CG films out. These films capture emotions and tell stories. You guys have to bring battle elements. How did you bring that into these CG movies?
Takeshi Nozue: This is the first time we’ve been asked this. From Advent Children, there were a lot of action sequences and action elements that we wanted to do but couldn’t yet incorporate because of technological limitations. We kept those facets in mind for this movie.
Brandon Bui: Were there any major moments in the movie that did not make the final cut?
Takeshi Nozue: Again, because CG movies are so much in terms of labor and expenses, we had to look at this from a script level. All the cuts were made at that point.
Phil Kollar: I’m curious, how do you feel about the Japanese reaction so far?
Dan Inoue: Have you looked them up?
Phil Kollar: Yeah, I’ve seen some of it and it all seems very positive! The one thing I read was that, not sure how true it is, was that it didn’t open strongly, but picked up with positive word of mouth.
Takeshi Nozue: Yeah, we can’t believe the scores we’ve gotten. That’s been great, and the positive word of mouth is proliferating, so it’s been wonderful. Some people say it’s about a hundred times better than Advent Children [all laugh] and we’re all so proud.
Brandon Bui: That’s all for me here! I just wanted to take a moment and congratulate you all on the success for Kingsglaive, and wish you all the best of luck in the release of Final Fantasy XV!
Dan, Takeshi, and Mat: Thank you!
Phil Kollar: One last question: Kingsglaive has such an interesting cast that you’re pulling from. Any favorite character that you couldn’t get enough of?
Takeshi Nozue: So, the film characters… we love them all. They’re our children, in a way. Prompto though has to be a favorite here.
Phil Kollar: Thanks so much for your time!
With the conclusion of the interview with Takeshi Nozue, Dan Inoue, and Mat Kishimoto, Phil and I were escorted to the table, where we spoke with Liam Mulvey and Andrea Tivadar, the voice and motion capture talents for Libertus and Crowe Altius, respectively.
Brandon Bui: Hello Liam and Andrea! Thanks for joining and taking the time to speak! How were you both chosen for the film?
Liam Mulvey: For me, it came through my agent. It was mid-November 2014, I got a call from my agent, saying somebody was interested for an animated feature. I was thinking, “okay, cool!” That was literally all I got and knew at this point.
Andrea Tivadar: It was the same for me as well, got a call from my agent, asking if I was interested in an animated feature.
Liam Mulvey: Later, I got the message that they were interested, and wanted to see me for an audition. Here’s some paperwork, and at that point, that was the first point in which we saw Square Enix. I was thinking, “Ooh, okay! I know that name!” [laughs] I am a big gamer fan, and I’ve been hugely into Final Fantasy. Square Enix… but that was it.
Andrea Tivadar: We didn’t know beyond that.
Liam Mulvey: Final Fantasy didn’t even cross my mind! I thought it was going to be Deus Ex or Tomb Raider. And then, we get the next bit that says Final Fantasy. It was quite a journey – it’s a bit like when you get those film announcements going, this is coming, or a teaser. We just kept getting drip-fed tidbits of information for weeks. When new things come out you’re like, “ooh, yeah!”
Phil Kollar: I talked to a lot of voice actors about how different it is to do voice work for a film or a video game. Curious as to the differences for what it’s like the feature based on a video game. Was there anything where you thought that it was completely different from what you were used to?
Liam Mulvey: Not really! To be honest, it’s similar to doing ADR work. It’s similar in the fact that, the difference is, in video games you record the voices first. Then you do the capture. Whether it’s the voice actor or someone else, you’re actually able to match your vocal motion with what’s being recorded for the audio. For this, we did the motion first, and scenes as normal, and then matched the voiced recordings to the film. It’s similar to doing the standard film or TV work.
Brandon Bui: Did you get to work with any of the voice talents like Sean Bean, Lena Headey, or Aaron Paul?
Liam Mulvey: Didn’t get to work with them, but met Lena and Aaron and got to watch them do some of their voice recording. That was incredible.
Brandon Bui: That goes into the second part of my question: did they teach you anything or give you ways to impart their experiences into some of your characters?
Liam Mulvey: A bit, in some ways it’s just getting to watch them work. It’s not like here’s tips, but it’s being able to watch them work. Every actor has their own process, and for me, my way of recording was quite different to how they did. There’s some techniques we use, such as response where you get a line fed to you, and then you recite it, or you can get it done based on footage on the screen. I generally watch the screen and follow the movements, but they were more of the response route, taking several takes. It’s interesting to watch their process, and try to remember things they’ve done for our own future work.
Phil Kollar: You’re a huge fan of Final Fantasy. Any dream character from Final Fantasy that you’d love to do, or a dream game?
Liam Mulvey: The dream for both of us here is VII.
Andrea Tivadar: Yep!
Liam Mulvey: That was kind of our entry into the series. For me, I guess that it’s all very much tied into VII. I’ve played a lot as Cloud, and there’s Sephiroth, of course, who’s like the coolest baddie. I’d do Sephiroth, shirts off [all laugh], but it has to be VII and that universe.
Andrea Tivadar: I’ve always loved the Final Fantasy universe when I was a kid. This is just a dream come true.
Liam Mulvey: There’s talk of strong female characters, and then we get Final Fantasy VII, where we get Tifa, who’s pretty much the archetype of a strong female character without actually crowbarring in this toughness aspect. She’s a great character. It’s interesting that that kind of stuff is just starting to catch up.
Brandon Bui: One of my staff wanted you two to talk a little more about kind of legacy your characters, and the Kingsglaive in general, are going to leave behind in the game.
Liam: The film story takes place just after the beginning of the game. The game opens, and the story of Regis then drives early on Noctis’s journey. It’s alluded to in the Brotherhood anime if you’ve been keeping up, in the first episode with the news flash, where they are putting a new government for the people. It’s [Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV] the story leading up to that and what happens in Insomnia.
Andrea Tivadar: At the same time, the bravery of the characters and their courage – the courage it takes to protect the empire, and how it’s been built. How united we are.
Liam Mulvey: It’s the strengths and sacrifices given to achieve their main goal to protect the empire of Lucis in some form.
Phil Kollar: Did you guys get a chance at all to play Final Fantasy XV at all?
Liam and Andrea: Bits.
Liam Mulvey: I wandered over to the Square Enix booth yesterday, and asked “Is there any way to get onto the game?” The booth person asked if we had a ticket to access the booth, and for me, I mentioned that I was in the film that was being made for it, so [makes come in motion with hand]… yeah, I got a shot. [all laughing] I got to play the Trial of Titan and he’s so cool!
Andrea Tivadar: Did you guys get a chance?
Phil Kollar: I checked it out a little bit at E3 last month, so it’s a small bit! I’m trying to not play a ton because I want to go in and not have too much shown to me.
Liam Mulvey: I had that happen with Deus Ex as well, and did about five minutes, and was like, “Yep, that’s all for today, all cool!” Don’t spoil it?
Brandon Bui: To wrap up, if you can see any game in this Final Fantasy universe get the treatment that this game has gotten (with a movie and anime), which one would it be?
Liam Mulvey: It’s gotta be VII! They’ve got a remake coming that’s just incredible. I think that, partly, it’s the nostalgia that got me right into the series.
Andrea Tivadar: I’m with Liam on this one!
Liam Mulvey: VII is just… special.
Brandon and Phil: Thank you both so much.
Liam and Andrea: Our pleasure, great meeting you!