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Angry Birds Movie, Rovio's massive Ego
Gamers might not immediately know the name David Maisel, but they definitely have seen his work. Maisel was Chairman of Marvel Studios and EVP, Office of the CEO, for Marvel Entertainment. While at Marvel, he transitioned the company from a licensor of superhero characters into a powerful Hollywood studio.
Now he's the head of Rovio's North American operations and he's developing an Angry Birds feature film. Check the full interview below to get the latest scoop on the Angry Birds movie, and why there are similarities between Marvel superheroes and those colorful birds.
Q: What would your vision of an Angry Birds movie up on the big screen be?
DM: That one we're having so much fun with. The best thing I can say there is, which is not that satisfying, is stay tuned. I can promise that the bar we hold for ourselves is really high. It's got to be everything that you'd expect from an Angry Birds movie as a fan of the game, plus so much more with surprises, innovative things, and twists. It's something that we've worked already a lot on and we will over the next few years, but we're going to try to keep it as tight as possible so that when you go into that theater, it's an experience that you say, "Wow, I didn't expect that."
We were able to do that with Iron Man, which didn't have that great a buzz beforehand or focus. We wanted to try and make a good movie that happened to be a superhero movie, and so the goal is the same for this film. Hopefully it's not just a good movie about a game. It's a movie that happens to be coming from a game, so it has everything the fans would like to see and hear because the fans are already so broad age-wise and geographic wise. It's going to be a fun challenge to make it attractive to everybody and for people to feel like it's unexpected, when they go in.
Q: What role will the Rovio game developers play in the Angry Birds movie?
[The movie] is something that we've worked already a lot on and we will over the next few years
DM: They'll be totally involved the whole way through. Rovio is still very small in terms of the number of people and at Marvel there was a philosophy to involve everybody and say the brand of Iron Man, the brand of Thor, the brand of Captain America. We would have a creative committee that would include the comic book authors and creatives so everyone from around the company could have input. With Rovio it's much easier because it's a smaller company and we're all focused on Angry Birds. Everyone is able to contribute as we develop the mythology of the movie. The one thing that doesn't exist for Angry Birds that existed for Marvel is the fifty years of stories and mythology. But I actually view that as an asset because we're able to create this mythology from scratch and have fun with it. Right now we have a very broad group from the company involved.
Marvel has embraced 3D with all of its movies. What are your thoughts about a 3D Angry Birds movie?
DM: Nothing official yet, but just from a logical point of view this is so much more of a no-brainer. Obviously, with the flight of the birds and everything else, you could imagine how great that could be in 3D. It was a much harder decision in purely live action traditional films because the real question is always whether it's better in 2D or 3D? The action sequences can be better in 3D, but for this type of film, and especially thinking through the latest technologies, I think we're going to have a big toy chest to play with.
Q: How did you get involved with Rovio and Angry Birds?
David Maisel: Frankly, I really owe a debt to my mother who is 85 because after getting on her an iPad for Christmas, I saw her for the first time in her life actually using technology and she was playing Angry Birds. One of her friends had recommended the game to her. When I played the game, I realized it was not just an incredibly addictive game and a profitable business already, but it was a brand that has unlimited potential in all different types of entertainment and medium. I flew over to Finland to meet with Mikael Hed, who started the business, and very quickly we all realized it would be a blast to work together and so that's how it all came about.
Rovio partnered with Fox on Rio marketing, but will they soon have a competing avian adventure?
Q: Are there similarities between the superheroes that you worked with at Marvel and these characters in Angry Birds?
DM: Absolutely. I grew up as a huge Marvel fan and Iron Man was my favorite character, but still before the film the amount of people who actually had awareness of Iron Man was relatively small. It was mainly U.S.-focused and it was mainly guys who had grown up reading these comics. The trick was to take these brands that had a big mythology and had some pretty high level of awareness, but not huge, and turn them into worldwide phenomenon that reached beyond fan boys like myself to our parents, girlfriends, and wives.
With Angry Birds, I think the potential is even greater. The reaction with Marvel was always fantastic when people would want to talk about the characters, whether it was Spider-Man or Iron Man. But I've never seen a reaction by just carrying around this Angry Birds iPad case. People from three years of age to 85 have come up to me to talk about this game all over the world. So the task is the same, which is to create and broaden the brand and create as big a business around it as possible, as we had with Marvel.
Q: Do you look at your job any differently because the property is coming from games rather than comics?
From a logical point of view 3D is so much more of a no-brainer
DM: No. The difference here is that the brand is coming from gaming rather than coming traditional media. Whereas with Marvel, the film was the huge profit driver for these brands and games came from that. Here, the gaming is the huge profit and the film, when it happens, will be a compliment to that. The challenges are a little bit different with the specific tactics, but the overall challenge to grow an entertainment media business around a brand is the same.
Q: With the movie still in early development, what role will entertainment play for Angry Birds in the short-term?
DM: The film takes a few years to go from start to finish, but the plan here is to hopefully in a very smart respectful way, treat this brand and introduce it into different mediums. Rovio's based in Helsinki, Finland, and we purchased a very small animation studio there, Kombo, which is a very high-quality studio. We've integrated them in so frankly they can work not just on animation, but also help us with the games as well.
The idea right now is probably to do short form animation, two or three minute segments rather than right away go the traditional half-hour animation. We view short form as potentially more creative and fun and those are things that can be distributed in nontraditional ways through online and virally, not just through cable networks like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
Might as well make a Tetris movie while we're at it