Monday, March 15, 2010

The Walking Dead, animated

I am not a zombie movie guy.  The gore, the overacting... just never has been my thing.  I get it.  I understand it.  If someone else is watching, I'll gladly watch with them.  Shaun of the Dead is easily my favorite of the genre.  It's just not typically my genre.

Zombie comics even less so.  I get the appeal.  Spider-Man as a zombie.  Sure.  Do I want to spend money on it?  No.  But others do and that's fine.  I get it.  Robert Kirkman's series, The Walking Dead, was put in front of me time and time again, and I always moved it to the back burner, a maybe I'll read this if I'm really, really, really bored kind of thing.

Then, one day, I was really, really, really bored.  I read the first volume.  Then, I read the second volume.  Then, I was calling Mack to see if he had the rest of the trades.  Because it is as awesome as everyone says it is.  It's the zombie movie that has no ending, no "fix" or climax, just a slow burn with death being the only exit.  The art is moody and unflinching, Tony Moore handling the initial run with Charlie Adlard carrying the series after issue #7.

Cut to:  Heroes Con 2008.

Sam, Chad and I are all there, hanging out and buying way too much stuff. Sam Ellis knows 95% of the comics community.  It's ridiculous.  And a little impressive.  Sam disappears for a solid hour.  He returns carrying two giant bags of Kirkman loot.  Invincible, The Walking Dead, Brit, etc.   Kirkman it turns out, knew 70-30 Productions previous series Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo.  He mentioned in passing that he might like to work with us on something.

Cut to:  Car ride back to Atlanta.

Ideas, a million a minute fly around the car.  The series we were currently working on, The Xtacles, was in trouble.  This could be a back up plan.  This could work.  I keep going back to The Walking Dead.  Black and white.  Animated.  15 minutes of zombies, every Sunday night on Adult Swim.  Built-in fanbase.  This could totally work.

The plan:  create a presentation for Kirkman, get him on board and then pitch Adult Swim tout suite.

Chad Hurd is an amazingly talented dude.  He is now our Lead Character Designer on Archer.    How amazing?  The below is an Illustrator (i.e. animatable) design of Rick Grimes, the main character of TWD.

There's some tweaks I would do to it, in the eyes, but as a STYLE this is great.  It looks sketchy, hand drawn.  I think had this project come to fruition we would have had to simplify the hair a good bit, but as a first draft, this is a homerun.  

I was working on storyboards and a background style.  Keep in mind, this is all in our spare time, after hours, unpaid work on a hunch that this might fly.  

My boards test is below, and you can see a half-finished background within them.  

The Walking Dead-storyboard pitch from Neal Holman on Vimeo.

While I was in the process of finishing the above, we finally got into contact with Robert Kirkman.  I mentioned our thoughts on pitching his series to Adult Swim and... he told us that a live action deal was in progress and it would probably not be a smart idea to do anything that might damage that.  

Forehead slapped.  Heart slightly sunken.  

We were so blinded by fanboy-ish love that we didn't even bother to check where the rights were before we logged x amount of hours thinking/developing an idea for the series.  Not smart.  

We traded a few more emails with Robert -- who was/is incredibly nice -- about developing another series, but ultimately, 70-30 closed up shop before those talks could really get anywhere off the ground. 

As announced in January, the live action deal for The Walking Dead is finally moving forward, being developed by the stellar folks over at AMC.  I cannot wait to see how they do the series.  It is tailor made for television.  AMC has really come along in the past few years, producing Breaking Bad and Mad Men, two series which are astoundingly well done. 

I still like the idea of doing a gray scale cartoon, heavy blacks and shadows, using white space to manipulate camera moves.  SO much potential.  I just haven't found another project that fits it.  



rob-t-firefly said...

People never stopped making black & white films, but despite complete freedom to do whatever you like with the colors in animation it's almost never done. It really is a shame since so much can be done with it, and if done well it could add so much.

The only modern example I can really think of off the top of my head is a segment of a recent TV Movie that put the new and old Ninja Turtles cartoons together in sort of a DC/Crisis knockoff plot. It was mostly goofy until they ended up in the dimension of the original gritty black-and-white Turtles comics. The art was a neat monochrome homage to that original style and was drawn quite beautifully, but in true TMNT fashion was animated like crap.

Neal said...

Persepolis handled black&white beautifully, possibly the best modern use of it I've seen.

Renaissance was cool, but for some reason I never really got into it. Could be the amazingly slow pacing.