Avi Arad discusses his latest toy purchase.
Producer Avi Arad is famous amongst the geek crowd for bringing many of Marvel Comics' heroes to the big screen. He has made bonafide movie stars out of Spider-Man, the X-Men, The Punisher, and the Fantastic Four, just to name a few. Now, he is turning his attentions to a whole other audience. The tween girl.
That's right, this summer, Avi Arad is bringing Bratz: The Movie to the big screen. The film follows the adventures of four teenage friends who drift apart in high school due to the pressures of various cliques on campus. Will they reunite and form The Bratz? You better believe it.
Avi recently met up with us to discuss his latest toy purchase. Here is that interview:
Avi Arad: Do you like my shirt?
(Avi opens his vest to show off a black Bratz: The Movie t-shirt.)
Ah, always promoting. I thought the Spider-Man 3 web promotion was great.
Avi Arad: Yeah, that really gave those guys something to do.
You should try something like that for this one.
Avi Arad: For Bratz: The Movie? We are. Yeah, actually, one of the scenes that was most entertaining for us involved Geffen's song competition. Are you aware of it.
Yeah, I just read about that.
Avi Arad: We were looking for someone to write a song for Bratz: The Movie. And the winner got to have their song in the movie. Ron Fair is doing the music. So we had pretty high expectations. These are the best acts in the business. Over four thousand songs came in. These were the real thing. The song called Fearless, we just loved the tone, and it fit so well with the theme of our movie.
What was it called? Phyllis?
Avi Arad: No. Fearless. You know, to be fearless? So, you know? We love this song, we check it out. We pick it up. It is a twelve-year-old girl from San Diego. And now Geffen signs her. And the rest is history. It was totally amazing. She was just twelve. You heard the song in the movie. It's great.
And Janel (Parish), who plays Jade in the film, was actually playing the piano?
Avi Arad: Yes, when we hired these girls, we had no idea. These girls were hired for acting, not singing. But we knew we had all of these musical numbers. Janel came in and sat down at the piano. She told us she had written this song, and Ron was listening to the song. He said, "I'll sign you up." She was shocked. It was just one of those things. He was doing a music video, and she had to sign up to be on his label. She's now on Geffen, also.
She wrote the song specifically for Bratz: The Movie?
Avi Arad: No, she just wrote this song. All these kids are quite accomplished. It is so much fun.
You are typically known for bringing projects to the screen that already have a back-story and their own lore. How was this one different?
Avi Arad: This one has a lot of history. I wanted to make it because I've always wanted to make a movie about this. People, kids, who are so tired of being labeled as just one thing. That's the stuff a lot of kids identify with. Bratz: The Movie had all of that. I looked at it and said, "Oh, okay. These are dolls. There's only so much story you can tell. What is that story going to be?" Then, from there, I made a story that was very influenced by what I see going on with my daughters. Her friends, and the devious life of high school. Kids have aspirations, and parents have aspirations. Hopefully, somewhere in-between, we agree about something. Janel is the daughter of an immigrant. My kids are the daughters of an immigrant. It wasn't easy for them. It's not easy to get a job. You have to work a lot. So, there were a lot of stories that came out of that. I have put those experiences into the movie. I was hoping that kids would sit in the movie house and watch this, and realize that they are not alone. We all go through the same pain and sense of isolation. That process of thinking, "Why me?" It's not just you. It's everybody. That would make them feel better and be better. There are moments in this film where the characters can't believe what they did two weeks ago. They look back and wish they hadn't done that. The parents too. I think mapping out the grandmother was the hardest. There are so many kids in this day and age that are raised by their grandparents. Parents are running around. They are busy. Grandparents have a lot of time. We spent a lot of time developing these parents in this movie. These girls needed a real support system. I wanted the parents to be right. Not to be wrong. Take this divorced couple for example. I don't expect them to get remarried. But I do expect them to rejoice that they have something in common that is so amazing. It took this little girl to say to them, "Yo, you guys are behaving like children." Which is true. A lot of kids' parents do it. It's not right, but it is real life. If you see that this kind of stuff happens to everybody, it makes it easier. You have to think about what kids want. What they look like. My daughter would leave the house dressed in her school uniform. But as soon as she is outside, the skirt is folded and her belly is out. I get calls from the school. "She is out of uniform." "But I saw her wearing the uniform." "Well, she had a belly and a cell phone." Kids just do that. Individuality isn't going to go away. And boys aren't going to go away. It was really important to get the boys into this movie. But I had to treat it, as a parent, as relationships I was comfortable with. The handicapped boy was really the coolest boy in the movie. The handicap didn't stop him from going where he wanted. Public speaking is one of the toughest classes to get into in college. But parents are always telling their kids to go take it. Because they see them sitting with their heads down. A lot of kids are afraid to talk. So, that issue is in there too. It was fun trying to map all of this stuff out. The director, Sean McNamara, came aboard, and he was the bear. He was so approachable.
He is sort of the guru of teens.
Avi Arad: I just love it. He introduced himself to our costume designer, and together they decided that the girls were going to look stylish. But stylish in layers. That means, they don't have to have a thousand dollars a month for clothes. They can go anywhere and find things. And dress themselves in a way that is cool, but in a way where they don't have to spend money they don't have. You put all of these elements together, and you have something that you are very proud of.
Why did you decide not to show anyone getting drunk, or doing drugs, or having sex in the movie?
Avi Arad: I think the drinking and the drugs are overrated. I have a lot of kids over to the house, and a lot of them are just now going to college. So, I have seen that. I have seen it on the East Coast and on the West Coast. I think it is just so overplayed. Most of these kids don't want to do it. They get so sick, and they are careful. Everyone is going to experiment. That's part of life. And sometimes experimenting helps you to get somewhere else. But this just wasn't an issue for our kids. This is more about social interaction and living out your dreams. Having a fight. Detention is inspiring. My inspiration for this movie was Can't Buy Me Love. I perceive it to be one of the great little movies of all time. It was great seeing this in the Super Bowl. And Cedric the Entertainer was mimicking Can't Buy Me Love. The kids didn't know what he was doing. But I knew what he was doing. All that dancing. And The Breakfast Club. Kids have a lot of anger because they don't have anyone to talk to. Unfortunately, it is very hard to talk to your parents and tell them you are having a problem. Even little problems, like, "No one will talk to me in the school yard." They are embarrassed to talk to their parents about that. Who do you tell? No one. So, finally, these kids just blow up. When it happens, that is how friendships are formed. Structurally, you can put them together and you can take them apart. You have to see if they can take. In this case, I didn't want our kids being in the contest.
Did you have to license this property?
Avi Arad:Yeah, I had to license it. I was very lucky. I have been going after things that people haven't been going after . This worked out really well. You have to find something that turns you on. There are a lot of times when people will go, "Why did you make that?" "Well, you want a house, too? Right?"
Did the doll company know you were going to make a movie?
Avi Arad: Oh, yeah.
How many kids do you have?
Avi Arad: Three. Two girls and a boy. The boys are a little bit easier.
Are your kids on Myspace?
Avi Arad: Oh, yeah. You saw what happened with Myspace. It was insane. We had about sixty thousand friends. I have some pretty big movies out there, where if they get to ten, that's a lot. It's a big deal. This thing is bombastic on the net already. These girls did a great job. Even with the choreography. You don't have to be the number one dance company with something like this, because kids want to immolate the moves. The kids have to be able to do them. The kids can't do what Meredith does. That's impossible. She felt like Lawrence Welk. It was really funny to put her so away from reality. The only thing she had to put her back into reality was this little sister.
When does the next Bratz: The Movie start?
Avi Arad: Shooting the next Bratz: The Movie starts probably in February. We will be bringing everyone one back. The script is not finished yet.
What about Jon Voight?
Avi Arad: That is really up to him. I have never seen him be that funny. He usually plays a pretty serious character. It was fun watching him climb around. He actually plays a good dad. There was a lot of thinking that went into this. It was fun.
Do you have anything coming up after Bratz: The Movie?
Avi Arad: I'm making another movie with Sean at the beginning of October. Again, based on a toy, believe it or not. Robosapien. He is a very successful robot. The kids love playing with it. Its like Bratz with dolls.
Avi Arad: I would love to do that, but that's Hasbro. We have to wait and see what they do with it.
Bratz: The Movie opens August 3rd in a theater near you.