If Hollywood won't let you make your tentpoles, come to them with one of your own. This is the logic fueling director Bryan Barber's desire to make "Gigantor," an adaptation of a popular Japanese cartoon from the sixties that had fallen into semi-obscurity despite everyone's love of giant robots. Barber, who has struggled to get a movie made after his debut film, the OutKast-driven "Idlewild" went nowhere, has taken the initiative in tracking down the rights to the character. Turns out, they belonged to an 86-year-old voiceover artist named Fred Ladd, who has been holding on to "Gigantor" for years with no interest in letting go.
Barber's aggressive storyboarding saved the day. While a comprehensive $50k presentation to Fox suits didn't get him the job directing "The Wolverine," a much smaller, but still complex, presentation seduced Ladd. And now Barber has the rights to the property, revolving around a twelve year old who commandeers a flying robot from his father and turns it into a weapon of peace. And now, Barber's got an outline for a $60-million budgeted "Gigantor" film, and is currently putting together a six minute "sizzle reel" to take the project to studios.
This is not the first time "Gigantor" has been in development. In 1996, Ladd had apparently been in negotiations with Fox to make an animated version of the character. Japan took another crack at it with a CG-movie in 2005, though American audiences will probably be most reminded of "The Iron Giant," which seemed to take its design cues from the character.
Barber comes from the world of music videos, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who saw the pokey, playful "Idlewild." While that film sometimes feels a bit made-for-TV, we much prefer it to fellow 2006 musical "Dreamgirls" in content, music, direction and performance. There are no guarantees as to how good "Gigantor" will be, but there's something encouraging about guys like him and Kevin Tancharoen (who made his own "Mortal Kombat" fan-film and is now directing the big screen version) taking their own shot at making their passion projects, even if their passions seem limited to what excites twelve-year-old boys. To us, the idea of a movie about a desperate director trying to convince an elderly man to release the rights to a fifty-year-old Japanese cartoon sounds way better than any of this. [Deadline]