Of all the otherworldly sights that came with the release of Alita: Battle Angel’s first trailer, the one aspect that caught everyone’s eye was, well, those enormous eyes on its heroine. Director Robert Rodriguez and producer Jon Landau discussed Alita’s pronounced oculars, and the reasons for their being, in an interview with IGN.
Landau said, “The manga and anime eyes we’ve seen since the 30s and Astro Boy have never been done photorealistically”. The crew wanted to capture that unmistakable aesthetic, especially after seeing James Cameron’s early artwork featuring Alita with those visually arresting eyes. Regardless of the impossibilities, considering CG technology’s advancement at that point in 1999, Landau thought “we have to be the first to bring a manga and anime character to life.”
Reflecting on how the character of Alita has evolved through experimentation, the producer commented that “The eyes are the window to the soul, and we’ve got some big windows to see a lot of the soul within that character”.
In the rest of the interview, the two go on to discuss why producer James Cameron took more of a back seat for this movie, the involvement of Lord of the Rings‘ WETA Workshop, and the heroic nature of Alita.