"Bumblebee" director Travis Knight on Thursday, December 13 said he was once told that making an animated film with a female protagonist will be a disaster unless she is "a princess or a fairy".
The 45-year-old filmmaker's latest directorial Bumblebee, a spin-off of the Michael Bay's successful Transformers franchise, has Hailee Steinfeld as the headstrong vulnerable teenager Charlie Wilson who befriends the affable autoboot Bumblebee. How the two end up helping each other in times of crisis is the plot.
Knight recalled producing the 3D stop-motion animated dark fantasy horror film Coraline (2009) and said he was shocked that studios believed that a woman-fronted animation movie would not work.
''I thought back to from my own experience the first time I tried to get off the ground a movie called Coraline' and it was 15 years ago. I remember when I was trying to get Hollywood studios to back the film I was told repeatedly this one truism which was You can't have a female protagonist in an animated film unless she's a princess or a fairy'.
It was shocking for me to hear and even more shocking for me to know that some people thought it was true. We made the film anyway and it became a modern classic, the director said while responding to a question posed by PTI whether taking a female protagonist for Bumblebee was a conscious decision as the Transformers franchise has often been criticized for poor representation of women.
Knight said he went ahead and made the film that he wanted to but finds it interesting that some of those conversations are still happening".
"That kind of high bound way of thinking still persists but I think you tell these kinds of stories and then people respond to them and that goes away. Thinking about this film (Bumblebee'), it's interesting that we wanted to tell this kind of a story with this kind of a hero at the centre of it," he said elaborating on his decision to go ahead with a female protagonist.
"I feel like it was the right kind of story to tell, to explore a different kind of Transformers' film. We have seen 10 years of certain kinds of Transformers' films. This was a Transformers' film that we all wanted to make, he said.
In the past, names such as Megan Fox, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Nicola Peltz, Frances McDormand and Laura Haddock have only appeared in supporting roles. Knight said he came on board for the project around two years ago when he first started talking to Lorenzo di Bonaventura and the studio.
''They wanted to see if I had the potential to be interested in a Transformers' film. I was surprised because I don't think there's anything in my background that people would naturally assume I would be an addition to the Transformers' franchise. But the more I spoke to Lorenzo and the studio about it, the more sense it made''.
''He said he felt they wanted to take the franchise in a different direction and the Transformers universe is big enough to explore diverse stories''.
That was really exciting for me because I was a child of the 80s who grew up loving these characters. So the opportunity to tell an origin story about a character I loved since I was a kid was a dream come true.
The film, which has been lauded by critics for infusing a fresh breath of air into the franchise, also feature John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, John Ortiz, Jason Drucker and Pamela Adlon.
Releasing on January 4, 2019, "Bumblebee" - A Paramount Pictures movie, will be exclusively distributed in India by Viacom18 Motion Pictures.
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