Futurama Animators Roll 20-Sided Die With Bender's Game
(Via Wired)Wired said:After one too many games of Dungeons and Dragons, surly robot Bender goes on a fantasy-fueled bender in the latest Futurama movie.
The dimension-hopping plot of Futurama: Bender's Game, released Tuesday on DVD, packs plenty of Lord of the Rings gags as the Planet Express crew faces a galactic fuel shortage. The convoluted story also gives the movie's animators plenty to play with, as the booze-swilling bot's warped imagination propels the characters into an alternate, medieval universe (pictured).
To deliver the dilapidated, '50s-era sci-fi aesthetic of New New York (the Big Apple circa 3000), the movie incorporates a seamless blend of hand-drawn animation and computer-generated 3-D, seen in everything from shots of the ramshackle spaceship to fiery explosions and sparkling bits of intergalactic dust.
Bender's Game, the third installment in a series of four direct-to-DVD Futurama movies, also delivers the sort of clever one-liners and geeky references that made the Emmy Award-winning television show an enduring fan favorite.
The animators at Rough Draft Studios, which count The Simpsons Movie, cult Nickelodeon show Ren and Stimpy and Beavis and Butt-head among their credits, have been hand-crafting the retro-futuristic aesthetic of Futurama since the show first aired on Fox in 1999.
Wired.com caught up with Claudia Katz, senior vice president of Rough Draft, and Dwayne Carey-Hill, director of Bender's Game and Bender's Big Score, to talk about the challenges of animating multi-sided dice and whether Futurama will soon be headed to a theater near you.
Wired.com: Bender's Game takes a giant leap from the usual sci-fi themes -- nudist alien invasions, robo-drug addictions, superpowers -- to focus on a much geekier subject: fantasy and role-playing games.
Dwayne Carey-Hill: With Bender's Game, we wanted to [include] parodies of Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons-influenced movies. We quickly started watching a bunch of movies to see what kind of dragons looked right and what kinds of ogres, aliens and spaceships would look good. We wound up having this big encyclopedia of sci-fi genres that we pulled into this particular movie.
Wired.com: Everything in Bender's Game has an epic feel to it -- fantasy beasts engaged in battle, bustling crowd scenes and much more 3-D. Was that intentional, to ramp up the visual goods as the DVD series winds down?
Carey-Hill: At the end of the day, some things are hard to draw. We take advantage of the 3-D -- anything with a vehicle, anything with a perspective shift. Space itself looks a lot better rendered that way, although we've done weird things like animate a roulette wheel in 3-D. You wouldn't think [a spinning wheel] would be complicated, but it is. In Bender's Game, we have 20-sided and 12-sided dice, so to get the [movement of a dramatic role] ... and capture it's geometric shape -- and make it convincing -- it's beneficial to us to do it in 3-D.
Wired.com: How much of the design and look of the Futurama universe is Rough Draft responsible for?
Katz: When we first started talking to Matt [Groening about Futurama], he had sketches of most of the lead characters. But we had a huge impact on fleshing out that world and the characters. We went round and round with the designs, filling out the characters, and the whole world of New New York.
Wired.com: What did you base your designs on?
Katz: A lot of science fiction becomes inspiration -- especially the sci-fi universe of the '30s.
Carey-Hill: We all love movies and try to work with what comes out. Any time we see something we like, we try to mimic and pull off something great -- new and old movies come into play. We try to use everything.
(Watch one of the DVD extras, embedded, which shows booze-guzzling bot Bender delivering a parody of an antipiracy message.)
Wired.com: Tell us a little about the production process for creating the television series versus the DVD movies.
Claudia Katz: We're still not sure how we do it [laughs]. TheDVD movies are comprised as four separate episodes. They can be brokendown individually -- although they're written into an arc.
Carey-Hill: The upside is that as a director on the [TV]episodes, you knew the process, you used a similar formula. But wedefinitely have four times the work coming in at the same time [whenwe're making the movies.]
Katz: And not four times the time, so we staggered the same crew for layout and design.
Carey-Hill: It was timed so the animators would finish one and switch to the next.
Wired.com: How many people are we talking?
Katz: Two to three hundred people have touched the film at thispoint: 70-80 people in California, and the rest in our South Koreastudio.
Katz: A typical Futurama TV episode has between 20,000-25,000 drawings per episodes. Bender's Game was on the heavier side -- ther are so many crowd and fight scenes -- so that number is a lot higher
Carey-Hill: Instead of four times that number, I would say five times that number [for Bender's Game].
Katz: We still are hand-drawing everything when we startstoryboarding. The amount of drawing becomes exponential throughout theprocess. [The movies] take about a year, start to finish, but arestaggered.
Wired.com: Everyone is wondering whether Into the Wild Green Yonder, which is slated for a 2009 release, will be the last chapter of Futurama. Head writer/producer David X. Cohen told us back in June he's not ruling out the possibility of additional Futurama movies, either for straight-to-DVD or theatrical release. Do you have any more info?
Katz: Well we would love to do a [big-screen] Futurama feature. I'm sure David [Cohen] and Matt [Groening] would be excited to do it -- but Fox would have to spearhead that project.
Carey-Hill: Both Pete [Avancino, director of The Beast With a Billion Backs and Wild Green Yonder] and I appreciate the larger scale of producing them. As much as we loved doing the series, we loved the bigger, wider format. We're inching towards a feature, which I think Futurama could sustain.... I think Fox has been happy with the sales of the DVDs. The fans are buying them and it looks good.
Futurama: Bender's Game is available Tuesday on DVD.