We’ve seen a lot of very bad Hollywood adaptations of our favorite video games over the years, dating all the way back to Disney’s Super Mario Bros. and Capcom’s own Street Fighter: The Movie. But while Hollywood has traditionally gone the live action route, CGI has mostly been left to original IP – aside from the Resident Evil straight-to-video flicks from Sony.
But Insomniac Games is taking its computer-generated characters, Ratchet & Clank, and placing them on the big screen in a 3D feature film from Rainmaker Entertainment and Blockade Entertainment. Using brand new technology, Hollywood producers are collaborating with Insomniac Games – even bringing over the original voice cast for the feature film – to explore the origins of Ratchet and Clank’s friendship.
Ryan Schneider, brand development director at Insomniac Games, talks about what’s in store for gamers with this big budget 3D flick — coming to a theater near you in 2015 — in this exclusive interview.
Where did the original idea for Ratchet & Clank, the game, come from?
Schneider: The birth of Ratchet & Clank almost didn’t happen. Following the conclusion of the initial Spyro the Dragon trilogy, Insomniac focused on creating a different intellectual property codenamed “Girl with a Stick.” However, the prototype simply wasn’t fun and the studio banded together to consider new ideas. Our chief creative officer, Brian Hastings, suggested building a universe around an orphaned alien and his robot sidekick. Planetary exploration and freakishly outrageous weaponry would serve as inspirational gameplay hooks. The team immediately rallied around the concept, and more than a decade later, Ratchet & Clank continues as an iconic PlayStation franchise.
What do you think of the technology behind this new Ratchet movie?
Schneider: Believe it or not, the production company is utilizing in-game assets to bring the cinematic experience to life. We’ve been impressed with what Rainmaker has been able to achieve so far and can’t wait to see how the rest of the film comes along.
How has being based in LA helped you utilize Hollywood talent and resources with the Ratchet games over the years?
Schneider: Typically, Insomniac has used in-house resources and talent to create all our games. Working near Los Angeles has enabled us quicker and more direct access to voiceover talent, but beyond that LA really just keeps us warm and (mostly) suntanned throughout the year.
How has that experience helped with the development of this movie?
Schneider: A side benefit of working near Hollywood is developing relationships with many of the nearby production companies and agencies. Through these relationships, we’ve learned a lot about how films get made – or more accurately, remain in developmental purgatory forever. As a result, we can approach development meetings with a bit more knowledge and perspective. If nothing else, we’ve learned to ask the right questions over the years when considering deals. It’s finally paying off as Ratchet & Clank earns its long-deserved place in the cinematic spotlight.
What were you looking for in a Hollywood partner that “gets” what your game universe is all about?
Schneider: We were looking for partners who were passionate about the franchise and wanted to make a film that preserved its soul. Ideally, that would mean hands-on Insomniac involvement, which Blockade Entertainment has graciously offered and consistently practiced. We also were looking for a partner who truly wanted to make the film – not just acquire the IP rights and park it on a shelf like the warehouse in Indiana Jones. Blockade has been aggressive in its pursuit of Ratchet & Clank, and production has rapidly ramped up. They’re 100% committed to making a Ratchet & Clank experience that reflects well on the game franchise, Insomniac and Sony Computer Entertainment.
Why do you think Ratchet might translate well to the big screen?
Schneider: Ratchet & Clank is a story about true friendship, finding one’s identity in the universe, intergalactic travel…and blowing lots of stuff up with outrageous weapons. In our eyes, the question isn’t whether Ratchet & Clank will translate well to the big screen – it’s why has it not happened sooner.
What are the challenges of creating a story that will connect with gamers and those who haven’t played the franchise?
Schneider: The good news is we’ve got a head start here – tens of millions of people around the world have played a Ratchet & Clank game. But for those who haven’t, they’re in for a real treat. Ratchet & Clank is an accessible universe that features unique and memorable characters, beautiful environments, a meaningful storyline, and epic action. In other words, you don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate Ratchet & Clank. But for those who have played a Ratchet & Clank game, they will immediately notice the consistencies between the film world and the game world. One of the biggest reasons why is that the film’s screenwriter, TJ Fixman (One Night on the Hudson), also penned most of the Ratchet & Clank titles. This will give us a huge leg up on other game franchises that have tried – and failed – to transition to the big screen.
Does this movie open up opportunities for new gaming tie-ins?
Schneider: This is a question best answered by Sony Computer Entertainment. From our perspective, a Ratchet & Clank film presents all kinds of marketing opportunities to significantly broaden our audience worldwide.
What do you feel that gamers who’ve played all the games will find as Easter eggs in the film?
Schneider: People who have played past Ratchet & Clank games will see cameos from many of their favorite characters. And we will do our best to answer some of the burning questions our most vocal fans have asked us over the years. In some ways, the Ratchet & Clank film is a gift and love note to our fans. By the time the film releases in 2015, Insomniac will have been in business more than 20 years. It’s safe to say that we’ve had fans literally grow up playing our games. This film is just one small way we hope to thank and give back to them.