Motion-capture chameleon Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) has spent the better part of a year, all told, directing the second unit of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy; he now plans to use that experience to direct a performance-capture based adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel, Animal Farm. His mo-cap studio, The Imaginarium, has secured rights to the property and will produce the film. The studio also landed the adaptation rights to the Samantha Shannon novel, The Bone Season, which Serkis also plans to adapt. Hit the jump to hear what he had to say on both projects, as well as commentary on directing the second unit of The Hobbit trilogy.
Speaking to THR recently, Serkis talked enthusiastically about his upcoming directorial plans as well as his wealth of experience picked up from numerous performance-capture roles and some 200 days directing The Hobbit’s second unit. As for Animal Farm, many of you may be wondering how Serkis plans to mo-cap a farm full of pigs and horses. Serkis responds:
““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 environments. 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 at the moment 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. We are in an experimental phase; it’s terribly exciting.”
As for the tone of the story, Serkis plans on taking an unexpected approach and possibly sidestepping the more mature themes that made Orwell’s novel such a long-standing classic:
“We’re keeping it fable-istic and [aimed at] a family audience. We are not going to handle the politics in a heavy-handed fashion. It is going to be emotionally centered in a way that I don’t think has been seen before. The point of view that we take will be slightly different to how it is normally portrayed and the characters—we are examining this in a new light.”
Interesting, but will Serkis be acting as well as directing?
“It might well be that I do, but nothing is set in stone yet. At the moment I’m very fixed on the creation of the characters and world from a directorial point of view.”
Serkis went on to talk about his experience on The Hobbit, saying that he worked with “an extraordinarily talented crew and an amazing array of talent.” He went on to comment on shooting at the 48 frames-per-second frame rate that has created quite a lot of chatter:
“The wonderful thing about 48 fps is [how it handles] the integration of live action and CG elements; that is something I learned from The Hobbit. We are so used to 24 fps and the romance of celluloid … But at 48 fps, you cannot deny the existence of these CG creations in the same time frame and space and environment as the live action. It works incredible well.”
Imaginarium co-creator, Jonathan Cavendish, spoke about the company’s future project The Bone Season:
“These books have conjured up with extraordinary detail and delicacy of drama an imaginary future set in a dystopian world. We are just starting to develop that for a series of motion pictures.”
In addition to The Bone Season, Serkis has another yet-to-be-named property lined up. Cavendish commented further on their work at the production company:
“A lot of what we are doing at The Imaginarium is pushing [performance capture] technology and finding ways to do things that haven’t been done before. Some of it is also about making it more efficiently and making it within reach of budget.”
Here’s the synopsis of Orwell’s Animal Farm (via Amazon):
George Orwell’s classic satire of the Russian Revolution is an intimate part of our contemporary culture. It is the account of the bold struggle, initiated by the animals, that transforms Mr. Jones’s Manor Farm into Animal Farm–a wholly democratic society built on the credo that All Animals Are Created Equal. Out of their cleverness, the pigs Napoleon, Squealer, and Snowball emerge as leaders of the new community in a subtle evolution that proves disastrous. The climax is the brutal betrayal of the faithful horse Boxer, when totalitarian rule is reestablished with the bloodstained postscript to the founding slogan: But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.
And here’s the synopsis for The Bone Season (via Good Reads):
The Bone Season begins in 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 an out of people’s minds. For Paige is a lucid dreamer, 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 every laid eyes on – and he will become her “keeper”.