Making Of,Production

Blender Con: What’s Up with Project Gooseberry?

27 October, 2014 |  9 Comments | by Elysia Brenner

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!

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

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!

9 Responses

  1. henryx says:

    Will Laundromat be modern or old fashion. Is the original world set in a certain time period . I dont know if you have seen the movie Aladdin but cosmos laundermat share similar story. Will victor play a large role throughout movie or just beginning and lastly will victor find love. Sorry for my bad grammar and English. Hope to see more updates on story,hair cloth sim development , modeling character design etc. Thank you

    • matray says:

      Hey ! The movie takes place in some undefined period. Now, but in some other parallel universe. It’s an “anticipation” kind of movie as I would say. But more importantly it’s fantasy worlds, so there is no real time involve.
      Of course we know the Aladdin movie but there is no real similarity in the story, Victor is not a wizard, he has an history, and it’s “magic” (if any) is related to a curse, not a gift. And yes, he’ll become a very important part of the story in the feature film, but not as visible in the 15 first minute of the pilot as he will be in the final movie…
      I hope that helps :) And of course we’ll share new story development as soon as possible !

      • Sam says:

        I dont understand the outcome of this film at all!

        • Elysia Brenner says:

          Hey Sam! Hmm, what exactly is confusing you? Do you mean the ending of the plot, or the future of the project, or…?

  2. JamScoBal says:

    I hate to say this, but I have a problem with this being aimed for more of a mature audience (having it possibly be rated PG-13). I don’t have a problem with animated features being rated PG-13 and adults do enjoy animation as much as kids do, but the storyline is about talking animals and whimsical fantasy. It just doesn’t strike me as something that kids wouldn’t want to see themselves. I’m just saying why not go for more of the Big Buck Bunny style which would be awesome and wouldn’t work against you. I am not trying to offend or tell you what to do. I am just saying that this looks like something made for kids so it might alienate the audience if they find out otherwise. That’s the problem with the viewer’s contract; they expect one thing and hate it if they get something else.

    • matray says:

      Hey ! The movie is not meant to be PG13. But its topic, its tone, its pace is more oriented to adults…
      Some themes are really related to being a grown up : love, falling in love, loosing love, finding yourself, fighting yourself, letting go… Even though those things are often also very present in kids movies (they’re not dumb and wants to know about this too ;)) we really want to be free to talk about those subjects as grown ups.
      Let’s take a Miyazaki movie for reference, it works for every audience because they are not adressed to kids only (at least to me they’re not ;))
      So we totally get your point and had this discussion a lot too. And it’s an interesting one on every level (production, artistic…)
      Going for a too wide audience also could lead us to try to compete with some big studios that masters this already (on every aspect ! theme, story, design, render, animation…)
      So we narrow it down, even though it’s not our goal to be PG13. But we’re grown ups having fun making this movie and don’t want necessarily to censor ourselves on anything either :)

      • I was a bit concerned about some of the language(“Carpe fucking diem”?), but considering the purpose of the movie is to show adults(and teens) the capabilities of open-source software, as well as improving the software, I suppose kids wouldn’t be the target audience anyway.
        It might turn a few people off to the movie if they weren’t expecting certain words or situations, but it could also cause some conversation about the movie, and people are likely accustomed to such things in movies already.
        Hopefully not too many people base kid-friendly expectations on the fact that they’re mostly animal characters, but unfortunately a lot of people still believe animals=for kids, the kind of thinking that led at least one parent to buy Conker’s Bad Fur Day for their kid despite the squirrel holding a mug of beer right on the cover.

  3. Peter Wolfe says:

    Hi! Just wondering, once the jungle world is released, how is the rest of the movie going to unfold? Will each studio work on their part at the same time, or is there a different plan? How fast will the “episodes” be released? Thanks.

    • Elysia Brenner says:

      This is TBD, Peter. First the release of the pilot! (But, no, it’s unlikely different episodes will be made concurrently.)

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