Jeff NimoyWe're still recovering from the shock of it all.

At this point in time, no-one had any right to ever expect to see "Revenge of Diaboromon," the fourth Digimon movie, dubbed and aired on American television. With four years having passed since its original Japanese release, the idea had been completely written off by the fandom.

Were we wrong, or were we wrong?

And adding to the surprise discovery of the film being dubbed - news first broken and constantly updated upon right here on the Digimon Encyclopedia -  was the return of Jeff Nimoy, writer, director and actor from the first two seasons, who had not had any involvement with the animated series since 2001. In a sense, Nimoy has been able to pick up the series almost from where he left off, and has return to the Digimon Encyclopedia to share some of this experiences working on the film and series.

Chris McFeely: Quite some time has passed since your last involvement with the Digimon animated series, and the circumstances of your departure from the show still remain unclear. At this point in time, are you any more willing to talk about what occurred?

Jeff Nimoy: Well, I'll elaborate slightly, but I don't really think it would be professional of me to go into the messy details.  I had a direct difference of opinion on how the running of the show should be handled with the producers of Digimon, and we all thought it best if we parted ways, with about four shows to go at the end of Season 2.  This had nothing to do with material, writing, directing, or production, it had to do with personalities, and management style.  I ran the show very smoothly for the majority of two seasons, and at some point there was too much meddling for me to do my job effectively.  I decided I didn't want to work with those particular people anymore, and they didn't really want to work with me anymore either, so we parted ways, and when I say "we," it means my old production company, which included my old business partner Bob Buchholz, who now runs it without me.
I sold Bob the company in 2002, and I went on to start a new company with other interests.

CMcF: Out of pure curiosity, I've never actually known the name of your old company. What was it?

JN: It was and is called Spliced Bread Productions.  I started it in 1996, and brought Bob in as a partner. Fox Kids hired us to handle all the writing and directing duties around episode 14 of season number 1. I directed, and Bob and I both wrote and story edited, even though we shared credit for everything. But since I directed, I would say Bob definitely wrote more episodes than I did.

CMcF: Such things I get to learn this late on... so Bob was never actually a director of the show?

JN: On occasion, but I handled the bulk of it.  The same with the movie, Bob just directed a little but I did most of it.  Bob's main department was the writing, and story editing.  Plus, we had other projects going on, so he was directing those while I directed Digimon, and often we'd get together at night to write. Usually one of us would write a first draft, and then the other would do what's called a polish, before we sent it off for approvals. Usually the notes came back from producers telling us to make it funnier.

CMcF: What happened in situations when a third writer was credited alongside you two?

JN: In those cases, that writer did a first draft by themselves and Bob, or Bob and/or I would polish it ourselves and do the second draft.

CMcF: Now, regarding your new company, correct me if I'm wrong - as I've been a bit out of the loop lately - but would that be Studiopolis Inc?

JN: No, that's a company that I'm doing all this new free lance work for, including the new Digimon stuff.  It was started by a couple of guys I knew at Fox Kids, and I've been working for them as a writer, and exclusively as a director.  Since I've been with them, I've written and directed "Zatch Bell," and directed "Naruto," as well as some other pilots and smaller projects.

CMcF: Can you confirm that you provided the voice of Tentomon for the "Digimon Rumble Arena 2" video game? If so, this would have been your first involvement with the franchise since season 2, would it not?

JN: Wow, you're on top of things.  Yes, I did provide the voices of Tentomon, Kabuterimon, and Mega Kabuterimon for the video game.  However, that's my entire involvement with the project, except for providing Bob with the names of who played what character, so he could hire those particular actors.  I don't know how much involvement Bob had, but he was the one who contacted me about the project, and he directed me as well.  I'm pretty sure he produced it too, but I can't confirm that.  Bob never asked me to work on it in any other capacity, and I have no idea who contacted him about working on the project.  But yes, that was the first involvement with Digimon I had since leaving the show.  And then no other involvement until this recent TV movie.

CMcF: How were you approached to work on "Revenge of Diaboromon"? Did you find anything to be a surprise - either that the movie was even being dubbed, or that you were approached to do it? Had you any prior knowledge of the existence of the film?

JN: I had no idea that four other films existed.  One of the co-owners of Studiopolis heard about it, and won the job from Disney, knowing that he had me exclusively on board to write and direct. If another production company had won the bid, then I would not have had anything to do with it, but luckily Studiopolis got it, and I'm very happy with the way it turned out and with the whole experience of the dub.

CMcF: So Disney had decided to dub it, and put it up for studios to bid over? It was certainly lucky that Studiopolis got it and were able to avail of your experience.

JN: Well, I think part of the reason they got it was because they told Disney they had me exclusively.  But you never know.

Studiopolis is great, and as long as they have work for me, I'll never direct a dub for anyone else ever again.  Unless it's for my own company, but we don't do any anime.  They asked me if I wanted to do all four, but I really only knew about the first two seasons, so I told them to get in touch with Mary Elizabeth, and she handled the others.  It was great seeing her again too, when she directed the other movies next door to the studio where I was directing Zatch and Naruto.  We visited a lot and compared old war stories of working at Fox Kids.

"Revenge of Diaboromon" has been my favorite thing to do in my entire anime career.  Primarily, because they left me alone and let me do it my way, without many notes from producers.  Also, those other producers I didn't get along with at Fox Kids had nothing to do with this new project, so it was a stress free working environment. The script adaptation was exactly the way I wanted it, as well as the direction.  I didn't produce it, so strangely enough I never got to see the final product, but when it left my hands, I was completely happy with the way it turned out.

CMcF: Speaking of producing, one thing that jumped out at me in "Revenge of Diaboromon" was that the producer of the film was Rita Majkut, the original Digimon producer from early Season One, before Terri-Lei O'Malley took over. I recall you speaking of a friendship with her in your past interview - did your past work with her on the subject matter contribute anything to your getting the job, do you suppose?

JN: No, Rita was a pleasant surprise to me when she showed up on this project.  Studiopolis hired her as a producer for all four movies after I was already on board.  Like I said, I was on board before Studiopolis even won the job.  But I was very happy to work with Rita again, and I'm glad to say she's staying on at Studiopolis for other projects as well.  She's the best. It was also great to see some of the actors again, many of whom I hadn't seen since I left the show.

CMcF: Speaking of actors - did you have any involvement in the casting process? Some actors didn't return to reprise their roles and I'm curious if you had any control over finding the best replacement voices.

JN: Well, as far as casting goes, I told Rita who played what, and she contacted the actors and offered them their original roles, but some couldn't do it for scheduling reasons, like Josh Seth (Tai) and Kirk Thornton (Gabumon). I played Kirk's parts, and I was working with Jason Spisak on Zatch Bell, who I always thought sounded a lot like Josh, so we offered him the part.  Other replaced actors had one or two lines, and there simply wasn't enough in the budget to bring them in for that, so I just impersonated them.

CMcF: So what was it like for you to be able to return to the Digimon universe, and specifically, to these characters? I'm sure that most viewers of the movie felt the bite of the nostalgia bug to see - and perhaps even more specifically for viewers who had already seen the original Japanese version, HEAR - Davis and co. in a new adventure, but how was it for you? I don't imagine you ever felt you'd be working with these characters again.

JN: No, I thought my Digimon days were over for sure.  It was great writing for the characters again, especially Davis, Izzy, and Joe, who are some of my favorites. Other characters didn't really have much to say or do in this movie, so I couldn't do much with them.  But mostly, I was happy to see the actors one more time. Paul St. Peter, Michael Reisz, Mona Marshall, etc. People I hadn't had the chance to work with or see for quite some time.  Directing Mona playing Izzy is an absolute pleasure.  She defined the character so well, it was so easy to write the dialogue.  Same with all the other actors, like Philece Sampler, Michael Lindsay, Lara Jill Miller, etc.  I've directed a lot of these actors in other projects since, but it was special to hear them recording these roles again. Every time an actor came in, we would just shake our heads and say, "Can you believe it, we're doing Digimon again?"  None of us thought we'd ever be doing it again, I'm sure.  There was a lot of laughing, a lot of memories, and a lot of story telling during these recording sessions, and we all had a great time. We had a lot of old Saban/Fox Kids people working on the show again too, which was nice.  And even our Network Exec at Disney was an old Fox Kids person, Dan Evans, and he allowed us to set the tone for the feel good attitude we all enjoyed.  I wish he was the Network Exec when the show was first on the air, it might still be going.  The original Digimon was a stressful work atmosphere after Rita left, but this movie couldn't have been more enjoyable, thanks to Rita, Dan, my buddy and hero Executive Producer Jamie Simone, and everyone at Studiopolis.

I was also thrilled with the response from the fans. You're never going to satisfy everyone, but for the most part, it was very well received.  Also, I feel a little vindicated because as you know, I took a lot of heat from fans for things I never did.  I have this reputation out there for being some cheesy joke writer.  But since I was the only writer and director on this one, the fans got to see exactly what I do when I have Digimon in my hands, and I think now they see that I didn't do a lot of the things they thought I did, like writing bad puns, and squeezing jokes into scenes that weren't supposed to be funny.  I still didn't stay completely true to the Japanese version, so if you're a purist, I'll probably never satisfy you, but I did stay true to the American style that I helped create for seasons 1 & 2, so if you're a fan of the Fox Kids show, then I think you'll like this movie a lot.

CMcF: As you look back on it all, I ask - what was Digimon to you? For many actors, writers, directors, whatever, such a project - any project - can always fall under the classification of "just work," but given the amount of time and the various roles you had in bringing the show to air, did it - does it - mean anything more to you?

JN: Excellent question.  Yes, Digimon means a lot to me, but mostly for professional reasons.  It's rare that you get to work on a show that's a bonafide hit, and Digimon certainly qualified as one.  It gave me a good feeling that I could deliver big ratings for a show, given the opportunity.  But also, it gave me the opportunity to write and direct a major motion picture, and even though that experience was less than satisfactory for me personally, still, I took a lot of pride in the first cut of the movie that I turned in, before a lot of changes were made to it that I didn't agree with.  I wish they had marketed the movie better, and I wish they would've left my first cut alone, but what's done is done, and it still didn't tarnish the fact that I had the chance to make a movie, which is a chance a lot of people in this business never get.  Digimon made my reputation, and even though a lot of fans think I ruined the series, I do get a lot of respect in television for my work on the show, so I'm very thankful for that.  My tenure with Digimon came to a crashing halt, and it left a very bad taste in my mouth, but this last movie reminded me of what I loved about the series, the characters, and the actors.  So I'm especially thankful I got one more chance to do it my way.  A little redemption goes a long way.

CMcF: I wouldn't be much of a fan if the mention of an original cut didn't seize my attention. Can you share anything more about it?  How different was it? What was changed?

JN: The first cut didn't have any of the footage with the season 2 characters, and it wasn't bogged down with the Willis story line, which I've always felt was crammed in to the first two parts, just to try and make the last part make more sense.  I wanted to end it right after the Omnimon destroying Diaboromon segment, and then release that other movie seperatetly as a TV movie, or DVD.  But I was overruled, and Bob and I were forced to make it all make sense.  These decisions led to my eventual departure.  So pretty much the first cut was the same as the final cut, only without Willis, and it ended after Diaboromon was destroyed and the missle lands harmlessly in the bay, with Izzy and Tai delivering a tag line before we cut to black.  Also, I had Tai narrating the story, not Kari, but Tai wasn't in the third part, so I had to change the narrator to Kari to keep it more logical.

CMcF: I never really stopped to think about how big a deal doing the movie was... it's certainly quite an achievement. But after doing something like that, what's the next step you take up? What would be a truly dream project for you?

JN: I'd like to direct one of the many live action screenplays I've written, or produce one of the many TV pilots I've written, but who knows, everything in Hollywood takes a long time.

CMcF: What's up next for Jeff Nimoy? What are you working on at the minute?

JN: I'm directing "Naruto," which airs on Cartoon Network later this month and I think it's going to be big. There's already lots of buzz about it, so we'll see what happens.  I'm also winding down the directing of season number one of "Zatch Bell," and I hope there will be a second season for me as a writer and director.

CMcF: So, to conclude - a few years on, have you any more you would like to say to the fans reading?

Just what I said before.  I hope they now realize I'm not responsible for all the things they think I did, and I hope they all enjoyed the new Digimon movie as much as I enjoyed making it.