For the first episode of Talent Talks I was glad to be able to sit down and have a chat to Ty Hanson (@finchzero) the creator of the Millennium Exile project. Ty is working on creating an anime, that based on the plot details and visuals publicly available looks to be the start of something truly awesome.
Ty has been working on the project for over 10 years now with the dream that it will one day become an actual anime series produced by a famed Japanese studio. Check out our interview with Ty below to learn a lot more about the Millennium Exile project, the top tier American voice actors that are part of the project and why you should be excited for what’s to come.
Joel: For those that don’t know about Millennium Exile, tell me a little bit about the project.
Ty: Millennium Exile is a story that I’ve been writing since back in 2008 that started as nothing more than a University character design assignment when I was studying animation and graphic design. And from there I just started writing this character bio and had to do a back story with it and I really enjoyed writing it and got very obsessed with the back story I was writing as I went deeper and deeper into it.
As a whole it’s basically a fantasy story that has been written in the style people would consider a Shonen battle anime and at the moment I’m working at getting an anime adaptation.
I haven’t written it to be an extremely long run. Nothing like your One Piece’s or Naruto. In an idea world, barring negotion’s with studios etc I have written it for a 63 episode runtime. Whether that be several sets of 12 or 26 episodes or if a studio was keen enough go right through similar to Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and do it in one go.
Joel: What are your ideal release plans for the show? I know you were considering pitching the project to Netflix. Could something similar to Little Witch Academia which started as 2 OVA shorts before being expanded into a full season work here. If a studio wanted to try out the show like that, can it be done with your type of story?
Ty: The way that I’ve written Millennium Exile is very versatile. The minute I started taking Millennium Exile seriously, because as I said it started as a university project. When I went back and started rewriting and fleshing it out properly I needed to make it quite a flexible adaptation for the needs of a studio and other entities that are going to get involved.
The good thing about the way that I’ve written it is yes I could quite easily make an OVA of it to test the waters if a studio was interested. We could 100% do a short prequel leading up to the events that start the Millennium Exile story and it would be just enough to wet the lips of the audience and get people established to the world, lore and characters and hopefully they’ll want to know what happens next.
Even then there’s a lot of options, I could even start telling back stories to the individual characters that make up our main cast as sort of a 4 part OVA set. I’m trying to be as adaptable and flexible as possible.
And even though I said it wasn’t designed to be something as long as One Piece or Naruto there is the ability there to build things out. We could have some quests and adventures in between those key points should someone want to put it in for a longer run. But it’s not really something I’d like to see Millennium Exile become.
I understand one of your ideal studio’s to pick up Millennium Exile would be Studio Bones why do you think they would suit the Millennium Exile project?
Bones is the studio that I pretty much wrote this story in mind with. They are first and foremost my preference mainly because I feel that’s their wheelhouse. For a couple of reasons. The genre of Millennium Exile is what Bones seem’s to do a lot of, most of their titles exist within that genre, that high fantasy action sort of genre that’s really their wheelhouse but on top of that I also feel like they invest a lot in original anime that don’t have manga adaptations first. They do a lot of hard hitting title’s that are anime originals and I think there’s something really good about that.
Joel: So this isn’t just high fantasy stuff. This anime seems to be filled with mechs doing that cross-genre thing similar to Gurren Lagann, so that’s clearly an inspiration for you right?
Ty: So the show isn’t filled with mech’s. They are getting talked about a bit at the moment because I’m in the process of releasing the second one as far as the artwork goes. I don’t want to go too far into every genre and not excel at any of them, I want them to know what the structure of my story is and what the foundations of the story are. I think that would be trying to be too many things while excelling at nothing in particular. To pull that off you would need to be some sort of amazing writer. I think that’s why I love Gurren Lagann so much because it’s ball’s to the wall crazy.
So the mecha’s of Millennium Exile, they don’t actually come into the story until the later half of the show. From about half way on is when we start finding out about these 2 legendary mecha that are very much part of the lore and backstory of the world. From previous civilisations that came before the one’s we’re talking about. The mecha’s have actually come from another planet, existing buried on this planet for thousands of years and you’ll start learning the lore of the world as the characters are for the first time as well. When the mecha get unearthed through various circumstances that’s where they start becoming this integral part. It might be cliche but when you only have 2 of these robots the bad guys find one and they think it’s the only one then the good guys find one. It sounds cliche but I believe I’m going to make it work. The way I’ve written it in I feel like it’s going to be a lot of hype for the audience, I really want to entertain people as much as possible, while still keeping things coherent.
Joel: You’ve got a demo reel up on your YouTube channel which if I understand correctly is a cut of the demo reel you’re using for your studio pitches and you managed to get some big voice actors behind that with Kyle Hebert and Kaiji Tang helping you out. How did that come about?
Ty: It was a couple years ago now and I reached out to a known voice actor. I was originally going to make a small snippet but it was only going to be of one character and it wasn’t going to be anything massive it was only going to be a single character in a couple of scenes. Because up until then I was funding everything out of my own pocket to fuel Millennium Exile. This voice actor was a voice director at the time and I reached out and said “Hey I designed this characters around your voice, as a fan” and he got back to me almost straight away saying he was impressed with the amount of work that had gone into the project at that point and how far it had gotten.
For a few weeks we were sending back and forth emails and he was asking me questions, and really putting me through my paces, quizzing me about how much I’d planned this through. He ended up saying the idea is amazing and would love to help me out but recommended I take the project online, letting it get a fanbase and some interest and mentioned if I could reach a certain amount in donations from fan’s he’d help out with voice acting. And within 48 hours I’d hit the mark in donations he’d asked for.
So he ended up recording for me and I was completely blown away hearing a voice that I’d grown up listening to voice one of my characters. It was absolutely incredible. But then he said “I don’t want you using this just for this one character piece” which really put me in a corner. He said “You’ll make a demo reel with this, you won’t stop at me, I want you to go out and make a demo reel, include other characters and give people a teaser, an idea of what this project is going to be about even if it’s just for pitching because at the end of the day no one in a studio is going to give you more that 5-10 minutes of their time. So you’re going to want to wow them in that 5 minutes.”
He was brutally honest but I loved his honestly because it was great advice.
“No matter how close you think you are it’s only made when it’ made.”
I was faced with another problem. If I was going to include other characters, our accent’s as Australian’s stand out when heard right next to professional American voice actors. I can’t get my friends to voice my characters. Putting me in a tight spot. The director said “You caught my attention, why can’t you do that with others. Go out and contact your first choices for your characters and see what happens.” And over the course of 2 and a half years I’ve spoken with agents and all of the big voice actors that I love so much. Only getting 2 no’s along the way.
It took me weeks, watching and listening to anime to find the right fit. A voice with a smart yet arrogant tone, the voice I wanted Zero to have. I sat down and watched Fate/Stay night and heard Kaiji Tang and I knew that was the guy I had to talk to. And when I heard the lines read out it was far better than expected.
I have seven high profile actors involved in this demo reel now.
When I heard Kyle Hebert read the lines for the first time I teared up. He voiced my main character Vincent and it was just perfect.
Ben Diskin who plays Ban in The Seven Deadly Sins is also on board playing a character in the demo reel. Ben was amazing because he had more lines than anyone in the demo and he did so many takes so I had different tones for each line.
Joel: Wow that’s awesome. I didn’t realise you were getting such a high level of support from these guys.
Ty: Yeah the actors have been great. Many of them were happy to help out because they could see the amount of work that had gone into it already. And most of them said when they agreed to do the demo reel that they do it on the condition they are highly considered to reprise their role when the series get’s picked up.
Joel: Do you have specific voice actors in mind when you’re developing these characters and the attitudes they have?
Ty: When I started out I did. For my main 5 characters and a few after that back in 2008-10 when it was in it’s infancy. Back then I was writing purely from a fandom perspective. But now since the actors have come on board and the donations have been absolutely amazing and being interviewed by a number of outlets it’s got legs of it’s own now and with the actors involved in the way that they are it’s helped my chances massively when pitching when they see the people involved. It is more than just the actors involved though. It’s still got to be a good story. So nowadays when I design character’s I don’t really design them with a voice in mind anymore. I just design them around the role they’re going to play. Making sure the foundations and personality is there.
Joel: So you mentioned that part of your pitch would include mentioning all these amazing voice actors on board with the project. I’m not sure how pitches go in Japan but does that carry much weight over there if you tell them specific actors are already attached to the project? Or would you have a better chance going to a Western studio such as Nickelodeon and the team that worked on Avatar for example? As these voice actors may have done work with them too and carry more weight there.
Ty: Yeah of course. Even Dreamworks with their latest Voltron adaptation. I’m a big fan of that and has massive actors such as Norman Reedus involved. I think a point you touched on earlier in our talk when you spoke about simuldubs. Now these names are starting to mean something in Japan because they know these worldwide releases are going to carry an English dub so especially with some of these old school names these studio’s are going to know who they are. But at the end of the day it’s really all up to the person I’m pitching to.
I want things to be a collaboration between countries for this anime. At the end of the day I can only do my best as a writer but I want to collaborate with them, not just walk in and dictate. I don’t have that high of an opinion of myself as a writer. I believe I’ve written something quite unique with the way I’ve written it and this stuff you won’t find online to avoid plagiarism. I can redesign a character but I can’t redesign a story that I’ve told, so the highly unique stuff is kept offline. I want to collaborate with people. I want to walk in with this structure and foundation, a story that’s completely told and work with them not dictate. I want these people to come in and make Millennium Exile an anime to take it into the next frontier. I want them to take my idea and let that studio do what they do best.
It’s my baby and I’ve worked on it for so long but I want to make it as adaptable as possible.
Joel: I have to commend you on your passion behind this project. You’ve funded a lot of this yourself. You could have given up 9 years ago but to see how far it’s come is inspiring.
Ty: Thanks very much. I’m nothing if not passionate. I was lucky enough to go through some traumatic upbringings in life and when I say lucky I think that gives you perspective early on in life. You can go a few different ways with it but the thing I took from that experience in the past is that life is fleeting, it’s frail and depending on your religious beliefs are you may only get one life. All you can be certain of is that the life you have right here is the one you have. Don’t take things for granted and live in the moment. It was my dream to entertain people and captivate people with my story the same way that other people have done with their work. The same way others’ work saved my life.
It was the works like Evangelion and Dragon Ball Z. Even though I understood the work was fictional the strength that they stood for was all too real and that made a difference in my life. It captivated me, inspired me and started this fire of passion within me that never died out. And if I could do even one of those things to anyone in this world through Millennium Exile that is an amazing thing, that’s what I’ve wanted to do. I want to be a part of this industry that I have such a love for.
Even if I take Millennium Exile and it get’s no’s till the day I die. I’ll never stop pitching it. Even Harry Potter got a whole bunch of no’s before it was created. You look at how One Punch Man was created. No’s mean nothing anymore because eventually someone can pick it up. I’m taking this as far as I can go.
Joel: I wish there were more people in the world like you.
Joel: We’re reaching the end of this episode, before we finish up is there anything you want to tell people about the project?
Ty: Feel free to check it out on the social media links, I ‘m always sharing artwork, I share a healthy amount of information about my characters online on all the social media platforms. I share everything with everybody, come on this journey with me. Even the failures will be shared haha. I thank everybody who is already a fan and the people that leave the kind comments. It’s really cool to hear the amount of fans that are aspiring voice actors. It’s great knowing you have something other people want to be involved in. It’s been a once in a lifetime ride and I hope to meet everyone’s expectations. Thanks for having me on your show man it’s been a honour, it’s been a lot of fun.
Joel: Thanks man, it’s been a lot of fun and we’re based in the same country so it’s been great to talk to someone doing something not attempted here before.
“I’m hoping to break down the border’s and barriers that have been up around this industry for so long”
Check out the full talk with Ty in the video version of Talent Talks below for a more in depth discussion about the Millenium Exile project and a great chat about the anime industry.
To stay up to date with all thing’s Millennium Exile you can follow Ty over on Twitter or Facebook. If you’re interested on donating towards the project you can do so by clicking the Shop Now button on the Facebook page.