Shortly after the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we learned that Andy Serkis and director Rupert Wyatt were working up a motion capture version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The project is making headlines again, though this time, I don’t see Wyatt mentioned anywhere.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Serkis is going to direct the Farm film himself, making it the first project for his motion capture studio, The Imaginarium.
I think we found a rather fresh way of looking at it. It is definitely using performance capture, but we are using an amalgamation of filming styles to create the environmments. We are in proof-of-concept stage at the moment, designing characters and experimenting on our stage with the designs.
It is quite a wide canvas as to how much and how far we can take performance capture with quadrupeds and how much we will be using facial [capture]. We are not discounting the use of keyframe animation or puppeteering parts of animals.
Well, isn’t that something. It sounds properly fascinating, and there’s no doubting how rich the source material is.
The Imaginarium will follow Animal Farm by adapting some rather more contemporary fiction. The Bone Season has been written by current Oxford Uni student Samantha Shannon, and seems to fit quite squarely in the sci-fi young adult subgenre that has already given rise to The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Knife of Never Letting Go and so on. It hasn’t been published yet, so we don’t know if it will also echo the widespread success of these other books and series, but The Imaginarium certainly saw something in it.
Shannon says that she’s actually taking another pass at the novel now:
…prompted by Imaginarium’s writers, who met Bloomsbury with some new suggestions. Filmmakers are forensic about plot, and they came up with some really good editorial points – not so the book will suit a film (they initially went through it from a reader’s perspective, not as filmmakers), but so the plot becomes clearer to the reader. To me it showed they cared about the whole world of The Bone Season, not just the visual aspect. They read it four times before producing notes on it.
Here’s an official blurb for the book:
2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. She works as an envoy between secret cells: she drops in and out of people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant, and in her world – the world of Scion – she commits high treason simply by breathing.
It is raining the day her life changes forever. Attacked, kidnapped and transported to Oxford, a city that has been kept secret for two hundred years, she meets Warden, a Rephaite with dark honey skin and heavy-lidded yellow eyes. He is the single most beautiful and frightening thing she has ever laid eyes on – and he will become her keeper.
It’s not yet clear if the whole film will be CG imagery or if the motion capture characters will be blended with live action, as Serkis was suggesting for Animal Farm. I guess they’re even earlier in the development process on this project and a lot will change, change and then change again between now and the time production starts.
Sounds to me like The Imaginarium are off to a good start. Can’t wait to hear more.