Award-winning animation director Shane Acker (9) and Dublin’s Oscar-nominated animation studio Brown Bag Films (Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty) are to team up with videogame developer Valve on new animated feature film ‘Deep.’
Brown Bag Films co-founder Darragh O’Connell announced details of the undersea adventure at last weekend’s Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France.
Acker, the acclaimed director of the Tim Burton-produced ‘9,’ will direct ‘Deep,’ which is currently in early pre-production.
The feature will have a budget of €15m with Brown Bag hopeful of production on the animation getting underway in the coming months. They are currently eyeing a 2014 release date.
The animation house have already produced a 12-minute development clip of ‘Deep’ using Valve’s Source game engine, which allows them to render in real-time and thus has the potential to slash production costs as well as quickening the speed of production.
Speaking to IFTN, O’Connell revealed that Brown Bag hope to enter full production by the end of the year. He added that the animation house is currently in talks with potential distributors, financers and sales agents: “We’re talking to people at the moment and will be shortly pitching it to all the major Hollywood studios shortly.”
O’Connell added that while animation and production work on the feature will “probably be carried out by a mix of studios”, he added that “a lot of it will be carried out here in Dublin.” Of the seven-month development stage of the project, he said that “all the backbone and actual creation of the technology to allow the artists to speak to the program, most of that was done in Dublin.”
O Connell will produce the feature for Brown Bag alongside Gregory R. Little. Little heads up Brown Bag’s US studio in LA.
According to Brown Bag Films, the link up with Valve – best known for producing the huge-selling games ‘Half Life’ and ‘Portal’ - will allow the studio use “new technologies that result in high-quality production value at a fraction of the time and cost”. The new tools are based on the developer’s Source game engine.
O’Connell said of the game engine and that potentially cheaper and faster production cycle: “That’s the Holy Grail, cheaper and faster! It just makes it more intuitive and hands-on for the director. It basically allows for real-time rendering so you don’t have to set things to render and then wait around for hours or the next day to see what things look like. You can literally do it in real-time.”
Described as having the “feel of an underwater Western,” ‘Deep’ is set in a not-too-distant future when what’s left of humanity has moved undersea to stay alive. It will be produced from a script by J. Barton Mitchell.
Award-winning director, animator and designer Ackler – whose debut feature ‘9’ was produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov in 2009 - said: “Since the success of ‘9,’ I’ve been approached with several science fiction-fantasy projects but so many lack substance beneath the slick special effects.
“‘Deep’ offers real sci-fi credentials but the story is rooted in the complex motivations of the characters making tough choices between right and wrong. I’m excited to be part of a team that is redefining what storytelling in general, and animation in particular, can be.”
Originally conceived as a graphic novel by Mitchell, ‘Deep’ will initially be produced as feature film. However, producing in a game engine means that the characters and environments in ‘Deep’ can easily translate to a game format.
The team has already begun work on a playable level to be distributed via Steam, Valve’s online game distribution network, and plans to create additional content for digital distribution and provide opportunities for user-created content.
Of the new technology and its potential to change how animation studios work and distribute their work O’Connell said: “I think it has the power to be very disruptive. I don’t see why not [it will change the industry]. Steam is a distribution platform owned by Valve that would be very interesting to look at. They are basically the iTunes for computer games. I think they’ve just released their first film on Steam, so why not? They’ve a user base of more than 55 million people and we’re always looking for new and inventive ways to do stuff - so it fits right in there.”