Tom Agatony (Real Bout Highschool movie) interview
Rasmussen - Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do, as well as about the site you run online?
Tom Agatony - I have an interest in both history and folklore, studying these subjects in college. The site is about the history of the small seaside village of Sayville, New York. It is one of those old towns full of history. Some of the people that passed through over the years have been Pirates, British soldiers, Teddy Roosevelt, German Spies, Father Devine, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Melissa Joan Hart and others. There are also numerous strange legends and folklore that developed over the years. The village is also known for its school of witchcraft for children. (http://www.drawingthecircle.com/witchclass.html )
Rasmussen - What is your connection to Sayville, and why does it hold such importance to you?
Mr. Agatony - I spent time there, and saw a lot of strange things. Since it is the gateway to the gay communities of Fire Island, the whole downtown is gay during the summer. Because of this, large numbers of Broadway and Hollywood producers and writers live there. This has been an influence in movie makers from Andy Warhol who filmed there to Elia Kazan. Thus, it has a story that people all over the world be interested in hearing about. 99.99% of the visitors to the website are from outside the area. In addition, belief in the supernatural is common in Sayville. An example of supernatural belief that is typical of Sayville is Hart's neighbor and friend of the family, who is world renowned psychic researcher Charles Panati, that wrote the book "The Geller Papers." (http://www.uri-geller.com/books/geller-papers/gpap.htm)
Rasmussen - Odd question. Of all the history of Sayville what interests you the most, and why? Also (on the opposite end of the scale) what part of Sayville's history was the most boring or uninteresting?
Mr. Agatony - The story of James Dean in Sayville is very interesting. Separating fact from fiction though is difficult. What we do know is that James Dean came to New York after high school to follow in the footsteps of Marlon Brando. Dean even went to the same school that Brando got expelled from. Brando was expelled in Sayville. So Dean financed his time in Sayville by being a houseguest with a man in Cherry Grove.
The only way to Cherry Grove is though Sayville, and Sayville is where the people in Cherry Grove go shopping, see movies, etc. Since Brando caused trouble in Sayville, so would Dean. Everyone that knew James Dean said he was in real life like he was in the movies. The rest is legend and hard to verify. Local folklore says he got into fights, etc. The legends cannot be verified, but there must be some truth in it.
Rasmussen - Uh… school of witchcraft for children? What's that about?
Mr. Agatony - The school of witchcraft teaches how to cast spells and about the book of shadows. Their website (http://www.drawingthecircle.com/witchclass.html) has pentagrams on it. It is located a short walk from where Melissa Joan Hart grew up. A fellow student in Sayville called Serena, that dressed in black, killed a beautiful cheerleader in a demonic ceremony. (http://sayville.8k.com/serena.htm ) The symbol of Sayville is the lightning bolt and the colors are purple and gold.
[image1]Rasmussen - For the readers who might not know about it, tell us abit About our "Top Ten" list citing the reasons why Melissa Joan Hart is doing a Real Bout High School live action movie.
Mr. Agatony - Anime fans all over the world are wondering, "Why in the heck was Melissa Joan Hart picked to play the Samurai Girl?" The reason is because she and her mother, who co-own the Hollywood Studio Hartbreak Films, felt that it was a good role for her to play, according to http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=18614.
Hartbreak Films for the most part makes films starring Melissa Joan Hart and looks for appropriate roles for her. She would be better described as a moviemaker than actress, since she is also a producer and director. Hart playing Ryoko is not as strange as it seems. Both have reddish hair; in addition Hart's prior roles are similar to Ryoko because it is about a young person who fights against the malevolent kids.
Hart was not picked to play Ryoko, Hart chose to play the part. Some type of deal was set up for the right to use the Samurai Girl property. As they made a lot of changes to Sabrina the Teenage Witch, they will make a lot of changes to Ryoko. The new movie "Samurai Girl" will be about a great lone Samurai warrior, that looks Caucasian, that comes from the past to the future to fight a great dark evil that escapes from under the ground.
Rasmussen - And the above is exactly why this is so wrong.
You just said so yourself, they're going to butcher this product up and turn it into some entirely different beast. In that context, do you not think that this project is so wrong if it means butchering the product so much? If they can't be true to the series they're "doing" then why should they be allowed to do it in the first place?
Mr. Agatony - We are dealing with a commercial enterprise here.
Media companies actually send salesmen to trade shows to try and sell licenses. The owner of Samurai Girl see Hartbreak Films as a paying customer. In addition, Melissa Joan Hart is too old to play a high school student. But they are to some extent trapped because the business niche they are in are shows for young people and they are well known amongst anyone in children programming. Changing markets is not that easy. Executives at Nickelodeon or Disney would be much more likely to return phone calls from Heartbreak Films than an executive at the A&E network. Dan Gordon who was hired to write the story does mostly serious movies and action films, so perhaps they will come up with a winner.
Rasmussen - But that is not an answer. Look at Mortal Kombat : Annihilation,Super Mario Brothers, Double Dragon, etc.Movies that seemed like a good idea, on paper, but failed when it hit the theatrical road running. So, again, question is why do you think they think this will work, when all signs point to failure, and worse the alienation of the audience that would have been the greatest ally of such a movie (anime/manga fans)?
Mr. Agatony - Another disaster was the Final Fantasy movie. I am of the opinion if something works keep it that way. Lord of the Rings worked well by sticking to the book. However, the movie Jaws made some changes and the movie worked. The main indication Samurai Girl will work is that the Harts never lost money on a project, so they have a good record.
Rasmussen - Yet there IS a first time for everything -- okay, a lot of the reasoning behind Melissa Joan Hart's reasoning in your top ten seem to focus on the town of Sayville, and the personage of "Sayville Jack", yet as I remember it (when Samurai Jack first came on Cartoon Network and the series' creator spoke about it's creation) there was never any mention of "Sayville Jack" before this. Can you point to any specific interviews that mention this person?
Also, as for "Sayville Jack", what does "Sayville Jack" think of all this?
Mr. Agatony - Everybody that worked on the cartoon said it was created by Genndy Tartakovsky. However, he is known for giving a good amount of creative license to his cartoonists. Almost all that is seen in the cartoon is a result of the employees, not the boss. That is what the employees are paid for.
The people with the most influence are the storyboard artists and writers, which the cartoonist that was a kid in Sayville with Melissa Joan Hart was. The big, main point is that much of what makes Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Samurai Jack what they are, comes from the same time and place. They were both often unhappy as kids in Sayville that would use their imagination to cope with the situation. This is very common for children to do. Hart once said her favorite show was "Ren and Stimpy." The cartoonist that wrote stories on Samurai Jack also wrote for Ren and Stimpy, such as the famous "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" song. I believe this is not a coincidence. This is quite common. Disney's dismal hometown of Marceline, Missouri, became the idealized beautiful Main St., USA. (http://www.geocities.com/aubtig15/mainst.html )
Melissa Joan Hart and the cartoonist both led very similar lives, being kids in the same little village together, having the same teachers, mutual friends, having a hatred for the so-called popular kids, being in children's programming, complaining about an unhappy childhood, divorced parents, same favorite childhood book "James and the Giant Peach," became a Hollywood movie makers specializing in children's programming, worked with cartoons, etc. Both direct, write, produce and even perform. Very much parallel lives.
Hart choosing the role as Samurai Girl is very interesting. Many of the changes of the anime version makes it more like Samurai Jack. Coincidence or not?
Was she somehow touched by the cartoonist through the cartoon? Out of all the roles to pick, why this one? To get some idea of the world the two grew up in read this by a classmate of Melissa Joan Hart. ( www.sayville.8k.com/veteran.htm ) then go to the Sayville.com website. You will see a huge contrast. A perfectly beautiful seaside village with an old fashion downtown, woods, beautiful homes, a train station, etc. with a horrifying undercurrent of violence. From the student's story you would also understand why Hart identifies with a fight school. There were always a few kids that resisted the bad kids in the school, like the one that wrote the afore mentioned story. One kid called Jack was in Sayville at the time of the cartoonist and Hart. He really hit the popular kids hard. Was he an influence? Was Elvis an influence on Johnny Bravo?
Which brings us to Mojo-jojo. Ever notice that he has the same voice as Jack? They are both lone outsiders fighting the world at large. Mojo-jojo seems Japanese and I will put myself out on a limb and say the character was influenced by Japanese General Tojo.
Jack and Mojo-jojo are actually the same character, but from a different perspective. Jack fights the nightmare world, Mojo is a nightmare fighting a lovely, beautiful small town (Despite the skyscrapers) The said cartoonist wrote for both Samurai Jack and the PowerPuff Girls. Maybe there is a link. Most of the kids that grew up with Hart hated her guts. However, the so-called unpopular kids, the ones that would be spit on, thought she was wonderful and said she was always nice to them. So is Hart like Samurai Jack or Mojo-jojo? Depends on whose perspective. To these kids the small town was a nightmare world. Compare to James and the Giant Peach and the "loneliest little boy in the world."
Rasmussen - So, then, are you telling me that the fact Melissa Joan Hart had an unhappy childhood is a good reason for her to take Real Bout High School and butcher it? My childhood had some unhappy moments too but I have yet to find the compulsion to buy the rights to Legion of Superheroes from DC and butcher it. She likes the idea of Real Bout High School, but can't realistically make it true to the source material, right? So then why not then start from scratch then (using the title as a guide) and making an entirely new and fresh "world" inspired BY Real Bout High School, as opposed to attempting to attach an entirely unrelated "movie" to the series that seemingly has nothing to do with Real Bout High School at all?
Mr. Agatony - We can only speculate here. The audience in the movie theater will be somewhat a different group of people than what watched the cartoon, so perhaps that is why they made changes. The movie will be more similar to the show Samurai Jack.
[image2]Rasmussen - So then why is it Melissa Joan Hart can't even consider possibly taking another role in this movie to keep the movie as true to the source as possible? Who is to say Melissa couldn't be a teacher at the school (who kicks Butt and is the heroine's mentor and "Giles" like guide to the heroine's "Buffy" persona)?
Mr. Agatony - Perhaps they do not want to break their formula. Their shows always were geared to young people, Melissa Joan Hart was the star, and they always made money. It was a winning formula in the past.
Rasmussen - But still, consider this… bigger stars like Sean Connery, Robert DeNiro and more have not allowed their egos to cloud their judgments and have taken both the lead and satisfying secondary roles in movies and shown their talents to perfection, so why can't Melissa step aside and take a more satisfying (and logical) secondary role in this movie to insure it stays true (well as true as possible) to the source material?
Mr. Agatony - They were not the movie makers, just people hired for the part. Here we are talking about the studio owner that is fantastically wealthy and just needs to show a profit. Being the star is fun.
Rasmussen - I heard rumor before that Melissa Joan Hart has wanted to distance herself from her "Sabrina" character and branch out into different roles. Would it not make more sense to say that her desire to do this movie is, in fact, a reflection of this desire to "remake" herself past her Sabrina character and branch out into different roles?
Mr. Agatony - She is growing older so she needs to get new parts and remake herself. But since her film studio is in the youth end of the industry it will make things a little harder. Besides, every kid that watches Nickelodeon is familiar with her because of her shows, but what about History channel watchers? So she very much needs to cater to the younger set.
Rasmussen - What about fans of this series? Won't they feel rather betrayed when they come to this movie and find out it's nothing that they expected?
Mr. Agatony - Any real fan will already know that one has little to do with the other. 'The reality of loyalty is he who pays the piper names the tune.
Rasmussen - That makes no sense. Don't they (and we) deserve a movie that is true to it's "roots" and the source material it's based on? I think I damn well deserve that.
Mr. Agatony - The Harts did a cartoon series in the past that was carried by Disney. Perhaps they should have went that route. I myself hate when a movie is a cheap, indifferent, unimaginative film by people that have no knowledge of the book and just want to squeeze out junk on schedule. However, this film will be a big deal to the Harts and a priority.
Rasmussen - Why is this movie such a priority? What makes this movie so important to the Harts? And does this importance tie into their reasoning behind the way they shaped the movie storywise?
Mr. Agatony - In the larger scheme of things the movie is not a particular priority. Paula Hart said they were reviewing anime/manga properties and Ryoko was a character similar to other roles Melissa Joan Hart was known for. Ryoko is also a character that is liked by young people. Young people is the audience that the Harts cater to.
Rasmussen - But you just said, quote "However, this film will be a big Deal to the Harts and a priority", and now it's not so much of a priority? Which is it?
Mr. Agatony - It is a priority to them, not to me and you and the man in the moon. Because it is a priority for them the movie will get some tender loving care.
Rasmussen - Still, if they were really reviewing anime/manga properties (and did their homework properly) they would have known for a fact that RBHS has not so glowing reviews on it's Anime (it didn't score well in reviews of the past), and it's not a fan favorite of either young people or older people… I can point to at least a dozen different titles (with school settings) that have higher fan counts than Real Bout High School.
Mr. Agatony - Most Anime shows do not have a lead character that is female with red hair. The character is somewhat like characters Hart was successful with in the past. If the series is less popular, the license probably cost less money. Do not underestimate this aspect. I sure bet that a license for Shrek cost more than a license for Mr. Magoo.
Rasmussen - Uh… Don't get me started on all the titles with a female lead w/red hair.
Oh-kay, still on the tangent that they did NOT do their homework (or they would have known there are stronger titles out there fanbase wise). Did they just pick a title that would garner the least resistance and the least outcry? (As opposed to, say, the titles I'm thinking of which is more popular, and draw more rage and protest?)
Mr. Agatony - This question I cannot even speculate on. I do not have enough information.
Rasmussen - Final RBHS question. Be honest with me.
When it's all said and done, and this movie releases, will the money it rakes in be because it's a good movie, or because it has Melissa Joan Hart in it (and it makes all it's money just from her fans more so over people who genuinely came to see the movie as opposed to those who came to see her)? And if she's the only reason the movie makes money, would that make the movie a failure?
Mr. Agatony - I think that it would be more important if it is a good movie. Anyone that is a solid Real Bout High School Fan will go to see it, but some may not like it. The most important thing for a movie to do is to catch the public's imagination at the right time.
Rasmussen - How are you on Anime/Manga? Tried any of it yet?
Mr. Agatony - Yes, certainly. It is amazing how Anime cartoons can get away with so few frames per second. I have always been interested in seeing aspects of Japanese culture in Anime.
Rasmussen - Any favorite Anime/Manga series?
Mr. Agatony - Astro Boy was pretty good.
Rasmussen - Good call. Don't forget to check out the GBA Astroboy game and the new Anime series out now… well, then, any closing words or thoughts you'd like to share with the readers?
Mr. Agatony - I have always been interested in any reality that writers use in fiction. For example, there really was a Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. The boy was the author's son, and the Winnie was a bear in the London Zoo. In all legends there some truth. The new movie "Finding Neverland" explores this concept. The movie is about the author of Peter Pan J.M. Barrie's, and the family that he transformed into the Darlings.
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