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An IGN.com interview with producer Jon Landau talks tie-ins -- and Battle Angel Alita.
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Avatar: Jon Landau Interview
Interviewer: I guess let’s start just by talking about the augmented reality game tie-in. How involved were you and James Cameron in getting those projects going?
Jon Landau: Well, we were very involved. Actually from the inception, we wanted to sort of push our partners to expand what they normally do and create more interactive experiences for their consumers and for their gamers and thanks to people like McDonalds, I think they have really delivered on that initial challenge that we put to them. As we went through the process, we were very much a part of where we want to take people, what do we want to expose them to and how we can share the assets from the film into the Pandora ROVR experience or Pandora Quest on McDonalds or even into other augmented reality that they have created.
Interviewer: Yeah. So, can you kind of describe what we can expect as a user of one of these games to actually experience?
Jon Landau: Well, let’s just take Pandora ROVR for example. We are all familiar, we’ve all heard about the Mars Rover. Well, this is a rover that went in advanced to human exploration onto Pandora and you’re in the driver seat. You control this rover and you get to explore different areas of the planet itself coming upon different types of flora and fauna and exposing that. You get to actually download imagery that you sort of capture while you’re there and you get to then email that and share that with others.
In terms of the McD Vision, you’ll actually have something that we call a Thrill card where you hold it up to a web camera and then it activates in augmented reality but it's not a passive augmented reality. It's by manipulating the card. You’re actually playing a game on the computer and you’re navigating through three different environments that we’ve created.
For example on the first one, you’re going across one of the Vine Bridges on Pandora and it's testing your adeptness at balancing, being able to make it all the way across. So, we also have Pandora Quest which is sort of digital version of Where’s Waldo on Pandora, where you’re going to be able to navigate around this 360º views, again three different environments and you’ll be able to find different objects. And also, when you sort of culminate and pass certain levels, different things will unlock for you. You’ll be able to be exposed to different insights from the movie and maybe even some clips from the movie.
Interviewer: Cool. So, how important is it to you as a producer to coordinate this kind of a tie-in? Obviously, Avatar is a huge movie and you need to get as many eyes on it as possible. How early in a process do you start thinking about tying in with McDonalds like this and how important is that to do this?
Jon Landau: Well, it was very important for us and it’s not about quantity of partnerships. It’s about quality of partnerships and we said that very long. We did not want to have an overabundance of partner. We want to have the right partnerships and we wanted to have visionaries like McDonalds who came to us and said, “Hey, we want to do this type of things. We want to embrace this for our consumers. We want to create online gaming experiences for gamers who go to our sites.”
I always felt growing up and raising kids that when I went to -- on Mrs. McDonalds example, “Welcome to McDonalds.” It was an escape. I was going into the world that they had created. On Pandora, we’re creating our own world and now, McDonalds is offering the consumer an extension of that world. So, we defined it very early on because I think one of the things you have to do is do it early on or you’re not going to do it right. And we didn’t want to come late to the table with any of these things. That’s the same reason why with Ubisoft and the video game, we went to them very early on and unlike most games that are based on movies, they had more than two years to develop in which is the normal cycle for game development.
Interviewer: Yeah. How does it feel now that finally it has been such a long process to get this movie made, how does it feel that it's finally done and it's going to be out in a couple of weeks?
Jon Landau: It’s very exciting. I mean we make movies for one reason, to share them with audiences, to entertain audiences. Now is our chance to get to do that. I was in Las Vegas yesterday where I presented a bunch of material to a group of people there, 6,000 and while the images were playing up on the screen, I was watching the faces of the audience and that’s the rewarding thing about making movies.
Interviewer: Yeah. As I said earlier, it’s a big movie, a lot of people are going to see this movie and expectations are very high as well. James Cameron himself has called the movie a game changer I think. What’s needed to do to meet those expectations sort of in set for it?
Jon Landau: Well, first of all, the highest expectations on the movie are the expectations we place on ourselves to delver something that entertains the audiences. I think when James talks about the movie being a game trader, what he’s really referring to is that we were able to find a group of talented people who unlocked opportunities of creating production, paradigms that will now hopefully unlock other doors for future filmmakers to use. For example, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson came and visit at our stage, show how we were doing things and they embraced that process and those technologies for their endeavor on Tintin.
Interviewer: Yeah, and I was just on the set of Resident Evil 4 and I think they were using the same 3D cameras that you guys basically created.
Jon Landau: Right, they are. And James Cameron and Vince Pace developed over the last several years a 3D camera system that gives you tremendous flexibility and great ease of viewing when you’re done with the results. No longer are you lagging around a 300 pound camera and no longer those lenses for the cameras in a fixed position. You now have a dynamic camera that really simulates a human vision.
Interviewer: Yeah, it's pretty amazing. What’s next for you guys? Have you thought at all about the next project?
Jon Landau: We have a number of projects that we were bringing very close to the final stages before we started on Avatar. I think we’ll settle down in January after a little bit of a break. But I don’t think it’s going to be as long the period as Titanic was to Avatar for Jim to get back and to narrow the filmmaking again.
Interviewer: I hope not. But we can expect a lot of the same technology to be used in the next filmmaking and the next film as well.
Jon Landau: Well look, there’s another project that we’ve been developing called Battle Angel Alita. And when we were looking at the production landscape, we really felt that what we would learn on the project Avatar would inform Battle Angel Alita and actually make that movie easier to make. So, I think these are all steps in the evolution of filmmaking.
Interviewer: Is it safe to say Battle Angel will probably be the next film?
Jon Landau: It’s never safe to say a thing like that.