Comic-Con favorite Guillermo del Toro returned to San Diego for his latest film, Pacific Rim. Described as a giant robot vs. monsters movie, the film stars Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day and Idris Elba. At Pacific Rim’s official press conference, Del Toro finally explained the origin of its story and the truth behind its mechanical and monstrous creatures.

After briefly working together on The Hobbit, have you crossed paths with Peter Jackson during Comic-Con?

Guillermo Del Toro: We’ve been emailing a lot during the prep of The Hobbit. And I sent him a photo with me with a guy who looks exactly like him in the beginning of Pacific Rim. And then, the two productions were at the peak and we hadn’t talked in a long time but we stay in touch. We haven’t seen each other here. I went to the tech rehearsal yesterday at 10 and he came to the tech rehearsal at 11-something. So probably, I’ll run into him this afternoon.

Can you describe your filmmaking process?

Guillermo Del Toro: The way I shoot, I shoot and edit at the same time. They know this [the cast]. The day after I shoot a scene I come in and it’s edited no matter how complicated it is. And that allowed me to start picking some shots to prepare for Comic-Con. None of the shots were final-final the way they’re going to be in the movie. I still have to torture people a little more about flares and drops in the lens and this and that.

What can you tell us about the characters Rinko Kikuchu and Charlie Hunnam play?

Guillermo Del Toro: What was great is the character of Rinko is the same as Charlie, and has a big fall. They both lost a lot in the past and when they meet one of the ideas in the script is that two people that are really, really hurt can become one. And [when] they meet they’re like two empty pieces and connect almost like a puzzle.

Pacific Rim is already being compared to Godzilla. Is that an accurate description?

Guillermo Del Toro: I wouldn’t compare it to a Godzilla film. I think what it is, there are two sub-genres that are very popular and very powerful in Japan. One is a Kaiju film and the other one is a giant robot sub-genre. Occasionally, they mix together mostly on TV series, but on film what I thought is, these are things that are part of my nutritional make-up growing up. I literally was raised watching these movies. One of the points I wanted to make in the movie and I made it clear to my designers to every head of the department is, we should not reference other movies. We said, ‘Let’s create the world that we’re doing.’ It falls in here, it falls in there but we should not be doing a referential film.

How hard was it to do that? To stay in your own lane?

Guillermo Del Toro: There are things in the movie that I’m the proudest of I’ve ever made. Part of that is because of the way it was designed, thought of, and collaborated with. The things are not executed in the way that you would think they would be. You think of an action film and I always imagine a huge Mission Impossible movie with Tom Cruise and all of a sudden you see the scene from the point of view of the janitor. That’s the kind of stuff I wanted to see. Where can I go? What point of view can I take that is not coming from, ‘Oh, this is what they do in those films.’

What can you tell us about the giant robots? What are they called?

Guillermo Del Toro: They’re called Jaegers and I think each of them comes from a different country. They each have a name and they are as much characters as the pilots. I wanted each robot to have a personality and for you to feel when the robot gets hurt. Or when the robot wins. I wanted very much to make the audience feel for those machines. As much as they feel for other characters.

What’s the relationship like between the pilots and the Jaegers?

Guillermo Del Toro: The pilots name their robots, depending on where they’re coming from. There’s an affection. We spent so much time really doing the signage and when you see the robots, you’re going to see them move and you’re going to see the mask. But between the mask and the joints, you’re going to see so many little parts doing the real job. And we designed them as practical machines.

Check out our coverage of Pacific Rim’s Comic-Con panel.

Pacific Rim opens in theaters July 12.