scott pilgrim

 A key scene from Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

scott pilgrim takes off

Bryan Lee O’Malley, Edgar Wright and BenDavid Grabinski

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June 11, 2024
Online Originals

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off Co-Creators on Taking a ‘Big Swing’ With Their Anime Series

Bryan O’Malley and BenDavid Grabinski reveal how Edgar Wright helped the Netflix show lock down key cast members.

It’s always tricky when TV writers travel to Spoilerville. How much can they give away about their own series and yet keep audiences enticed?

But Bryan O’Malley and BenDavid Grabinski are happy to discuss the craziness that transpires in their hit anime Netflix show, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. After all, the title itself is a major reveal. “I really thought that someone on social media would figure it out,” Grabinski says. “But nobody took it as a literal interpretation. I was so wrong!”

Still, the co-creators and executive producers did know that fans would devour an innovative adaptation of O’Malley’s beloved Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series (and subsequent 2010 cult movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). Sure, the titular twentysomething musician (Michael Cera) still pines for the pink-haired Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). And the entire cast of that Edgar Wright-directed film — including Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwartzman and Aubrey Plaza — return to voice their characters.

But, surprise! At the end of the first episode (which premiered in November 2023), Scott does indeed abruptly exit the action, leaving Ramona to do battle with her seven evil exes. Turns out that an older version of Scott sent him hurtling through a time-travel portal to avoid future pain. (Again, the guys are cool with spilling all!) “It’s been fun that people assumed this was a loyal adaptation of Bryan’s books,” Grabinski says. “But it’s an engaging story on its own.” Seconds O’Malley, “This is a whole new era for me. There are still young people and teens discovering it now, so it’s really exciting.”

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off marks the first collaboration between O’Malley and Grabinski (Are You Afraid of the Dark?). The longtime friends hashed out the idea over a dinner and spent two solid years developing it, along with the Japanese animated studio Science SARU. Now that the series has landed — it made the Netflix Global Top Ten upon its release — the two still haven’t quite left it (or each other) behind. “It did take me a couple months to adjust to doing things on my own,” Grabinski says. “But our friendship is better for having done it.” He has a framed Scott Pilgrim Takes Off poster on display in his Zoom background; O’Malley keeps the series’ vinyl record soundtrack near his desk in his office.

Now O’Malley and Grabinski get animated (so to speak) for the Television Academy.

Television Academy: Are you surprised by the positive fan reaction despite all the changes?

BenDavid Grabinski: I had been a fan since the original books came out; so, from my perspective, it’s really nice that I didn’t let anyone down. This is Bryan’s world, so I didn’t want to be the one who blew it. It’s nice that people responded to the big swing we took with the quote-unquote franchise.

Bryan O’Malley: We really wanted it to work for new viewers, young and old. It’s exciting that there’s now a whole new category beyond the books, movie and games. This is a new way in.

How did the big twist come to be in the first place?

O’Malley: I had heard Science SARU wanted to work with me on an animated series and didn't know what to do about it. I was venting to BenDavid at dinner, and he just blurted out some ideas. He thought they were kind of a joke, but I thought they were amazing.

Grabinski: I said, “What if Scott Pilgrim seemingly dies in a fight with Matthew Patel?” And at the end of the season, what if you find out that the older version of Scott had taken him out of the equation? And what if there's a movie about Scott Pilgrim in the show starring Lucas Lee [Evans]? Bryan loved it, and that became the bones of the whole show. Bryan came up with the title.

O’Malley: I was the Steve Jobs here!

Grabinski: If Bryan had been paired up with a showrunner who he hadn't had a billion conversations with already, I don’t think this would have worked.

Was there ever talk of the series being live action?

Grabinski: Always anime.

O’Malley: The first thing that got me excited was working with a studio like Science SARU. We're huge fans of them. It’s like an Olympics-level team over there.

Grabinski: Yeah, the entire motivating factor was Science SARU. It was cooler than doing the same story again. We didn’t want to live in the shadow of the movie or the book. It becomes a comparison of Who did this fight better? Which one did this story point better?

How did you get all those actors to come back? They’re all big stars now!

Grabinski: They all said yes in a short succession, but our feeling was that we needed everyone to say yes in order to do this.

O’Malley: We were so blessed to have Edgar Wright helping us get them all back.

Grabinski: Edgar has made brilliant movies, but I think the most impressive thing he's ever done was put together this cast. In hindsight, the cast makes sense, but he found so many people before they blew up.

O’Malley: I remember watching Aubrey Plaza's tape in 2008. She had done, like, a web comedy. She was unknown. And when she did her vocals for our show, she had just hosted Saturday Night Live.

This isn’t a typical love story. What should viewers make of this relationship?

Grabinski: This is a story that you only could do as you get older — not the age of the characters. When Bryan started the comics, he was Scott’s age. Now we bring our life experience to make the story deeper and more interesting and weirder.

O’Malley: Well, we're old ass men with white beards now.

Grabinski: I liked that the older Scott is much dumber.

The door is open for another season, no?

Grabinski: I wanted to make something that felt very satisfying and had an ending. I love this world and these characters, but we designed it to be that if no other TV show came out after [our premiere in] November 2023, we would feel like it was done and good. I have heard some people say there’s a cliffhanger, but I personally don't think someone saying “The goose is loose, honk-honk, fuckers” is something that you can ever take too seriously. I just thought it was a funny line!

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is now streaming on Netflix.

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