Five years after our first Tetsuya Nomura article, we once again celebrate his birthday by looking back on the making of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Interviews with staff are translated by guest contributor Yam.
The Pandora's Box
It goes without saying that FF7 had the most questionable ending of all the Final Fantasy games. This was an intentional artistic decision by the staff themselves, and at the time there were no plans for any sequels. Although now Tetsuya Nomura admits if the time was there, he would want to remake FF7. As of yet, such an undertaking is just not feasible. Moreover, had the FF7 sequel been a new game, Final Fantasy fans would only demand more new sequels to previous FF games.
Tetsuya Nomura (Director):
Final Fantasy VII used to be a Pandora's Box which was forbidden to be opened. An untouchable thing among us (developers) since FF7 was the first 3D FF game. We each had our own special attachments to it. There were only two options; we'd stay scared and leave it alone, or we'd face our fears and go ahead. Well, I thought "OK, I'll go ahead."
Yoshinori Kitase (Producer):
Nomura, Nozue and Nojima wrote the scenario together. They had several ideas on their minds, feelings that they wanted to express to the audience. However, they teared over having to constantly give up on ideas because games limited their creativity. Now we've overcome the barrier of games and expressed those ideas with a new media we call "visual contents". If it succeeds, it means that we have gained one more method in which we can express our ideas.
The Advent Children Project
The original AC movie was a 20 minute drama starring Cloud, Tifa and a few children. Nomura liked what he saw and expanded upon the story until it became a 100 minute movie. New characters and a new crisis would be introduced, all the while giving fans of FF7 a nostalgic experience by bringing back the original cast they were familiar with. Kazushige Nojima was used to answering phone calls from Nomura, especially whenever something had to be added to the scenario by the morning. Although Nomura spoke in a soft voice on the phone to him about AC, Nojima was scared.
There was a 20 minute story written by Nojima. I love it so much. Cloud received a message from a girl. The message is then relayed by several children. Eventually, we find out who sent the message and the story ends. It's a really short story.
Kazushige Nojima (Scenerio Writer):
When I first heard of it (the FF7AC project), I was scared. Nomura didn't persuade me to do anything, but I intended to do it anyways. I first said "leave it to me!", but I was really thinking "I must do it now!"
Expression through Visual Contents
The new designs and graphical style of Advent Children became highly different from that of Final Fantasy VII. It was important to keep some slightly recognizeable details intact from the original game without being obnoxious to the viewer about it. The staff worked hard to fill the movie with details and symbols, to make it worthy of being seen more than just once. Takeshi Nozue worked together with Nomura to direct the movie. Although Nozue is a CG wiz, he isn't good at drawing. He felt that CG team disliked doing Cait Sith and Nanaki, since the characters had fur which made things difficult.
We had been making games but we have never made "visual contents" before. We had to do things we have never done before and had no sample or basis to go on. We had no clue what model to use when we created AC. The only thing we could rely on was the way to make FMV in games.
Takeshi Nozue (Co-Director):
I suggested to Nomura a unique way of showing the characters and atmosphere. We tried not to let them become too real. If it had been too real we could have just made a live action movie. CG movies normally intend to be majorly realistic, but we didn't imitate them. We were doing AC thinking of the Final Fantasy VII world from a different perspective.
We were on the same train of thought. We never worried about things like, "Humans can't jump that high or stay in the air for that long." We were only thinking that "We can do anything as long as they look cool".
Nobuo Uematsu (Composer):
I'm ashamed to say it.. but I wanted to express friendship, love or how precious lives are. About the One Winged Angel track for AC, I was wary about composing for something I've never done before. Regarding the introduction of the song, the "Da-Da-Da...", I wondered what it would be like if Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix had been played by an orchestra. And I liked how that turned out.
Five years ago Tetsuya Nomura only designed and overlooked the physical appearances of his characters. He had some influence over various lines and personality traits, but never full control.
At the start of the AC project, he was not supervising it. However, as soon as he participated, he had a hand over the personalities, development and presentation of the characters in the sequel. He was directing for the first time and it was a job that could only be done by him, because of his large attachment to the FF7 project and Cloud.
Kitase said that Sephiroth's existence and will is extremely powerful. There is nothing stronger, nothing above him. We had a difficult time deciding on the reason why Sephiroth would appear. Originally there was an idea that the three silver haired men would unite together (and form Sephiroth) but we rejected it because it would be too comical. Kadaj had to be approached in a different way from Sephiroth. I wanted him to be intelligent and cruel, but innocent at the same time, a mentally unstable character.
Kadaj is a young character. The story started two years after the original FF7 and Cloud has gotten older. Despite that, I wanted him to fight against a younger group.
Cloud tried to lead his life positively after the end of FF7 but he cracked. He lost several things during his struggle in FF7 yet found a peaceful life in the midst of that. Still, the life made him somewhat scared and lonely. The sin which Cloud thinks he owns is not anyone's fault in particular. It is something Cloud has to overcome by himself.
The story is simple: If you want to be forgiven, you have to take the hard path in life. If you don't do anything, you'll never be healed. Cloud takes his sword, fights and chooses to go through that hard path. Then finally, he is given healing and forgiveness.
Cloud seems to be a weak guy. Generally, heroes are strong, cool and don't have any weaknesses. There's a few heroes like Cloud who are in reality weak guys. Although Cloud is a jerk, he is really human-like. It's through redemption from his friends and having children to protect that he becomes stronger.
Nomura spent a considerable amount of time directing the voice actors until they sounded exactly how he envisioned them. It's important to realize that the voices they use in the movie are completely unlike their natural voices. Since hiring the AC voice actors, Nomura even feels like making spinoff products based on Barret and Cid but decided not to, because people around him didn't like the idea.
Takahiro Sakurai (Cloud):
The finished product looks excellent. I couldn't be any more overwhelmed! Considering what some of the lines (words) literally said, there were many parts where I should have sounded more emotional. However, I lowered my voice during those parts so I could act more Cloud-like. I enjoyed doing that.
Ayumi Ito (Tifa):
I was interested in the job as a voice actor, so I wanted to do it. Although the director explained everything to me in detail, I couldn't understand it all at the beginning. For example, during the 5 hours spent to do dub work, after 3 or 4 hours of working did things start to get easier. I spoke my lines smoothly, little by little and then I felt like I could follow what the director wanted easily.
Shotaro Morikubo (Kadaj):
This role was one of the "The Most Difficult Top 3" for me. The total number of workdays I spent on AC was about 1 year, not 1 or 2 days. The detailed direction and several takes for each scene allowed me to understand the role a little at a time. Personally, I had a good time.
The Meaning of No Words
There are relatively few spoken lines during AC. Most of what characters feel and what the developers wanted to convey is expressed through the character's facial expressions and actions. Audiences won't get the finality of a closeup kiss and characters shouting "I love you". They will get something classier, where the same ideas and messages are there, only delivered in a subliminal context.
Having few spoken words and allowing the audience to guess at exactly what is happening is something of a tradition among Final Fantasy endings, especially FF7. The staff has described the wolf who appears during AC as a symbol of Cloud's regret being left behind at various locations. On the other hand, Yam believes that the angel statue is a symbol of perfection or completion. It has two wings, while Cloud and Sephiroth have only one wing (seen in Kingdom Hearts). It might mean Cloud and Sephiroth "complete" each other.
I love the scene where Cloud is surrounded by children. Cloud doesn't say anything but he smiles while looking at the children in an embarrassing way. That's the scene I wanted to show. So I love that scene the most out of the whole movie.
When I read the script, I found the word "Cloud smiles". I thought, "Oh! That's it! Cloud smiles!?" If you played FF7, you maybe wouldn't be able to imagine how he shows a smile. Neither would I. But I thought, "It sounds cool!" One word, one simple thing like that sometimes inspires me a lot when I write the score.
Advent Children was made by a Japanese staff. Generally, Hollywood movies demand exact answers. For that, AC might not be kind to people who need it. You can interpret or understand things as you like. For example, the wolf that sometimes appears or the statue of an angel... we have own answer, but if you interpret something, it's also an answer. So, you can enjoy exchanging your opinion with friends. Advent Children is a piece of work made so that you want to talk about it with others.
A collection of novellas written by Kazushige Nojima have been released to fill in the two year gap between Final Fantasy VII and AC. Despite the character developments and interactions described, much of what happened is still left to fan's imaginations.
A Final Fantasy VII fan interviewed Tetsuya Nomura for Dorimaga magazine and asked "How many girls has Sephiroth ever loved?". In reaction, Nomura spoke evasively in anticipation of more questions regarding Cloud and Tifa's love life, which have nothing to do with Sephiroth.
What kind of question is that? I've never thought about it. Honestly, I don't care who loves whom. I think you could imagine the scenerios that we don't mention however you want to. You could enjoy talking about that with friends. For example, I was frequently asked if there had been romantic relationship between Tifa and Cloud for two years, after FF7 ended, but I don't have any clue.
What happens after AC is no mystery, however. Reminiscence of FFVII, which is included with the Advent Children limited edition set, seems to only display old footage from the FF7 game. Surpisingly, the audio track includes something unexpected.
Phone conversations between Avalanche members and Cloud can be heard. The AC voices of Yuffie, Cid, Vincent, and Barret each tell him to go to Seventh Heaven. The very last call during Reminiscence occurs just after the scene during the FF7 AC credits, where Cloud is riding Fenrir through a flowerfield. Cloud calls home and asks Tifa to close the restaurant for an unknown reason, then tells her to let Denzel and Marlene know. Apparently Yuffie and Barret were planning on having a party. The final photo of the Avalanche team after the ending credits was most likely taken during this party.
Credits and Resources
Final Fantasy VII AC Limited Edition
On the Way to a Smile
The Second Coming