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Interview: Jason Hoffs

Talking Bleach and Manga Movies With VIZ Productions' Hollywood Honcho

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Bleach Volume 1 by Tite Kubo, published by Shonen Jump / VIZ Media

Bleach Volume 1

© Tite Kubo

Q: Is Bleach the first VIZ Productions project to get to this stage in Hollywood, or was Dragon Ball: Evolution also a VIZ Productions project?

Jason Hoffs: VIZ Productions was not involved with the Dragon Ball movie at all. The Dragon Ball film project had been in development at 20th Century Fox for several years, and had entered production before VIZ Productions was formed.

Q: There's always some anxiety from fans when Japanese manga is adapted by Hollywood, that it will be... well, changed a lot from the original stories/characters/premise. Would you like to address this issue/concern from fans?

Jason Hoffs: Every creator, and every fan, has a picture of the property or a relationship with the property that is formed with the original medium. Creators and fans of manga are not alone in that regard. Any adaptation requires a change of format and of style.

In the case of manga, so much has to be condensed to squeeze the story into a feature film format. So even in the best of circumstances, it's a big challenge. Fans have been disappointed with recent manga and anime-based features. We have to learn from these examples, and keep working to do better.

We build a relationship between the creator, his/her team in Japan and the Hollywood creative team to create a basic common vision from the beginning of the process. There is an essence or quality in the original material that makes it attractive as a feature film, and the team tries to preserve and translate this essence into the film version.

Our greatest goal, and certainly the goal of the creator, is that the film should delight the fans. At the same time, the intention of the film version is to introduce a larger global audience to the property. It will always be a challenge to balance fidelity to the original work, while supporting the creativity and originality of the filmmakers in bringing their vision to the film.

BLEACH: ON THE LONG ROAD FROM MANGA TO MOVIE

Q: How long ago did this process start (from initial pitch/idea to a signed development deal with Warner Brothers)? By any chance did this process start when Kubo-sensei came to San Diego Comic-Con in 2008?

Jason Hoffs: Yes, we first began our discussions in 2008. We all went back and forth on the key creative elements, and when we were satisfied, began to assemble to team here. Because Bleach is such a large and popular property, it took some time to make the deal with Warner Bros. Now we are all so excited to begin the creative work on the screenplay!

Speaking of Comic-Con 2008, the outpouring of enthusiasm for Kubo-sensei's visit was amazing. So many fans waited for hours in line to meet him and so many of the costumes, zanpakuto and accessories were beautifully and lovingly made. When we think about the level of passion and commitment, both on the creator's and the fan's side, it reminds us how important it is to make the best Bleach film we can.

Q: Was Bleach a project that VIZ Productions pitched to movie studios, or was it a situation where the producers approached VIZ Productions to get the rights? There was mention in the press release that a few folks involved with this project are big fans of Bleach.

Jason Hoffs: VIZ Productions teamed up with Masi Oka early in the process. Masi is a huge fan of Bleach, and a true otaku.

Early on, we had many discussions with Shueisha and Kubo-sensei about the creative direction of the film. Masi had worked with Pete Segal and his partner Michael Ewing on Get Smart, and Masi brought Bleach to Pete. The writer, Dan Mazeau had been on everybody's radar, so when he committed we were all thrilled. Once the team was assembled, we approached Warner Brothers.

Q: Now that Warner Brothers has acquired the rights to produce Bleach, what does that entail? What I mean is, what happens now? I know there's a lot of steps involved to make a big project like this come to fruition, but any idea when fans might expect to see this Bleach feature film? I understand that it's probably not possible for you to give us a firm release date at this early stage of the game, but can you give us some idea where things stand now?

Jason Hoffs: Our screenwriter, Dan Mazeau, will begin writing the film shortly, with the input of our director and the producing team. We hope to have a first screenplay later this year. We of course communicate with Kubo-sensei and the Shueisha team at key stages in the process.

Q: Can you share any reactions or thoughts from Kubo-sensei or Shueisha, regarding the Bleach movie project?

Jason Hoffs: Kubo-sensei and the entire Shueisha team cares deeply about Bleach and its millions of passionate fans. We take the trust they have placed in us very seriously, and we very much hope to make a film that they can all be proud of.

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  • For more about Jason Hoffs and VIZ Productions, check out this 3-part interview from 2008 from ICv2: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.
  • Check out my interview with Tite Kubo, the creator of Bleach, from San Diego Comic-Con 2008.
  • Visit VIZ Media's Bleach website for the latest news on Bleach manga and anime
  • Read Bleach online at VIZManga.com
  • Check out the latest chapters of Bleach, straight from Japan every week in Shonen Jump Alpha
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