But what’s more remarkable is the short film that inspired it.
French filmmaker/artist Patrick Jean created the two-and-a-half minute short, also titled “Pixels,” five years ago for $US5,000. In it, the classic arcade games of the 1980s travel to New York City and begin to devour it into 8-bit blocks.
The short became an instant sensation on the web, getting over a million views in its first 24 hours online, according to Jean’s website. And, as Jean told Business Insider, within two weeks he began hearing from movie studios about making it into a feature-length film that he’d direct.
“I came up with the idea of what the feature film became,” said Jean in a phone conversation from L.A. “I pitched it to about five companies that really wanted it and we ended up going with Adam Sandler and Sony.”
For the next four years, Jean went from directing a modest-budgeted movie about ex-gamers trying to save the world from its destruction by classic video game characters, to stepping aside as major players in Hollywood took it over.
He said he’s grateful for what has happened, but he has some critiques about the finished product.
According to Jean, he sold the film rights for $US1 million. He was to direct the film with Sandler producing it and perhaps star. Jean teamed with a screenwriter hired by Sandler’s Happy Madison production company to write the script, which he said went through many drafts over a few years.
But when the script got to a point when the project got a green light, the budget increased, which led to Jean’s exit as director.
“They asked me to come up with a list of directors [to make the movie] and we got Chris Columbus,” said Jean.
Columbus is known for the fantastical films he wrote in the 1980s (“Gremlins” and “The Goonies”) and the classics he went on to direct (“Home Alone,” “Mrs Doubtfire,” and the first two “Harry Potter” movies).
Jean became an executive producer on the film and made an arrangement with Sony that he would shadow Columbus on set.
“It wasn’t easy because it was my baby at one point,” said Jean of having to relinquish the director reigns. “But I still wanted to be attached to the project, so I learned to watch and not interfere with what Chris wanted.”
When asked what he thinks about the film, Jean doesn’t give the usual Hollywood spin.
“I think the movie is not perfect, but I like it,” he said. “I feel the second half of the movie could have been better. But I know they had budget issues, they had to cut some stuff.”
One bit in particular is a scene at the end where the heroes (played by Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad, and Peter Dinklage) meet their younger selves (who we meet in the beginning of the movie) while battling the mothership that’s releasing the video game characters onto Earth.
“They did shoot it,” said Jean. “But sadly it didn’t make it in the film.”
Overall, Jean said he loves the humour of the film, and the visual effects. “It’s a light action comedy movie and that’s what we wanted to do in the first place,” he said.
But he’s now ready to direct one of his projects.
He says he’s shooting a live-action film for a French company next summer and is in talks with Sony to direct an animated feature.
“Pixels” opens in theatres on Friday.
Watch Jean’s “Pixels” short below:
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