You'd be hard pressed to find a film that's more anticipated this winter than Peter Jackson's upcoming retelling of King Kong. The tragic love story between an enormous ape from a prehistoric island and the actress he falls for (eventually in the literal sense) has been a cinematic classic since it debuted in 1933. Jackson's film aims to offer a new take on the story that stays true to its roots while expanding on the original film's scope. The project is a labor of love for the Academy Award-winning filmmaker, who cites the original film as one of the early inspirations for his moviemaking career.
Given Jackson's passion for the film, it's no surprise to hear that he's deeply involved in all things Kong. Chief among his ape-related activities is his collaboration with Ubisoft's Montpellier studio on the upcoming game based on the film. The development team's last effort, the underappreciated Beyond Good & Evil, actually caught Jackson's eye and helped persuade him that the group, headed up by notable designer Michel Ancel, was right for the King Kong gig. The studio's knack for combining cinematic visuals with innovative gameplay seems tailor-made to provide you with an experience that's a cut above your typical movie game. We were fortunate enough to get a few minutes of Jackson's time to find out how the game is coming together. This Q&A is the first of three looks we'll have at King Kong, which will culminate in the first peek at his Kong-ness in action next Monday.
GameSpot: Give us a sense of your involvement with the game project. How closely do you work with Mr. Ancel? Do you give input on the game's core design?
Peter Jackson: From day one we believed that close collaboration was essential to ensure that the game was a true extension of the film universe. We spent a lot of time during the preproduction phase of the game discussing key story points and gameplay elements. There has been ongoing communication throughout the entire process, and the team in New Zealand has had the ability to play game builds throughout.
GS: Have you visited the development studio or worked with the team remotely?
PJ: Since we have been hard at work on the film, we have not gone to Montpellier, but the game development team has been to Wellington multiple times throughout the development cycle. We have shared all the film's assets with them, and we actually thought having them on-site in New Zealand during production was the best way to involve them in the scope and detail of the project.
GS: The King Kong game obviously borrows a lot of material from the upcoming movie. Has the movie benefited directly as a result of your involvement with the game in any way?
PJ: The creative process for gaming is actually very similar to filmmaking. You are really focusing on the story. What this has done is enabled us to really look at key scenes from both the cinematic and interactive perspectives and hopefully offer viewers the best of both worlds.
GS: Have you involved the cast in the production of the game in any way--for example, using Andy Serkis for Kong animation reference?
PJ: We have provided Ubisoft with footage of the cast in various action sequences--for example, running away from dinosaurs so that they could match such movement in the game's animations. And of course the voice and likeness of many of the cast members will be featured in the game, which will make the gameplay experience very authentic.
GS: How is WETA's work being used for the game?
PJ: Much of the WETA concept art has been integrated directly into the game engine. It's really been a unique process in which we understand from Ubisoft that there is no actual game concept art because they have been using the WETA material directly. On the digital side, a multitude of creature animations and environmental maps have been provided as reference.
GS: Thanks for your time.