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Jorge Gutierrez Talks ‘Untitled Kung Fu Space Western’ Influences, Designs, and Story

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Fans of Jorge Gutierrez and his work were given quite the surprise this week when Reel FX not only announced a multi-year, multi-film deal with Jorge, but also revealed the concept art and plot synopsis for Jorge’s next film, Untitled Kung Fu Space Western.

In the first of what is sure to be dozens of interviews about the project (conducted here by Indiewire’s Animation Scoop blog), Jorge was kind enough to dish out the first details surrounding the project.

First, he starts off by revealing that he had been developing the idea for this film for six or seven years while he was trying to get The Book of Life off the ground — a tidbit that will definitely become important later on.

He also reveals that he pitched the idea to Guillermo del Toro (who gave it a thumbs-up), but since he was already working with Guillermo on The Book of Life, he was ultimately left to his own devices when it came time to fast-track the idea into a feature film:

“He told me that he only produces first-time filmmakers so I used up my first-time filmmaker magic coin with him.”

When asked about the varied influences for the film — “90s Kung Fu films, Spaghetti Westerns of the ‘60s, and the epic Space Adventures of the ‘70s, ‘80s and today” — Jorge elaborated a bit more on that angle by saying that those were indeed the films that he used to grow up watching as a kid back-to-back, to the point where “they started melding in my brain.”

He even gave a surprising context to those influences by citing a recent interest of his:

“One of the things that I love now is food truck culture. And so one of the biggest inspirations has been seeing how different people from all over the world are mixing things up. I especially love Korean beef tacos and burritos with Indian curry sauce. So for me,that’s what this movie is about, people from all these cultures coming together, and at first not getting along and then learning that we’re all a lot more similar than we think.”

Eventually, the conversation did come around to bringing up the biggest elephant in the room: Guardians of the Galaxy.

When approached about that, Jorge actually thanked that film and others of its ilk for making sci-fi popular again:

“I’ve been working on this for quite a while and every time I saw a sci-fi movie do well or a western do well, it put the fear of god into me. And, thankfully, Guardians kind of changed everything after doing so well and Star Wars is coming, so I feel that audiences are very much into sci-fi again. And there seems to be a western revival going on on TV. And obviously kung fu is still everywhere in the world.”

Do keep in mind that earlier in the interview, he did say that he had the idea in his head for six or seven years. That would mean that he first started working on the idea back in 2008/2009, way before Guardians of the Galaxy was even a blip on the radar of the general public. Also, having more than one film borrow from the same well isn’t too uncommon nowadays.

Moving on, Jorge gave more details about the look of the film, in addition to a few other things. He’ll be working with the same design team from The Book of Life, including Paul Sullivan (art director on The Book of Life and the man responsible for that amazing concept piece), who will now serve as production designer on this film. He also gave hints about where exactly the film will take place and what other awesome thing we should expect:

“So obviously it’s a space movie, so we get to go to a ton of different places and design lots of different creatures [overseen by Sandra Equihua]. And at the same time, the story takes place in Texas, so there’s going to be a lot of cool nods to the past and the present and the future, and lots and lots of nods to the history of film. And animation wise, we’re going to make the fights pretty incredible. We’re going to be putting the camera in places you’ve never thought of before. And as far as the design, what would New Orleans in the old west look like in space but with a Chinese influence on it? But as we always say, “What is the strongest flavor for this location?” It’s baroque animation where you can be really busy as long as you help the audience look in the right place.”

In addition to being asked about his favorite western, space film, and kung fu movie (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Empire Strikes Back and Kung Fu Hustle), he shared an incredible story about his experience of seeing The Empire Strikes Back during an earthquake in Mexico:

“And the crazy thing about seeing Empire was that there was an earthquake when my father took me to see it in Mexico as a kid and he had to hold my by the emergency exit so I could see it. And then another earthquake happened and we ran out so I didn’t get to see the end of it. So I was completely traumatized by that movie — the earth literally shook when I found out that Darth Vader was his father.”

He closed out the interview by describing his initial feeling of working at Reel FX in Dallas, while giving us two more tidbits about the story:

“When I arrived, I felt like an alien landing in Texas, but definitely drawing from a lot of personal history and the heart of the story is a father-son relationship and theme is redemption.”

Untitled Kung Fu Space Western is currently in development and doesn’t have a release date as of yet, but hopefully it will come a lot sooner than The Book of Life did.

What do you think? Does this interview make you more excited for Untitled Kung Fu Space Western?

Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden

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About Brandon Smith

Brandon is your average nerd with a love for nerdy things (games, comics, anime/manga, etc.). He also loves reading and writing and plans to be an author someday. For now, he writes with passion and curiosity about the world of animation. He lives with his family in North Carolina and is currently attending college.