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  1. #1
    CyberCubed is offline Senior Member
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    Pokemon Anime director interview with Masamitsu Hidaka

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    For those of you that still follow the Pokemon anime, a reputable website got an interview with one of the main Pokemon anime directors/storyboard artists.

    Its an interesting read, so for those who want to see the article.

    http://pokebeach.com/

    Quote Originally Posted by Pokebeach
    Masamitsu Hidaka was the original director of Pokemon up until around the Battle Frontier season, and also worked as the storyboard artist for many episodes. He worked on the first four movies, and still is partly involved with the new movies. Today, he mainly works on the storyboards for each of the Diamond and Pearl episodes, but is still involved in the show.

    When I first heard several months ago that he would be attending Anime Expo as a Guest of Honor, I immediately registered as press so I would have the opportunity to interview him. Yesterday, I arrived at Anime Expo, picked up my press badge, then went over to the press junket area to interview him. Unfortunately because of a bomb threat at LAX (the airport), he was rather late, so I waited around for a while. I met other members of the press, including a translation company from Japan who has worked on shows like Code Geass. They came to interview him as well, so we were discussing what we would ask him. Because you are only allowed 15 minutes to interview each Guest of Honor, I asked the man in charge if I could possibly have more time with him or join up with the translation company for a 30-minute interview, but he said they would be following the rules very strictly. Basically, I would have 15 minutes with him alone, and then I'd be kicked out.

    Mr. Hidaka finally arrived, and I joined him and his three translators in a private room. I explained I was the webmaster of PokeBeach and was representing the fandom and 11 years of questions, since this is the closest anyone has come to someone who works on the show from Japan. He seemed excited to answer my questions, so I began. Before I go into my questions and his answers, let me explain how the process worked. I would state my question, the translator would tell him what I was asking, he would give a long response, and then they would summarize his answer in a few sentences. So, the responses I post here are based off the translator's summary of what he was stating, and are not too in-depth. Luckily, I recorded the entire interview and have a friend like Bangiras who can translate Japanese, so she is going to hopefully translate his full-blown responses at a later time if there is anything significant he mentioned.

    So, I was representing the fandom, right? What has the fandom been asking for years and years? I asked him questions like: Will Misty ever return to the show? Who is Ash's father? What is Ho-Oh's significance to Ash? Was there any threat of Pokemon being canceled when the Porygon episode aired? Why was Jynx's color changed? Who are the stars of the 12th movie? What are your feelings on Pokemon USA taking over the dub? Because the site was down this past week, I wasn't able to collect questions from PokeBeach's visitors, so I was basically asking him what I thought the fandom would want to know.

    So, will Misty ever return to the show? His answer was a flat out no - not as a main character, anyway. If she is to ever return to the show, it will only be in a minor role as something like as a rival for a tournament, similar to May returning for a few Diamond and Pearl episodes. But no, "Kasumi-san" would never return as a main character again, unfortunately. I heard him mention "Pokemon Contests" in his response to my question, but the translator did not tell me what he meant.

    Who is Ash's father? This one made him laugh, since I asked it rather bluntly and simply. He explained Ash's grandfather was a great Trainer who traveled the lands a long time ago, and Ash's father followed in his footsteps and left. Then I asked if he would ever appear, and he responded that only if the writers felt a need to "grow" Ash as a character (personal note: we need some character development, please). He explained he was not a writer on the show and merely worked as the storyboard artist, so he had no control over what they put on the show. But, he said there is a possibility his father could appear one day. At least we know Ash has a father now, unlike other anime characters.

    What is Ho-Oh's significance to Ash? Is Ho-Oh Ash's father (as some fans have theorized)? This made him laugh even harder. Ho-Oh, he detailed, is just a plot device to get Ash moving (I suppose like the GS Ball) and to show that he is special. Ho-Oh started Ash on his journey and was one of the reasons he went to Hoenn, and it is never seen by anyone. So, Ho-Oh is just a device to show how special our main character is for having seen it three or so times. Nothing more.

    Although I knew the answer to this question, I wanted to see his response. I asked "How did your office react when the Porygon episode occurred?" Before the translator could even translate to him what I was asking, he was shaking his head and looking down. He stated that he thought some good came out of the episode airing, such as the fact that anime shows now have text at the beginning of each episode that states not to sit too close to the television. He also made it a point to mention that no one died, which I suppose is good for him. He continued to explain that the show was not in any real danger of being canceled, since the network was gun-ho about continuing it, though it did have to go off the air for a while.

    Why was Jynx's color changed? Again, I knew the answer to this question, but I wanted to see how he would react. He didn't know what I was talking about, so I said "Roguella," but I suppose I butchered the Japanese name to the point of him not understanding. He crawled over to my laptop and I showed him Jynx's picture, and he was like "Oh!" He gave a rather lengthy response, and the translator basically explained that the Pokemon Company does not want anyone to be offended by Pokemon and does not want any negative attention, so they just decided to change its color as a political move. I forgot to ask whether the Porygon line would ever be in the show again after the Porygon episode, but I suppose this philosophy would answer that question - they don't want the negative attention of Porygon appearing again and reviving old memories, just as they do not want negative attention with Jynx being colored black.

    Now that I was on a friendly level with him, I asked who the stars of the 12th Pokemon movie would be. He sounded as if he was going to tell me, but then was like "Ah, I can't! But it's one of the new Pokemon." I just laughed and said "Well duh it has to have a new Pokemon. Can't you give me just a tiny tiny hint?" He sounded like he was going to tell me again, but then just said if he did, he would get into major trouble. So, I didn't get anything out of him. He did say they have already started the next movie, though.

    What are your feelings on the dub moving from 4Kids to Pokemon USA? He seemed confused, so I explained how the companies changed and the voices were completely different, and how it upset many fans. He just shook his head and was giving off a "that's bad" vibe. He admitted he did not even know the voices changed, but he looked upset over it. I guess in Japan they respect their voice actors and can't imagine voices changing, especially for actors who have worked on a show for many years, so he did not like the idea of what happened.

    TIME'S UP! One of the Anime Expo employees popped their heads in and said I had to leave. I thanked Mr. Hidaka, but asked if I could have another interview with him. One of his translators told me I would have to go through the convention to do it. Unfortunately, the convention only lets you write down three specific times that might not work for the person you want to interview, so chances of me meeting this man again were slim. This wasn't good enough for me.

    I walked out the door and saw the translation group I had met in the press room earlier. The employee had walked away to escort someone else into an interviewing room, so they grabbed me and hid me behind them (there were five of them). They knew I was here to interview him for the fandom, so despite Anime Expo being strict about the 15 minutes, they were letting me in with them. I think we had a psychic connection going, because they knew what I wanted, and I knew they were going to do it. Since it was now their turn, they walked in and snuck me with them. I put my finger on my mouth and said "Shhh" to Mr. Hidaka and his translators, and they started to laugh so hard it wasn't even funny. They knew if the employees caught me I'd get kicked out of the whole convention, but they were nice and let me stay to observe the translation group interviewing him. I recorded their session, but the translation group spoke in Japanese the whole time, so I only understood bits and pieces of what they were asking and what he was saying based off Mr. Hidaka's translators telling me.

    They mainly asked about the business aspects of Pokemon and the beginnings of it. Mr. Hidaka talked about how he played the Gameboy games before he went on the show and liked them a lot, but did not know how successful they would be in a real show. His job was to translate the characters from the games to the show, and he believed it worked rather successfully. He joked that he would have invested more in Pokemon had he known how successful it would be today and that he could be very rich right now. He also explained that after the first few seasons, he needed to start considering the international reception of Pokemon - he had to make the show more culturally generic. This might explain why the Japanese text in the show was replaced with blocky letters, and how much of the Japanese culture left the show (if you look back at episodes like "The Ghost of Maiden's Peak," when was the last time we saw Japanese culture that rampant in the show?).

    Most of what else they asked and what he responded with I did not understand. The employee popped his head in to call them out once their 15 minutes were over, but luckily I was behind the door when he cracked it open. One of Mr. Hidaka's translators stopped me as we were going out and asked me for my name and phone number. She said that she would talk with Mr. Hidaka about doing another interview later in the week outside of the convention, and that she would call me when she found out what times would be good for him. So, I will have the opportunity to ask more questions without being timed! If you have any suggestions for questions, post in this news story's thread, and if the times he is available are good for me, I'll go down to Los Angeles and interview him again with those questions!
    Cliffnotes:

    Basically the interview confirms that Misty will never be a main character again with a "flat-out no" in regards to her return, (although most of us already realized this for years now, this is the first official confirmation directly from the horses mouth), and that she'll only continue to make small cameo appearances in future seasons.

    Ash seeing Ho-oh is a plot device, we may eventually meet Ash's father in a future season, and that the show didn't want to offend anyone regarding the infamous Porygon and Jynx fiasco.

    All in all, I found it interesting.

  2. #2
    Jacob T. Paschal's Avatar
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    This stuff is hot! I was hoping he would at least ask about whether or not Sakaki/Giovanni would be able to play a bigger role but I guess no beans.

    I wonder how far in advance designs are finalized for new Pokémon and whether or not he would be able to see said designs. For all we know a sixth generation could be finished.
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    Heh, so even Hidaka disapproves of the 4Kids to PUSA voice actor switch...

    It was an interesting read, but he didn't give us a lot of valuable information.

    What is Ho-Oh's purpose?
    "A plot device."

    Will Ash's father ever reappear?
    "Maybe."

    Yeah...
    "If some have learned something that is fine. If others have learned nothing that is fine as well, more importantly...it was fun, right?"
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    zoombie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberCubed View Post
    Basically the interview confirms that Misty will never be a main character again with a "flat-out no" in regards to her return, (although most of us already realized this for years now, this is the first official confirmation directly from the horses mouth), and that she'll only continue to make small cameo appearances in future seasons.
    I think he just misinturputed the question, we all know she is not coming back as regular, but weather she would make any guest appearances, that is a reasonable question, and a reasonable possibility. Not only is May going to make an appearance, but Gary as already appeared. Old characters returning for a few episodes is not uncommon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zoombie View Post
    I think he just misinturputed the question, we all know she is not coming back as regular, but weather she would make any guest appearances, that is a reasonable question, and a reasonable possibility. Not only is May going to make an appearance, but Gary as already appeared. Old characters returning for a few episodes is not uncommon.
    Eh SPOILER ALERT:

    Spoiler:
    May made an appearance recently, unless you mean when it airs in America.

  6. #6
    CyberCubed is offline Senior Member
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    I think what the director meant is Misty has pretty much become the next Tracey. Both Misty and Tracey have jobs back in Kanto and the writers probably intend to leave them there for the rest of the series. Max was pretty much left back with his parents the same way.

    I'm actually surprised we got a flat-out "no" on that though. I would have expected something like, "Well maybe if the opportunity presents itself in the future," but dang, a harsh "no?"

    Makes me wonder if Misty won't appear again until Ash returns to Pallet Town after D/P ends. Too bad the guy didn't ask what May would be up to next.

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    zoombie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberCubed View Post
    I think what the director meant is Misty has pretty much become the next Tracey. Both Misty and Tracey have jobs back in Kanto and the writers probably intend to leave them there for the rest of the series. Max was pretty much left back with his parents the same way.

    I'm actually surprised we got a flat-out "no" on that though. I would have expected something like, "Well maybe if the opportunity presents itself in the future," but dang, a harsh "no?"

    Makes me wonder if Misty won't appear again until Ash returns to Pallet Town after D/P ends. Too bad the guy didn't ask what May would be up to next.
    Spoiler:
    I meant May will appear in future episodes in america.


    Well I think he has been ask about Misty many times, and it temper just got the better of him. It is strange though, because Misty got a mention in the first DP season, with the fishing rod.

    Speaking of Tracey, I forgot regular characters can leave and than comeback as regulars, Brock left and came back. I always wondered about that, did they get negative feedback to Brock's depature, and decide to bring him back for good?

    Though the role Brock plays on the show, as the second guy in the group, is less sugnificant than the lead girl. The female lead is real important to what direction they want to go, that they just can't change it back on a weam, like they did with Brock and Tracey.

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    Mad Mod 49 is offline Banned
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    Sadly, this only reinforced my low opinion of Hidaka as a director and the Pokemon anime. Ho-oh is just a plot device to "show how special Ash is", eh? Such wasted, wasted potential. I certainly do not regret tuning off from this show.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zoombie View Post
    Speaking of Tracey, I forgot regular characters can leave and than comeback as regulars, Brock left and came back. I always wondered about that, did they get negative feedback to Brock's depature, and decide to bring him back for good?

    Though the role Brock plays on the show, as the second guy in the group, is less sugnificant than the lead girl. The female lead is real important to what direction they want to go, that they just can't change it back on a weam, like they did with Brock and Tracey.
    I'm not positive, but I do recall reading somewhere that more people were disappointed with Brock being replaced with Tracy and wanted him back. I could be mixing that up with something else though.

    Anyway, that's definitely an interesting interview. We already knew that Misty would never be a main character again for years and I'm honestly glad that's the case. While she was interesting during Kanto and parts of the Orange Island, she just became less interesting during Johto. I think that they could have done something with her to make her more interesting, such as actually training her Pokemon and even doing something with Togepi other than just hold it in her arms all the time, but they didn't. I'm sure that we'll see her again as we always get to see the older former main characters at some point, but only for like a special event or episode.

    Ho-Oh being a plot device isn't too surprising. While I do agree that they could have a lot more potential with Ho-Oh than just a mere plot device, I don't think that the writers wanted to go that far with Ho-Oh. Which could be bad or good, depending on your perspecitive.

    As for Ash's father, I'm kind of surprised that his grandfather was mentioned as well. I guess that Ash would be the third male geneartion to go off and see the world as a Pokemon trainer. I'm not surprised that we basically get a "Maybe," as an answer to if we'll ever see his father. I've often thought that if the writers would bring up Ash's father if they wanted to give him some character development.

    I thought that it was interesting to hear his response on the voice actor change. Even though it was a couple of years ago, some fans still not completely liking the change, with me being one of them. I have heard how a Japanese cast in an anime wouldn't be changed like that because of how they operate differently than American companies do in that department. So, even though we knew most of the stuff in the interview, other than Ash's family stuff, it was still pretty interesting to read.

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    Rolling Cloud is offline ...too early....
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    Second Interview with Masamitsu Hidaka - Many Interesting Points!

    Same guys, new stuff.

    My mom, youngest brother, and I woke up early this morning to head to Los Angeles for the big interview. Mr. Hidaka’s translator called me again to confirm I was coming, and then I met with her and Mr. Hidaka at his hotel by myself (my mom used to work in L.A., so she went to check out her old building with my brother). We sat down, I recorded him, and I took notes. He seemed to enjoy my questions and is a very nice person, and his translator was just as kind. So, I began the interview immediately, since he was going to be escorted in 45 minutes to the convention.

    What’s the deal with the GS Ball? As I said “GS Ball,” he shook his head and started to laugh, embarrassed. He stated “You’re very sharp (for us remembering that, I guess)” and began to explain it contained a Gold and Silver monster. I asked him if Celebi was in the Ball (since you use it to summon Celebi in the Japanese games), and at first he paused, as if he shouldn’t say, but then said “Yes.” He explained that the writers were originally going to have a whole story about Celebi in the show with Ash and crew, and he made it sound as if the story was more important than the Ball’s function of getting Ash to move around (in fact, he only briefly mentioned the latter part; he was emphasizing the existence of the story more than anything). But, they decided to save Celebi for the movie instead, which is why that plot hole was just left there. He said the writers didn’t know what to do with the Ball after they made their decision, so they were hoping fans would just forget about it all together when Ash and crew left it with Kurt. My impression of what he was saying was that it was all just poor planning. I asked if we would ever see the GS Ball again, and he said no. I think we can safely say the GS Ball case is closed now.

    Next I asked him, “How does Pokemon send America its Japanese episodes to dub?” I’ve always wanted to know this – do they e-mail it to them? Do they directly download it from somewhere? He said they always send it through the mail, and that each episode is always on either a DVD or a hard drive. He was surprised I asked this question, but I was just curious.

    This next paragraph is rather interesting. I asked him why they dropped Brock like a rock in the Orange Islands, and if they ever intended on his absence being temporary. He started to explain that they like to “switch up” the cast once in a while, and that was their first time doing it. Then I made sort of a “that’s obvious” face, and he started to talk for quite some time to the translator. The translator began to explain that the Japanese crew felt that Brock might be viewed as racist by the American people because of his eyes, and that they were even fearful of it when Pokemon first came to America. I asked if anyone ever complained, and he said no, but it was just that they were worried someone might eventually. So, they brought in a tall, white, Anglo-looking character to replace him, just to be on the safe side. Going back to the first interview with Mr. Hidaka, he had said they had to consider other countries when Pokemon started to go global, so this mentality fits even here, especially with the whole Jynx incident. So then I asked, “Why did you bring him back?” and he responded that “we realized no one really cared about it and liked Brock, so we brought him back.” It appears that if they had not changed their decision, Professor Ivy might have been Brock’s true soul mate.

    What about the main cast on the show? Since he had talked about how they like to “switch them up,” I explained to him that many fans want Ash, Misty, and Brock reunited again together. But, he reaffirmed what he said in the previous interview and said it wasn’t going to happen. I asked him what he meant in the previous interview about Pokemon Contests, and he said he just meant that characters like May have come back for a few episodes in Pokemon Contests, so Misty could come back too. He said, however, that Contests don’t appear to be her thing, so if she were to come back, it would probably be to join Ash in a battle or to just meet them somewhere. So then I said, “Why can’t you just ditch Brock, have Ash, have Misty, and then bring in a new boy? That would be switching up things instead of having a new girl.” His following answers made me laugh my head off – I had to pick it up off the floor and reattach it. He stated that they like to switch up the girls because it gives the boys some new eye candy every once in a while. He also said girls are more customizable and you can change their outfits, like when they are in their bathing suits (yes, he specifically said that). He also said Ken Sugimori designs a new girl with each generation and that gives them another excuse to switch the girl, though I reminded him that there is also a new boy too. I told him that people think Brock is boring and dull, and that it would make the show more interesting to bring Misty back, but he just said again it probably is not going to happen and that they will never be reunited again permanently. You never know, though! People can change their minds! But he was pretty strong about the decision.

    How far in advance do you make the episodes and movies? He stated 6 months for the episodes, 1 – 1.5 months for the voice acting, and 1 year for the movies (which we already knew). He also said in the previous interview that it takes him one week to make a storyboard per each episode, which I forgot to mention.

    How do you decide which Pokemon the characters get? What about for evolving them? He said the writers decide and he wasn’t sure what processes they go through, but he said that they will usually evolve something if there is something big coming up. As a side note, he explained the writers were the exact same ones from the beginning of the show and there were very few of them. I also asked why Piplup hasn’t evolved, and he said “probably because it’s cuter that way and its evolution is uglier.” He didn’t make it seem like Piplup would ever evolve, but he didn’t actually say that. I also asked him at this time, since it was sort of related, if Ash would ever see his old Pokemon again, and he said yes. He wouldn’t tell me anything specific, though, which seemed a little weird for him. Maybe it’ll be soon? I should have asked him about released Pokemon like Pidgeot and Butterfree, but I forgot. He probably would have said, “If the writers feel like it.”

    What do you think of the Uri Gueller and Kadabra card incident? He didn’t know what I was talking about, so I pointed him to Kadabra on my laptop, and he said “Ahh.” He responded that the case had not been settled and was still going on, and that they were not allowed to use Kadabra on a card until an agreement was reached. He said they “put Kadabra aside for now.” When I asked him if the case would ever be settled, he said “not anytime soon.” So, it doesn’t look like we’ll get Kadabra in card form for quite some time, if ever.

    What do you think of 4Kids changing one of the villains in the Raikou special from a boy to a girl? The translator had to confirm with me what I was asking, and then Mr. Hidaka had to confirm with the translator if what I was saying was what she was saying. So then I said, “Do you remember the Raikou special? Do you remember the villains?” I mispronounced Raikou and he corrected me, and then asked if I was talking about the special with the buff villain and the skinny villain. I told him yes, and the skinny one. Then he said “What about him?” So then I said again, “Did you know 4Kids changed him from a boy to a girl?” Then the translator turned to me and asked “Wait, from a girl to a boy or a boy to a girl?” So then I said, “the villain – they changed it from a boy to a girl – what do you think about that?” Then he finally understood my message, and his eyes widened. He said a rather astonished, “Eh?” I said “Yes, what do you think of that? Do you agree with some of the decisions the dubbing companies make?” He said that while he thought that was extremely weird, Japan wouldn’t get offended by that, since they are sure the dubbing companies have their reasons for doing it. But he emphasized again how weird that was.

    The following was a burning question I have had forever, ever since I talked to PUSA at Worlds 2007. Why do the Americans dubbing companies change the background music? Is it because they just feel like it? Is it because they don’t have the rights to use it? Turns out the latter question is partially right. He talked the longest about the music with me, saying that the Americans do not have the rights to all of the Japanese music (especially the lyrical music) and do not have the rights to use it as much as the Japanese use it in the show. I did not think this was because of the Pokemon Company limiting it, so I asked “Who makes it that way?” He cited a company called “JASRAC,” and says they are a group who limits all music in Japan from being distributed outside of the country, anime or not. The Americans simply do not have the rights to use all of the music or in the same quantity as the Japanese, and to use as much as the Japanese show would cost a lot of money, paperwork, and time. I asked him if this is why 4Kids composed the music for the first three movies themselves, and he said “Most likely. It’s much less expensive and troublesome.” He also said they must have come up with some agreement to use the same background music for movies 4 and on. But on the same token, he said the Americans could probably spend a little more money to secure more music.

    Next, I showed him the sprite of Arceus. He directly told the translator, “Is that the movie?” Both of us were confused with what he meant, so I directly asked him, “What roll will Arceus have in the 12th movie?” He looked confused again, so I scrolled to Shaymin and said “Shaymin is the star of the 11th movie. Is Arceus the star of the 12th movie?” He just smiled, but I’m really not sure if he knew for sure, and it didn’t seem like a “I am foreshadowing this to you with a smile” smile. It was more like a “Who is Arceus?” He was trying to pronounce it how I was, so I don’t know if he was deliberately trying to throw me off or what. He might not be involved in the movies anymore, so I’m not sure what he knows. I also asked him about Pokemon Platinum, and again he didn’t know what I was talking about.

    Now an overall question about the show. Will Ash ever become a Pokemon Master? He laughed and fell back on the couch. He blatantly said that when Ash becomes a Pokemon Master, the show will end. It will be the last episode. Going back to my first interview, I did not mention that he stated the show was cyclical because it could be – the audience is constantly replaced (since children get older and leave, and new children come in), so they are allowed to get away with having the same repetitive goal. So, the show would probably continue the same way – collect badges, travel through different regions, never age. Will Ash and Pikachu ever be replaced? No. Will they ever age? No. Will there be a 5th generation of Pokemon and will the show keep continuing? He laughed even harder and said of course. Pokemon will continue for many generations to come, and as he made it sound, probably forever.

    His escort had been waiting for about 10 minutes and I didn’t want to keep Mr. Hidaka any longer, so I thanked him and his translator once again. I asked his translator if I could possibly have his e-mail address, but since they were in a rush she said she would call me later and discuss that (I told her I would understand if he didn’t want to, but I was just putting it out there in case he would give it to me). I had a fun time interviewing him, and he seemed to have a fun time being interviewed, especially since he scheduled it on his own time with me and in his hotel. It was definitely an awesome experience!
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