This movie truly looks beautiful and there’s some really creative uses of 3D CGI in Uta’s performances. How did you make these decisions and figure out the movie’s look?
HS: This is a musically-charged film, but that’s not to say that the story isn’t also important. It’s a fine balance between character, emotion, energy, and performance and what’s the best way to translate that onto the screen. That’s where Toei has a background that could help us. In terms of the 3D, dancing, and singing, there’s a show called PreCure [Pretty Cure] and for about ten years they’ve slowly been building up this arsenal of techniques and knowledge. So when it came time to finalize the music and performances that we wanted, it came down to us mo-capping dancers to get the proper choreography. Of course, we couldn’t use the 3D as is given the look and feel of One Piece, so director Taniguchi-san and AD assistant director, both worked really hard to then take those mo-cap assets and other 3D components to turn it into more of this hybrid experience.
Taniguchi-san, you directed the 1998 One Piece OVA, Defeat Him! The Pirate Ganzack and are technically the first person who’s responsible for animating Luffy. Can you talk about that original opportunity and what it was like to return to the character and this world nearly 25 years later?
GT: Interestingly, the 1998 OVA was my first time directing a project. When I finally came onboard to One Piece Film: Red as a director, it almost felt like we were coming full circle in a strange way and that I was returning to my roots and origins. I knew that a lot of the same people and team members would be working on the movie together and part of me was excited and nostalgic to get this reunion, but part of me was also anxious in terms of what time has possibly done to our dynamic and what else has changed over time. It was a mix of emotions for me, but once we got into the production it became clear that there was a lot more that hadn’t changed—in a good way—and we could immediately meld as a team and get back into it.
Do you think that this is the last that audiences have seen of Uta or might she return in the future?
HS: Honestly, that’s a character that Oda sensei invented and developed himself so whether or not she’ll return is something that even I don’t know from just watching the film alone. What I can say is that during the end credits everyone is singing Uta’s songs and there’s a certain energy. My belief is that therein lies the answer to that question.