Showrunners: 'Scott Pilgrim' anime version keeps spirit of film, graphic novel

"Scott Pilgrim Takes Off" premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Netflix
1 of 5 | "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off" premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Netflix

NEW YORK, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Graphic novelist Bryan Lee O'Malley and writer-producer BenDavid Grabinski say that throughout its three incarnations, Scott Pilgrim has maintained a timeless sense of humanity and chaotic, quirky fun.

The latest version -- an anime series O'Malley and Grabinski created called Scott Pilgrim Takes Off -- premieres Friday on Netflix.


The comic-book adaptation, which draws inspiration from the 2010 cult-classic, live-action film, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, follows the titular 20-something everyman (Michael Cera) as he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the girl of his dreams, and then learns he must defeat her seven evil exes to date her.

"People are always going to fall in love intensely or have their hearts broken the first time or get their first job or figure out what they even want to do with their life," Grabinski told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.


"The 20s are always this minefield, whether they have smartphones or flip phones or they use different slang."

Reuniting the film cast

The voice cast of the action-comedy-cartoon-with-heart also includes Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Aubrey Plaza, Alison Pill, Chris Evans and Brandon Routh.

All of the stars reprise their roles from the film.

"Edgar Wright assembled this dream cast over a decade ago," said O'Malley.

"We were lucky enough to inherit at least the idea of this cast," he added. "When we were writing the scripts, of course, we had the cast's voices in our heads a lot of the time, but we weren't sure if it would be a reality until we sent out a letter to everyone and asked them officially to be onboard. Fortunately, they all started saying 'yes' pretty quickly."

Many of the actors have seen their careers skyrocket in the 13 years since the movie came out, most notably Larson and Evans, who are known for playing superheroes Captains Marvel and America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


"It's intimidating," O'Malley said, acknowledging the cast's notoriety will likely also raise the profile of the animated project.

"They could all say 'no.' They're well within their rights. They're busy. They're important. They have better things to do, probably, but, to their credit, every single person said 'yes' and was so enthusiastic and gave 100% every single day."

One reason many agreed to return was because they love their characters and feel protective of them.

"But they also deeply loved the experience of making the movie," Grabinski said. "They all had such a good time. It was just a really exciting opportunity for them to revisit something they never thought they'd get to. They all really bonded over it."

Live action to anime

While they all wanted to go back to the Scott Pilgrim world, some were more comfortable than others translating their performance to anime from live action.

"For some people, they have to change things to feel like they are fitting animation. For others, it's not so different," O'Malley said.

"It was really fun, on our end, to just explore that and see their ideas and their take on it and combine that with our thoughts of what it should be," he added.


"Some people have a lot of animation experience, some have never done it before. Creatively, it never became stale, every day was like a completely different, fun challenge."

Cast members did not record their lines in a studio together.

"We tried a couple of times, but, logistically, and, especially during COVID, it was just impossible," O'Malley said.

The actors occasionally interacted with each other in person and were able to hear what their co-stars had recorded, however.

"They would come in right after each other in the same session and talk to each other in between and see what the other people have done," Grabinski said.

"Someone would come in and record their part of a scene, and then someone else would record theirs. We'd start to get a feeling about it and we'd bring people back based on how that was going. it was a very fluid, creative process."

Making an anime series was new territory for O'Malley and Grabinski.

"It moves, so that is a big start for me," O'Malley joked of his background in print media. "I'm used to still drawings, no sounds, no music. It was very freeing in so many ways to move into this dimension."


Before this, Grabinski's experience was purely in live action, with credits that include the film Happily and series Are You Afraid of the Dark?

"Most of my life has been someone telling me why they can't afford my ideas or why we don't have enough days to shoot my ideas," Grabinski said.

"With this, no one said I can't have a 10-minute fight scene because we're going to have to shoot it for six months," he added. "The logistics are completely different. i just tried to take advantage of that as much as possible."

Asked if he experienced any anxiety about reinventing a story that is beloved by so many, O'Malley replied, "There's pressure in imagining anything, especially these days.

"There's so much stuff out there and everybody's just ready to judge everything you do, but I didn't really feel that while writing it, which was surprising to me," he added.

"I think that's because me and BenDavid wrote it together and we are such good friends. It was a more fluid and fun writing process than I'd ever had. We just sat around writing and goofing around and turning our thoughts into actual scripts."

People who approach O'Malley tell him they connect to different aspects of the franchise.


"When I was writing Scott Pilgrim originally, it was kind of a cultural critique of the late 2000s and the culture we were living in at the time," he said.

"Now, that culture is all gone. It's all water under the bridge. Now when kids see it, they see it independent of that," O'Malley added.

"They see it in a vacuum and they kind of fill it with their own ideas and it's been really fun watching them enjoy it in new waves every few years. It's new stuff, new fans. It's humbling. It's really fun and I really hope they enjoy the show. We were trying to provide the same spirit."

Even though times have changed greatly in recent years, O'Malley said he didn't feel like he had to fine-tune the humor to make it more appealing to 2023 sensibilities.

"I didn't feel held back. We just approach it as ourselves now. I'm a more sensitive and evolved and older person than I was when I was 25," he said.

"It's not like I'm scrubbing anything. Fortunately, we kind of took the story in its own direction and we can just take it on its own terms. I don't really feel like I'm revising history, so much as creating something new that has its own flavor."


Grabinski agreed.

"A lot of our jokes and sense of humor are really dumb," he said. "And silly and dumb are forever."

Latest Headlines