Longtime fans of cult cartoon guru Genndy Tartakovsky are pretty much unified in their anticipation for his 3D animated feature Hotel Transylvania, which opens in a couple weeks. However, their interest goes beyond loyalty - since the success of Tartakovsky's first theatrically-released directorial effort could eventually pave the way for a film adaptation of his popular Samurai Jack animated TV show.
Tartakovsky has provided an update on the Samurai Jack movie - and although he has no significant progress to report, the Russian filmmaker insists the project very much has a heartbeat.
Samurai Jack, for the uninitiated, is an award-winning cartoon series about a feudal samurai (Jack, obviously) who must battle his nemesis - the shape-shifting wizard Aku and his minions - in a dystopian future. It's an ingenious blend of Japanese storytelling, sci-fi elements, stylized Kung Fu action, and other genres that earned the show a strong cult following, but has made the proposition of a film adaptation difficult. As Tartakovsky told IGN:
“I've been trying so hard every year, and the one amazing thing about ['Samurai Jack'] is that I did [the show] in 2001, you know, and it still survived. There's something about it that's connected with people."
J.J. Abrams was once onboard to produce a Samurai Jack movie, but his plans fell apart a few years ago; similarly, Tarsem Singh (Immortals) expressed his interest, but has since moved on to other projects. All the same, Tartakovsky's passion - coupled with his championing of "unrealistic" animation, in an age where photo-realism is increasingly the norm - makes him an ideal director for a Samurai Jack film (especially one that is traditionally-animated).
Tartakovsky confirmed that a 2D-animated Samurai Jack movie not only remains an option on the table, it's also the one being discussed right now:
"[I] want it, it's number 1 on my list, and now Bob Osher, the President (of Digital Production at Sony Picture Entertainment), is like 'Hey, let's talk about Jack. Let's see what we can do.' And I go, 'You're going to do a 2D feature animated movie?' and he's like, 'Yeah. Maybe. Let's do some research and let's see."
Tartakovsky's next job will be to direct a computer-animated Popeye movie for Sony, but he insists a feature-length treatment of Samurai Jack remains "on the top of my list, and I'm trying as hard as I can.”
Hotel Transylvania, as mentioned before, will prove crucial to Tartakovsky's plans for Samurai Jack. The critical success of said 3D feature would provide sufficient "proof" that Tartakovsky can maintain his unique voice while working within the studio system - without compromising his storytelling (see also: José Padilha's struggle to realize his vision of RoboCop).
Moreover, if Transylvania is a sufficient box office hit, that will give the filmmaker more leverage to make the Samurai Jack movie that he and fans alike want to see - that is, one that maintains the mixture of intelligence, artistic substance, and flashy style that set the original television series apart from so many other action-packed cartoons. Count us among those keeping our fingers crossed for that.
More on Samurai Jack as the story develops.