The director speaks to us about the film and how elements of Japanese culture have influenced him.

While Bumblebee, the latest film in the Transformers series, was released in the U.S. in late December last year, it’s only just opened on March 22 here in Japan.

“Naturally, fans in Japan too have been looking forward to the movie that features one of the most popular characters in the franchise and serves as a prequel to the existing Transformer films.

▼ Here’s the Japanese poster for the movie, with the tagline “I’ll protect you, whatever happens.”

Our Japanese-language team thoroughly enjoyed the movie and was also fortunate enough to have the chance to interview Travis Knight, the director of Bumblebee, while he was in Japan for the pre-release promotion.

Knight, who is also known as the director of the stop-motion film Kubo and the Two Strings, directed his first live action movie with Bumblebee, spoke with us about what is was like to work on a widely anticipated film in such a popular series and even on how Japan has been an influencing factor in his work.

Our interview with Knight follows below:

SoraNews24 Japan reporter (SN24): It’s a huge pleasure to meet you. We’ve been looking forward to speaking with you and really appreciate the opportunity.

Travis Knight (TK): The pleasure is all mine.

SN24: So, this is the first live-action film that you directed. What kind of movie would you say it was for you personally?

TK: Of course, it was different from any other film I’d worked on. But that’s what made it a worthy challenge. At our company Laika, we value the spirit of “always trying to take on new challenges”.

SN24: I see. Can you tell us how you felt when you received the offer to direct the movie?

TK: I guess I felt both scared and excited at the same time. I mean, it’s the Transformers series we’re talking about. But my inner instinct also whispered to me that we could make this into a really great movie.

SN24: That makes sense.

TK: To be able to tell a story about the Transformers, which I’ve loved since I was a child — that’s a dream come true.

SN24: And with the movie centering on Bumblebee, one of the most popular characters in the series, did you try to spice the movie up in your own way somehow?

TK: This movie was going to be an origin story, so I felt I could create the character of Bumblebee from scratch. Although there have been five Transformers films made in the past 10 years, it hasn’t really been made clear what Bumblebee thinks and feels.

SN24: That’s true.

TK: Bumblebee is the Transformer who is closest to the humans and has always been protecting mankind, but we don’t really know how it came to be that way. I tried to focus on offering a good explanation for that in this movie.

SN24: Yes, the movie indeed tells an emotionally convincing story of why Bumblebee fights for humans.

TK: Thank you for saying so.

SN24: By the way, we have to admit we were a bit surprised when we looked up your profile for this interview.

TK: Why so?

SN24: Well, we understand your father is Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike. A father who founded a global corporation and a son who is a Hollywood movie director (and a handsome one to boot) — that in itself sound like it could be made into movie, doesn’t it?

TK: Really, is it that unusual? For me, it’s just who I am, so it’s hard to tell (laughs).

SN24: We’ve also heard that you used to come to Japan often with your father.

TK: Yes, I came to Japan for the first time when I was eight years old. Everything I saw looked new and beautiful. Traditional Japanese culture, fashion, manga… I was influenced by it all. I took back several manga books from Japan with me after my first visit, and one of them was Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Ōkami).

SN24: Lone Wolf and Cub? That’s pretty retro and cool.

KN: Kubo and the Two Strings was most definitely influenced by Lone Wolf and Cub. And Transformers was also created in Japan, so I feel a strange connection to Japan.

SN24: That’s fascinating. Then would you say Bumblebee too contains elements influenced by Japan?

KN: Oh, most definitely, yes.

SN24: That’s good to hear! So do you think you’ll be focusing on directing live-action movies in the future?

KN: Whether it’s animation or live-action, I want to take on new challenges. Getting to direct Bumblebee was like a gift. I hope this experience will give me further opportunities in the future to create more movies that touch viewers’ hearts.

SN24: Bumblebee definitely was a touching and memorable movie. Thank you again for your time today.

▼ And that was our interview with Travis Knight! He was truly courteous and absolutely delightful to speak with and an absolute gentleman.

▼ Here’s the Japanese trailer for Bumblebee.

▼ We had a delightful time conducting the interview!

It was great to hear the thoughts that went into making this movie from the director himself. We hope Bumblebee is a big hit in Japan too, because we’ve been in love with the yellow transformer ever since we saw him in the Transformers pop-up book!

Reference, images: Bumblebee official website
Photos: ©2018 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. HASBRO, TRANSFORMERS, and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro.©2018 Hasbro
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[ Read in Japanese ]