Re:Naissance reanimates classics

A new animation technique dubbed Re:Naissance plans to invert the adaptation process by taking existing live-action films and faithfully reproducing them in animation. The first live-action feature to be adapted with this new technique Re:Naissance is George Romero’s cult classic Night of the Living Dead (NOTLD). Through the marriage of cult live-action classics and graphic design, the goal is to create a whole new brand of animated film. The creator Chris Panzner details the technique on his blog LicenseToIllustrate.blogspot.com and give regular progress updates on the production of this first feature. Panzner aims to use this technique to create “homages” to older live-action films. Panzner describes the process as ‘rotomation,’ which is a combination of rotoscopy and traditional animation. “Re:Naissance is essentially rotoscoped key frame drawings with traditional in-betweens. It can be defined as ‘the re-creation of live-action films in animation’. It’s a new spin on adaptation and the remake,” according to Panzner. The concept has been variously described as “illustrated film” or “living comic.” “Our goal is not merely to rotoscope the original film – we are creating an entirely new film while remaining faithful to the original; an homage to the source film. The end result is an original animated feature film, meaning the stars in the live-action film will be caricaturised in some form but the movements and expressions (and original dialogue) will remain true to the original actors, although the animated characters will be completely new original graphic representation.” The rotoscope, as a tool, has been used for a variety of effects and to achieve a number of goals: “tracing” film and video images to combine live-action and animation. The most famous instance is in the movie ‘Anchors Aweigh’ in which Gene Kelly dances with MGM/Hanna – Barbera’s Jerry mouse; and for special effects. The technique has been employed exclusively on original film and video sources, however, and never on existing films… until now. Re:Naissance, however, uses rotoscopy only to do key frames and then in-betweens traditionally, using proprietary designs and backgrounds, new voices, new music, new FX, etc. The designs will correspond to the characters in the film but do not have to be exact reproductions of the film images. A way of describing it is to consider the original film as the storyboard and the live action movements the source of inspiration for the animation. On “NOTLD,” for example, Panzner took his inspiration from pre-Code (1940s-50s) EC Comics. “We’re also going to have some fun: change the blocking, action, camera positions, perspective, add sound/visual effects, stretch out/shorten scenes, insert scenes if need be and, well… anything and everything (except the story and dialogue.) The tools for this are proprietary software and a video-based electronic drawing tablet,” said Panzner. The key market of this project is the 15-34 year old graphic novel reader looking for an alternative to Marvel and Manga. The themes are more adult with sophisticated artistic choices. “We’re sure to have critics and fans. Fans are likely to be a younger generation, either slightly familiar with the live- action original or completely unfamiliar with it. They will discover what, for them, is a completely new and original film. Critics are likely to be an older audience who might object to anyone tampering with their favorite or classic film,” said Panzner. While the primary objective is to adapt motion pictures, television shows, series, documentaries, newsreels, archival materials, etc. are just as easily adapted. Re:naissance is an entirely new industry with an extremely large existing market; an industry that Re:naissance defines not only technically but creatively, financially and commercially. Through the marriage of film and design, it creates a whole new brand of animated film. From classic black-and-white and colour films to television shows and series, reborn visually from a vast array of graphic styles, the result is high-quality animation that not only perpetuates the source franchise but creates an entirely new one. The variety of genres and graphic treatments, for both 2D and CGI, means the concept will remain evergreen. A conservative estimate of the candidates for animation remakes would be in the hundreds, if not thousands, of films. These famous and classic films have big name stars, marquee recognition and a huge built-in international audience. Although Panzner and his team work with remastered films, their ambitions are more artistic than technical. The approach is to create an homage to the source film, with designs and animation faithful to the spirit of the original. The team believe they would have achieved their goal if an older generation rediscovers an old favorite and embrace its new form, while a younger audience discovers a new animated film, which may potentially have them wanting to see the older original version. “It is also extremely important to us that not only each Re:Naissance film be completely different stylistically from one to the next but that the genre (drama, horror, comedy, etc.) of film we do also be different each time,” he added. Chris Panzner has been doing mostly television/feature animation for the last 15 years or so, exclusively in Europe. He came up with Re:Naissance in order to combine his passion for art and film. The genesis for Re:Naissance is the result of his experience with colorisation in the USA, animation in Europe and his ever-increasing passion for the Franco-Belgian graphic novel. Although he hated the result of colorisation, it was a technique he considered very interesting. A change of copyright law in the United States made it possible for any significant artistic enhancement of an existing work to result in a new copyright. “I started work on feature animation, the absolute first film I worked on being The Triplets Of Belleville, which was nominated for two Oscars. The style was typically French graphic novel (bande déssiné) and its success in the US got me thinking about how manga was introduced in the Eighties, how huge it became and the spate of graphic novel adaptations – mostly English and American, although it’s a Franco-Belgian invention – to the big screen in Hollywood.” “The real turning point, however, was when I saw a still from Sin City with Bruce Willis side-by-side with the corresponding panel from the graphic novel. It suddenly occurred to me that the reverse had never been done: to take an existing film and do an animated version. “Comics to animation to live-action film/series to animated film/series to comics and back again had been done over and over and over. The best definition of animation is “anything can become something else.” That about sums it up. Your imagination is the limit. “Which is when I asked myself “Why is it okay to do a live-action adaptation of a graphic novel but not a graphic novel adaptation of a live-action film… that moves?” And the paradigm shifted.”



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