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‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ Creators Break Down Missing Scene in Pilot

‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ Creators Break Down Missing Scene in Pilot

The daunting task of adapting Bryan Lee O’Malley’s beloved graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, about a musician whose girlfriend battles his seven evil exes, into anime series Scott Pilgrim Takes Off fell to O’Malley and writer BenDavid Grabinski. In episode one, the pair immediately upend things. “We were talking about [how the fandom] seems to hate Scott now, that he’s the worst character in his own story. So why don’t we give the people what they want and just take him off the street?” recalls Grabinski. In the pilot of the series (voiced by the 2010 movie’s stars), Scott goes missing, and his love interest, Ramona Flowers, interacts with his notorious ex-girlfriends and tries to track him down. “We tried to really have it become an ensemble piece, but Ramona is the one driving the story,” says O’Malley. In this scene, Ramona speaks with several of Pilgrim’s former flames and Sex Bob-omb band members as she seeks his whereabouts.

While television scripts typically go through multiple iterations to get to what’s seen onscreen, the scene in question “is virtually identical to what it was from the very beginning,” says O’Malley. “But in general, we would rewrite based on the work that [the animators and director] were doing. We would write a scene, they would storyboard it, they’d come up with new ideas and then we would rewrite our script to match that.” Sometimes that meant animators would change the setting or would come up with gags.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off Script

Courtesy of Netflix

While the script directions simply read “on the couch, bored,” in the series, Kim, one of Pilgrim’s exes, is snacking on a cheeseburger. “This is a good example of the process with the director,” says O’Malley. This scene comes a day after Pilgrim’s funeral — the director’s “initial idea for it was that they were outside sunbathing while they were talking. We felt that it was a little too glib for the stuff that preceded this. And then his next idea, which we loved, was, ‘Let’s just have the characters eating,’ because he wanted to give it more personality.” Adds Grabinski: “Food and anime is always great, so anytime someone suggests someone eating, we’re like, ‘Go for it.’ “

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off Script

Courtesy of Netflix

“We both had a cadence in our heads for every single character,” says Grabinski of the voice actors, including Michael Cera reprising the lead role and Alison Pill as ex Kim Pine. “I’d seen the movie, by that point, maybe 20 times.”

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off Script

Courtesy of Netflix

Grabinski calls this scene “my favorite scene in the whole season; it might be my favorite thing I’ve ever been involved with. I felt like it represented everything that we loved about the show,” he adds. “It’s a new character dynamic, it’s a way to have surprising emotional turns that aren’t just dialogue.” Here, Pilgrim’s younger ex-girlfriend, Knives, voiced by Ellen Wong, is seen in a new light, experimenting with bass guitar alongside his ex Kim, characters made famous under different circumstances in the 2010 film.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off Script

Courtesy of Netflix

O’Malley worked with the band to create the music that appears in this scene. “The script evolved alongside the music,” he explains. “As we were shaping it, it really started to feel like this is kind of a grieving theme.” The live band O’Malley worked with recorded themselves playing to send to the animators. Says O’Malley, “It was a lot of people working together for this seemingly simple thing, but the end result is great.” The animation around this jam session between Knives and Kim involves swirling colors and movements, something achieved by the collaborative back-and-forth between writers and visual artists. “To me, it’s the best example of what the collaboration of the show was,” says Grabinski.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off Script

Courtesy of Netflix

This sentence was italicized to emphasize the gravity of the moment. “For this, we need the audience to know that this is the beginning of a collaboration between Stephen and Knives, the beginning of these two becoming a songwriting team,” says Grabinski. “And if you don’t nail the moment that he’s so hypnotized, then that doesn’t track.” O’Malley adds that the italics were also signposts for the translators rewriting everything in Japanese. “Our first reader is essentially the translator. There was never a translation issue where comedy wasn’t translated, ever.”

This story first appeared in a May standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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