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Hellboy Gets Animated

23 Jul, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

This isn't your daddy's Hellboy.

A new feature-length animated movie following the unlikely hero airs on Cartoon Network in October.

Hellboy: Sword of Storms also streets on DVD Feb. 6, 2007, from IDT Entertainment's release arm, Anchor Bay Entertainment.

It's one of two animated “Hellboy” creations funded by IDT.

This time around, the big red boy is in a world of Japanese folklore, with a new look and flavor that's faithful to, but riffs off the original style of the character.

A panel of “Hellboy” crew including creator Mike Mignola, live-action Hellboy director Guillermo Del Toro, new artist Sean “Cheeks” Galloway, artist Matt Wayne and animated director Tad Stones, hit up this year's Comic-Con to give fans a peek at the new look.

It was the first time Mignola and Del Toro caught a glimpse of the final animated version, with a clip of Hellboy, Liz and Abe fighting off a tomb-full of invincible zombies and giant bat like creatures.

“That looks pretty good,” Mignola said, nodding at the giant screen. “In between takes of the movie, we [Del Toro and Mignola] talked about Hellboy and where we would want to take him and it was always Japan, that's something we didn't do in the comics.”

The animated project came alive largely thanks to Del Toro's support, Stones said.

“Guillermo, from day one on his movie, was pushing for an animated version, he really pushed and pushed and kept the idea alive,” Stones said.

Stones is a huge Hellboy fan and even pitched the idea originally to Disney, when he was working on animation at that studio.

“I would have loved to be in that room,” Mignola quipped.

Every incarnation of Hellboy should look different, have a different take on the character and his world, Mignola said.

Stones rolled a presentation of artwork submissions the production team got from a bevy of artists, and showed early representations of the Hellboy imaginings from the relative unknown they eventually hired for the gig — Galloway. Stones said they plan on putting these art samples in a gallery on the DVD release.

“I wanted something that felt modern, my daughter watches a lot of Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon and I wanted it to have that bounce to it like shows on those networks have. Shaun's stuff really pushed that,” Mignola said.

The creators put Galloway through the ringer on the job, Stones said. “But it was fun watching these guys [Mignola and Galloway] with such different styles working side-by-side.”

Galloway said he thought he was getting spam email when he first got a note from producers. He was too broke to go out and buy copies of books with Hellboy art so he sat in Borders trying to spin off Mignola's work in his own style.

Soon he found himself immersed in Hellboy, constantly tweaking his designs and arduously creating different angles and poses of the characters.

“Before this I had never drawn one character more than five times in my life,” he said.

The most changed character in the animated version is sidekick Liz — she's a deceptively tiny little thing in the animated movie.

A lot of that came from Del Toro.

“Well the main idea was that I like short girls — I married one,” Del Toro joked. “I thought that that for Hellboy a short girl is very cute and very interesting to have this physically smaller character with great power … the idea is that a pretty strong set of balls comes in small packages.”

Hellboy and animation did not compute for some people, Stones said.

“We had a lot of people going ‘Hellboy? In a cartoon? Really? Are you going to have to change the name?’ Stones said. “No, these movies are not written for kids, although kids around 9 or so will get it.”

Ron Perlman, who played the titular character in Del Toro's film, signed on for voice-talent duty.

“It was great we had Ron, he's so invested, such a fan of the character, sometimes he would say ‘well Hellboy wouldn't do this,’ Mignola said. “But I was constantly included — and maybe that's why they wanted me around so much — because I was the only one who could respond to Ron and say ‘yes he would.’

Like everything Hellboy, there's a lot of battle, a lot of trouble and yes some hellish events in the animated movie. “We're pushing the edges,” Stones said.

If network standards and practices makes some cuts for the TV airing, fans can rest assured they will get the uncut version on DVD, he said.

Mignola said he feels lucky that there are so many Hellboy fans in the industry who are constantly taking his original comic strip to different levels — like this version.

“It's not the movie Hellboy, it's not the comic … it's sort of its own thing,” he said. “It's recognizable, but it's different which I think is nice, because it's good to keep all these things separate.”

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