Blender Conference 2014 has officially come to a close…or has at least moved to the Blender studio, where today is tour day!
All Blender supporters are invited to tour the Amsterdam studio…and today a bunch of the conference attendees took advantage of being in Amsterdam to do so!
For those who couldn’t make the trip to the conference this time, here’s a quick look at what you missed:
Ton kicks off Blender Conference 2014
The heart of the conference was definitely the inspiring feeling of community – in every corner of De Balie there were conversations between animators and coders, teachers and designers, etc., from literally every continent. (Watch Ton’s keynote speech for a better idea of who was there from where.) As a Blender Institute newbie, it was the perfect way to get to know the software users and film fans – a hearty thanks to those of you who came up to introduce yourself and share your ideas for this blog and other Gooseberry reporting!
As for the talks, you can still watch almost all of them on the Blender Foundation’s YouTube channel – including talks covering the use of Blender for everything from games to art and architecture, plus animation tips & tricks and rigging how-tos (by Gooseberry’s own Hjalti Hjálmarsson and Daniel Salazar respectively), and more.
However *most* importantly – for this blog ;-) – Sunday morning started with a comprehensive update on the Gooseberry project by director Mathieu Auvray with help from scriptwriter Esther Wouda, character designer Sarah Laufer, and man-behind-the-movie Ton himself.
You can watch the full talk here:
TL;DW? Here are the highlights:
- Pilot: The ambition is still to make a full feature-length, open-source film in collaboration with 12 animation studios around the world; but for funding reasons (skip to 1:06:30 in the video to watch Ton break down the numbers) a 15-minute pilot will be released first. If all goes according to plan, in July 2015.
- Title: Keeping with the Blender theme of naming projects after fruits, the feature-film project was given the code name Project Gooseberry. (Conference dinner attendees – did you enjoy your gooseberry pie? ;-) ) The finished film, however, will probably be called Cosmos Laundromat.
- Audience: This is definitely not a kids movie. It’s not 100% for adults either, though. The rating will possibly be PG, likely PG-13. (Franck gets into real danger sometimes!)
- Plot: *Spoiler alert* (duh) On a remote island, a depressed sheep named Franck wants to end it all and escape his miserable existence. However, before he can off himself, a mysterious man named Victor (actually a Cupid-like demi-god being punished for loving a human) offers him the opportunity of many lifetimes – literally. Spending about 5 minutes in each life, Franck the sheep gets to be a wolf, a robot, a dragon, a cup of tea, and many other things in at least a dozen different worlds. (Or, at least as many different worlds as there will be studios working on the film…ahem.)
The pilot will cover Franck’s first meeting with Victor and his first transformation – into a caterpillar in a vibrant jungle world (description and images in the video at 42:20). There he meets a butterfly named Tara, his intended love interest and the lady with whom he’ll be sharing the next dozen or so lives. This is Victor’s matchmaking, but will it work? (Even the director and screenwriter aren’t completely sure yet!) Just as she gives Franck new reason to live, Tara disappears (her time in this world is up), startling Franck into falling into a hungry frog’s mouth – only to disappear to safety(?) at the last moment!
At the end of the pilot you will glimpse Cosmos Laundromat itself, where each would-be world is built into the drum of a cosmic washing machine (where Franck and others hope to be “washed clean”). The pilot will close with a glimpse of Franck beginning his next life in a new world inside one of the drums. (You can see the full script to date in the Blender Cloud.)
- Character evolution: Starting at 25:35 in the video above, Mathieu and Sarah talk about how and why Victor changed from a large black man to a skinny blond dude to the bearded, ginger-haired music fan you see today. In short, Victor needed to be both intriguing and pleasing as well as a bit used up. Like Franck, he’s also trapped in his existence.
At 32:05 Mathieu and Sarah begin their explanation of how poor Franck, a prisoner of his island and his shaggy fur, became defined by his puppy dog/Bill Murray teardrop eyes that link his appearance in each world. As Sarah explains, he needs to be both pathetic and proud.
Tara (skip to 45:35), on the other hand, is described as an anxious, feminine adventurer always looking for the next new thing – she LOVES traveling the worlds! That’s why her first form is a white butterfly – graceful, ethereal, always moving. Her best line in the animatic shown (53:50) is: “So many lives, so little time…carpe fucking diem.”
Mathieu and Sarah also explain the development of the main enemy in the first world, the hungry frog mentioned earlier. He was inspired by a Costa Rican frog – or at least his see-through belly was. Inside it you can see the caterpillars he’s digesting (there’s that PG-13)…and Franck definitely doesn’t want to join them. (Skip to 40:00 to hear more about this. Or sign into the Cloud to get access to all the concepts and test animations to date.)
- Challenges: Even funding aside, it’s quite a project to create one coherent story that takes places across many different-looking worlds, as is needed when different studios are working on one film. The plot was born of this challenge. Additionally, to make the best film possible, Blender tools need to be tweaked and further developed as the project moves forward (especially if everyone wants to see the pilot in July 2015). For this reason, more developers and animators will likely be needed, if the budget allows.
- How you can help: The pilot and the eventual movie will by and large be funded by subscriptions to the Blender Cloud. Running at €10/month (€45 for the initial three months together), the Cloud is a backstage pass into the production of this and past films by the Institute. Have a subscription already? Please renew it! Don’t have one yet? Please sign up! This March blog post from Ton explains the thinking behind the Cloud, and everything it gives you access to – including animation tutorials, the assets for every Blender Institute movie, and the knowledge you’re sticking it to the system and showing the world that this open-source thing can actually work.
Have a question about the development and current status of Gooseberry? Curious to explore any of the above in more detail? Let’s hear it in the comments!