This is a transcript of the entire one-hour Warcraft Movie Presentation Panel held at BlizzCon 2013. Feel free to share with friends. — Medievaldragon
Introduction: Welcome to the Warcraft Movie Presentation Panel. Your panelists are Duncan Jones, Rob Pardo, Chris Metzen, Bill Westenhofer, and Nick Carpenter.
Metzen: Wuzzup, BlizzCon?
Pardo: Alright, everyone. Welcome to the Warcraft Movie Panel. We did this I think three years ago or something like this? But this time, I think it’s going to be 10 times the excitement as we actually have a release date for the movie.
I want to introduce everyone to the panel. To my right is Duncan Jones. He is the director for the Warcraft movie. He’s director of a couple of really awesome films you guys have seen: MOON and SOURCE CODE. And more importantly to you guys, Duncan has been playing Warcraft games since Warcraft One (aka Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, RTS), played Warcraft II, Warcraft III, World of Warcraft — even played Lost Vikings.
I think you guys all know the gentleman to my left, which is Chris Metzen. The guy in charge of all lore, story and franchise direction at Blizzard and pretty much all the soul at Blizzard. So we are going to talk a lot more about the movie and all what we are trying to do with it. And then to his left is Bill Westenhofer. Bill is the special effects supervisor for the film. He actually won the Oscar twice for Life of Pi and The Golden Compass.
But really guys, I don’t think you should worry about that. What’s really important is that he has a level 90 Alliance mage and several other 80s.
Metzen: Horde, are you out there?
Pardo: And then to Bill’s left is Nick Carpenter. He’s our Senior VP of Art and Cinematics; and he is really the guy that is responsible for all the awesome Blizzard films. Did you guys see the Heroes of the Storm cinematic yesterday?
That is the work of Nick and his talented department. So thank you all for coming. And what I’m going to do is kinda I’m going to moderate this guys. The one thing I will kinda going to put out there as a disclaimer is we are still over two years away from when the Movie will be actually released, and we haven’t even started filming yet.
So a lot of what we are going to talk today is really these guys’ backgrounds, kinda what they have been doing. We are trying to do all the pre-production of the movie, but there is really not a ton of brand-new information we can reveal because they haven’t even started marketing the film yet, so we are yet ways to go.
Alright, we all that out of the way, maybe Duncan, you can start with talking a little bit about why you like the Warcraft franchise, why you decided to take this off.
Duncan: Yea, absolutely. I have been playing games for a while, and used to be involved in another franchise — playing it — Ultima Online. I started a clan for that, played that through a few years as a beta tester; and then my whole clan kinda migrated over to Warcraft and to World of Warcraft when that came out. I was a huge fan of the game, playing it for a couple of years before I started getting very busy with my first featured movie MOON. And after MOON, I did SOURCE CODE. After SOURCE CODE I was kinda really at a place where I had the opportunity to do a couple of different franchise films; but you know I was already aware that Warcraft was out there, and they were trying to make it into a movie, and it had been taking a little bit of time. (laughs)
I constantly — my producing partner and I had kept checking with the production to find out what’s going on. When is it gonna happen? Is it gonna happen? You know, and check, maybe I can get involved. And fortunately, or unfortunately for other people, but fortunately for me the opportunity arose and I was given the opportunity to read the script that was available at that time, and I was like “Argh, this is so great, but …” (laughs).
Pardo: We say that all the time too.
Duncan: I wanted it to be the Warcraft that in my heart I felt the film deserved to be. At that time it was very human-centric, very Alliance-centric. And I thought, you know, if we are going to make this into a movie, it got to be what the original Warcraft always was, which is you can be a hero no matter what side you are on; and it is about both sides. It’s gotta be red and blue.
(Crowd cheers loudly)
Metzen: On that line, the first day we met we had been working through various versions of the story for a very long time — so you guys know — and having that balance represented was something that was very important to us; and so many iterations of the story that we have had, and the first time we met Duncan he was just like “This has to happen” and we kinda told him at the time “ahh, you know, it’s too much, the audience really wants to focus on one or another.” And we had done this dance, and first day we met this guy he was like “It got to be this” and we were “argh, yes.”
Pardo: I think about that too, was just that I think always we have wanted to see that other side — the orcs brought much more forward and we always felt the audience doesn’t really want that; and Duncan came with a pitch to us and he was worried that we weren’t going to go for it. He was like coming and going “I don’t know if the Blizzard guys would like my pitch”, like if we are going with it; and then I think just me and Chris — we were holding each other …
Metzen: We were under the table: “Is this happening?”
Pardo: and then, another thing too which I think got us very excited working with Duncan was (###) after you did Source Code. I think a lot of people (###) really wanted you to work on other films (###).
Duncan: There were opportunities, but it is so easy to get suck into franchises that maybe you don’t have the connection to and I think for me Warcraft was an opportunity to be involved in something where I actually really give a (###), where I really wanted it to be what I had loved when I was playing it; so yea, and about that pitch the fact that we were going to try and make sure that if we are going to do this as a film we needed to really make sure that our audience — beyond people who know Warcraft — everyone understood that they are all heroes, you have to feel empathetic and care about them in their situation, and why they are doing what they are doing as you do about any other human being.
Pardo: I think that’s one of the things that makes Warcraft a lot more unique and separated from something like “The Lord of the Rings“, right? It is the orcs — the red side — they are not just bad guys. They are characters and have a view point. Bill, maybe you can talk a little bit about how you started working with Warcraft and your play experience.
Westenhofer: This was interesting, I will start for a second when I was interviewed for this job, I sat down, and the very first thing that the producers asked me was if I knew anything about the Warcraft universe; and just about spit out my coffee, because I started playing Warcraft in the alpha test, way back in 2004 — in fact, became so obsessive I was on the set of (###) and I had to dedicate it a couple hours to make sure I got my character leveled and get the dungeon running. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?
I was working with The Golden Compass — that was in London, and my guild was back here in the states, so I did get up at 2:00 in the morning a couple of times to do a Blackwing Lair run. So with that point I want to emphasize the fact with the people who are working on this film — these are Warcraft fans who are making this; and we are going to make sure that it is really special and that everyone is proud of what they have done soon. So specificly, for the characters in the film, we are doing live-action with CGI. This is an extremely complex endeavor for the visual effects side. It’s like “Avatar“-meets-“Game of Thrones” in terms of the level of complexity of what we are doing.
We are using real actors for the orcs. The orcs are going to be as emotive, and like Duncan said, you have to believe them as much as any human character. So we are striving incredibly hard with (10:20) detail, to make them as real as possible. This is going to be gritty, and real. Guys get dirty, you are down with the characters when they are fighting. We are dedicating, and in fact, we have an incredible team Industrial Light & Magic. It is in good hands, and you are all going to be very proud.
Pardo: Maybe Duncan and Chris, maybe you guys can talk a little bit more about kinda how to adapt the lore and the storyline and really make it feel like an authentic Warcraft movie.
Duncan: I think one of the real difficult decisions we had was what part of the lore to focus in. You guys have achieved such a huge vast timeline; and so many different stories and memorable characters. It’s really about picking what works for us, and also what really got to the root of what Warcraft is and where it came from — without saying too much.
Metzen: Oh boy, this is like quicksand. Right. Because we have been working on multiple iterations of the story for the years coming up before we met, it was kind of like this tapdance where we focused on all these iterations, these factions really have a number of races with distinct stories. Ultimately the community, everybody wants to see their thing. Where is my troll movie. It was kind of a process of holing in on what other things are the most universal. It’s going to be difficult to construct the story. It really syncs to everybody’s specific — faction or racial reality. The trick was “can we find that perfect touch point?” that really has the broadest Warcraft beings that everybody gets.
Pardo: One of those things that I think we talked a lot about is that Warcraft is such a huge franchise that it is almost like where do you shine the spotlight. There is really no way that you can translate what everybody here is experiencing in the game into a single movie. So a lot is which part you want to do, and also what characters you want to bring forward, because the movie is more about the characters rather than about the world.
Duncan: How much time you spend in the Lion’s Pride.
Pardo: A lot. So one of the things I think is pretty exciting to people here though is maybe talking a little about the locations. The places that we are going to be able to show within the movie itself.
Duncan: This seems like an opportunity. We have a couple of early concept artwork that we could show. Push the magic button.
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