Kamen Rider Dragon Knight Wins the Emmy!
A SciFi JAPAN EXCLUSIVE
Although the CW has parted ways with KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT, the series continues to receive the notice of fans and now television peers. Recently it was announced that KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT has been nominated for a daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Stunt Coordination. The nomination came for episode 18, in which Len (aka; Kamen Rider Wingknight) battles the Cho Brothers.
The nominees for this award were:
TIM DAVISON, STUNT COORDINATOR
KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT
CW TELEVISION NETWORK
DORENDA MOORE, STUNT COORDINATOR
ONE LIFE TO LIVE
DANNY AIELLO III, STUNT COORDINATOR
VINCENT CUPONE, STUNT COORDINATOR
AS THE WORLD TURNS
JAKE TURNER, STUNT COORDINATOR
THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL
MIKE CASSIDY, STUNT COORDINATOR
On June 25th, the winners of the Daytime Emmys were announced and the winner of the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Stunt Coordination went to, KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT!
In a SciFi Japan Exclusive, producer/director Michael Wang discusses the series and what lead to the Emmy nomination.
SciFi Japan: Let’s begin with your career. How did you get started?
Michael Wang: I decided that I wanted to get into music videos and commercials mainly because I was a huge fan of David Fincher and all of the directors at Propaganda and Satellite Films, where I interned when I was only 19.
I saw first hand how cool spots and videos could be and they were cranking out some amazing work at the time.
I got my chance to direct television commercials when I was 23. I was working in the industry as a freelance production coordinator and I saved most of my money towards a director’s reel.
I directed a couple of spec spots and sent my reel to production companies. Within a week I was signed to The U Ground and directing my first spot for Anheuser Busch for DDB Chicago a month later. It was definitely nerve racking and exciting at the same time.
I still continue to direct spots today through Karma Kollective, the commercial/music video production company that reps me here in the states and most recently we wrapped a “Sunsweet” spot for Nice Advertising/SF and a campaign for “The 2010 Adcolor Awards” for McCann Erickson/NY.
SFJ: What lead up to your involvement in KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT?
MW: My brother Steve Wang asked me to partner up with him on the series. He was approached by Executive Producer Aki Komine to do a pre-show pilot to show Toei and his investors our vision for the series.
The series they wanted to adapt was based on KAMEN RIDER RYUKI, which Adness Entertainment had the rights to. Steve and I came up with the original premise, but we still kept a lot of elements from RYUKI because we had to use Japanese footage.
We co-directed the pre-show pilot, which was a mix of scenes to establish the world. This was only for investors to view, so it skips around quite a bit.
From there, the reaction was great and the series got the green light. We then enlisted writer Nathan Long, a longtime friend to help us develop the rest of the KRDK world.
SFJ: I know Steve grew up a fan of Japanese superheroes. Did you share his interest?
MW: I grew up watching ULTRAMAN and KAMEN RIDER mainly because of Steve’s influence. We grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and they used to play ULTRAMAN and SPACE GIANTS, which my sisters and I watched religiously.
Another series I loved was ROBOTECH. That show was a major influence for our vision of KRDK because we loved the complexity of the relationships with the characters. It was like a soap opera for kids. I remember we would get pissed off if we missed an episode because we loved the characters so much.
Steve and I get a lot of fans of KRDK writing to us about how much they loved the characters on the show. I get a kick out of watching the music video montages the fans create on Youtube. You can see a lot of care has been put into them and it’s nice for us to see the next generation of fans giving the series so much love.
SFJ: When you design the stunts for a show like KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT, how closely do you try to match the original Japanese stunts/fights and how much do you try to expand and add your own style and ideas?
MW: Because we had to do integrate Japanese footage into the show, there was a lot of pre-planning that would take place to match backgrounds as closely as possible and still be able to create an exciting fight sequence.
This was something our Action Director Akihiro “Yuji” Noguchi was in charge of and he did an amazing job for us. He and his team with Stunt Coordinator Dorenda Moore worked together closely to insure that the action was always exciting and I am still amazed with how much they pulled off in such a short amount to film.
SFJ: As the series went on, did you shoot more original stunts? Or did you still use a lot of the Japanese footage throughout?
MW: We shot a lot of our own original footage and used the Japanese footage that best fit our story. This was a challenge because in RYUKI certain Kamen Riders fight each other and the footage didn’t work for KRDK’s story. So, we had to shoot a majority of our own original footage like in Episode 18.
SFJ: Did you have to fabricate your own suits or did Toei provide you with suits from the series?
MW: Most of the suits were from RYUKI so Toei had them re-fabricated for our use. The suits have taken a lot of abuse from not only the original series but from our series as well. Our costume department was busy fixing the suits to be camera ready.
The only suit that was an original design from our end was for General Xaviax. My brother Steve designed Xaviax and he sculpted the helmet and his body suit was assembled in the states.
SFJ: Does Toei have any say or approval over any aspects of what you are doing with the show?
MW: Toei and Adness were great to work with. They gave us guidelines of what they wanted for the show, but gave us a lot freedom to execute our vision. I then worked closely with the CW/4Kids on all of the Standards and Practice guidelines.
SFJ: Maybe you can talk a little bit about the 4Kids/CW standards and practices and how they affected the series or what you wanted to do. Or did they?
MW: The CW/4 Kids standards and practices have been very respectful of the overall vision of the show and they worked with us to insure we didn’t break any rules. Fortunately, we had an insight ahead of time of what red flags to look out for such as strikes to the head, so the stunt team was very mindful not to do that.
SFJ: How did you assemble your stunt team? Are these people you’ve worked with before? What are their backgrounds?
MW: Steve had a major hand in choosing the stunt team. He of course called on his friends at Alpha Stunts and hired Akihiro Noguchi. He oversaw all of the fight choreography as well as directed the majority of the action. The two of them have a lot of history working together, from their first time on GUYVER: DARK HERO. So, it was nice to see them re-united.
Dorenda Moore, a seasoned stunt coordinator and performer was recommended from our line producer. She was a pleasure to work with and she brought on a great group of performers as well as motorcycle stunt riders because we had a lot of bike action to coordinate.
Our stunt team came from all over, including several seasoned stunt performers from Japan, who worked on the original KAMEN RIDER series over there. The majority of our team was from the states and we were fortunate to have so many dedicated and talented people. All of them worked tirelessly on the show giving more than 100 percent.
SFJ: Are there any particular stunts from the show that you are particularly proud of? If so, which ones are they?
MW: There are so many that I am proud of, but I think one of my favorites was of course Episode 18, which was nominated for the Emmy. That was a cool episode because it gave Matt Mullins and Mike Moh, both amazing martial artists a chance to fight outside of the suits. Steve and the stunt team had a great time on that one.
I also love the fight between Len and the Monsters in Episode 7. Steve directed that fight scene, and I love how he was able to capture Len’s badassery! This was a pivotal time for Len because he began to doubt himself and his mission. So what does he do? Kick some minion ass!
SFJ: Each Rider has a different character and design. Did you try to come up with different fighting styles for each one?
MW: This was something we wanted to keep consistent with the original Kamen Rider series. Because we had to use the Japanese footage, a majority of the Kamen Rider poses and mannerisms, such as Dragon Knight’s Final Vent pose was kept consistent with KRDK.
Akihiro and the stunt team did a great job keeping all of the poses true to the original. We already got some heat from the die-hard fans about their transformation call. Since we were told to re-brand “Kamen Rider” for the states, it made sense to have them call out “Kamen Rider!” before they transform because if the new fans loved the show, they’d be calling out “Kamen Rider,” which most people here in the states doesn’t know means Masked Rider.
They even call out “Kamen Rider” in the Japanese dub of KRDK, which we were surprised to see because we thought they would change it back to “Henshin!” It was cool that they kept the Japanese version true to the US version.
It was also our idea to keep the original name “Kamen Rider” for the re-boot instead of changing it back to “Masked Rider.” The folks at Toei and Adness loved this idea. We also wanted to make sure credit was given to original creator Shotaro Ishinomori in the opening credits because he was the visionary behind all of this.
SFJ: Did the success or non-success of SABAN’S MASKED RIDER play into the decision to retain “Kamen Rider” or had you seen that series at all?
MW: Our decision to retain the “Kamen Rider” name instead of translating it into “Masked Rider” didn’t have anything to do with SABAN’S MASKED RIDER. There are many conspiracy theories out there, but for the most part we just wanted to throw homage to Shotaro Ishinomori’s original vision and many kids today have been exposed to more Japanese anime and toku shows. So, it made sense for us to stay with “Kamen Rider.”
SFJ: Were you surprised by the Emmy nomination? How did you find out about it?
MW: I was definitely surprised and ecstatic about it when our line producer told us. It was nice to see the Emmy’s recognize all of the passion and hard work that went into this series. Our stunt team deserves to be recognized and I am proud of the work they did on the show. I wish every one of them could be recognized, but I guess that would mean a lot of Emmy’s!
SFJ: Can you describe the episode/scene that was nominated?
MW: The fight scene in Episode 18 was a showdown between Len and The Cho Brothers. They have just been recruited by General Xaviax to defeat Len and unfortunately for them their cockiness gets them best of them. Len pretty much teaches them a lesson in humility.
SFJ: What’s next? Any projects on the horizon that you can talk about?
MW: Steve and I both have feature films lined up that are slated to shoot in the fall. My film is a comedy called ED NORMOUS about an overweight pushover who discovers how to fight back through an unlikely friendship with his neighbor, a feisty 12 year-old girl.
Steve’s film is a martial arts extravaganza called MAN OF ACTION that reunites him with Mark Dacascos. We have also been developing new action/adventure kids shows and hope to bring something fresh to the fans soon!
I am currently working on several social/branded media projects with one of my writing/producing partners Jeffrey Walker. The first of them is an animated series of short films, which he and I both created and produced. The first time we worked together was on a Bridgestone campaign where he was a creative director in advertising. From then on we’ve remained good friends and I was able to hire him as a staff writer on KRDK.
I want to thank the cast and crew of KRDK as well as Toei and Adness Entertainment for giving us the opportunity to bring this amazing franchise to the states! It has been a wonderful experience and we are looking forward to creating more entertainment for the fans!
SFJ: Is there any idea about the future of KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT? Home video release? A return to TV or cable?
MW: Adness Entertainment would have a better idea of the future of KRDK. I do know that they are working tirelessly to get KRDK into other markets and have done a great job doing so. I would love to see future adaptations of KRDK and I’m sure the fans would too!
SciFi Japan would like to congratulate the cast, crew and creators of KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT and Toei Productions, ltd. for winning the Daytime Emmy award, and with them continued success with the series in whatever form it takes next!
Currently KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT is playing in Japan, in a 2am time slot and doing quite well in the ratings. A DVD release has just come out of the entire series in Japan.
The series is also playing in Thailand, Malaysia, South America, the Philippines and Germany.
Currently there are no plans to release it on DVD in the United States or for a return to domestic TV.
For more information on KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- Kamen Rider Returns to US TV
- KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT at San Diego Comic-Con International
- Xaviax Speaks! An Interview With Actor William O’Leary