Hullabaloo aims to reignite 2D animation (Wired UK)

Look at box office receipts in recent years and it seems that
traditional 2D animation is in the doldrums. The biggest grossing
animated movies have all been 3D CGI, with the occasional
stop-motion effort making some headway. Unwilling to let the
artform die, a group of ex-Disney artists have banded together to
create Hullabaloo, a
steampunk adventure produced with a
combination of hand-drawn and digital animation — and fans are
funding it with appropriately Victorian-era gusto.

The Hullabaloo Indiegogo campaign originally sought
$80k (£48.9k) to create a single short, designed to showcase to
investors the skill and artistry of 2D animation, and that there
remains audience demand for it. Instead, it’s so far gathered just
shy of $303k (£185k) with two weeks remaining.

Hullabaloo introduces Veronica Daring and Juliette
“Jules” Fletcher, two resourceful young women who moonlight as
adventurers. While Veronica dons goggles and becomes the titular
nocturnal crusader, Jules is the tech wizard, crafting an array of
outlandish gadgets and gear for Veronica to use. Hullabaloo’s
arch-nemesis? The Cheshire Cat, a skilled thief who, like her
literary namesake, appears able to disappear or mesmerise her
enemies at will.

Created by James
Lopez
, a veteran animator who has worked on the likes of
The Lion King, The Princess and the Frog, and
Pocahontas, the Hullabaloo project has attracted
other talented creators including Bruce Smith, Rick Farmiloe, Minkyu Lee, and Sarah Airriess.

“The inspiration came about a few years back when I realised
that there was a serious lack of quality 2D animation film in
production. Rather than sit and wait for an idea or project to come
along, I took the initiative to be proactive and create one of my
own,” Lopez tells Wired.co.uk. “My wife remembered that during
Halloween, people showed up dressed in Victorian-era clothing. It
was there that I learned what Steampunk was all about, it was
Victorian science fiction. My wife
recounted how ‘enchanted’ she felt to be in their presence and she
said that if I could capture that feeling in an animated film, I
would truly have something special.”

Although Lopez initially started development along conventional
lines, meeting with colleagues to discuss developing the idea into
a full feature, a suggestion that he skip from character designs to
concept animation started the ball rolling. “One animation test
quickly turned into a series of shots that became an elaborate
pitch piece,” Lopez recalls. “As people would stop by to see what I
was working on, they offered me supportive comments, which gave me
confidence to keep developing it.”

After Lopez’s friend Evelyn Kriete, a media strategist and
online event co-ordinator, came on board as a producer, she
encouraged him to build the production team with other creatives
who were attracted to the project on its artistic merits. “Working
in the industry for the last 25 years, I’ve come to know plenty of
animators. I reached out to the best that I knew,” Lopez tells us.
“A lot of emails, phone calls and personal visits were made in
which I asked for their consideration to come onboard and
thankfully they made themselves available. The effort was similar
to Nick Fury assembling The Avengers — though at times, it was
more like the Blues Brothers trying to get the band back
together!”

Hullabaloo  aims to present a world of
high-science adventure, with a whole range of female characters far
more diverse in personality than just being “the girl” or “the
princess” in a wider ensemble piece. “In terms of the world, I
wanted to convey a world that was on the shift of ever-changing
technology, and the pros and cons in adopting that newfound tech,”
Lopez explains. “I wanted to tell a story that would be relevant to
what we face today and that we could relate to in some way, shape
or form.”

Showing a world that embraced technology and progression was
also key, as Lopez adds that “[Hullabaloo] is a world
inhabited with characters that are forward thinking, and the
aesthetic of the innovative contraptions that they create are truly
fantastic in the most literal sense”.

Meanwhile, the strength of the cast was of personal importance
for Lopez, who loosely based the heroic leads on his own daughters.
“My oldest is more reserved and inclined to stay inside and read or
sew, whereas my youngest is prone to want to go outside and play
and prides herself on being a “big tough girl”,” he says. “That
dynamic range in their relationship is what I wanted to share with
the world in Veronica and Jules. That’s actually a play on the name
of the writer, Jules Verne!”

“Veronica is different. She’s not self-serving,” Lopez
continues. “She wants to make a difference in the world, not for
her own sake but rather for the benefit of all. Her journey is
trying to discover her true talents and and find a place in a
society whose primary focus is on the usefulness of technology
rather than that of its people.”

With the crowdfunding campaign
already a success, backers can look forward to at least three
shorts — Hullabaloo, Curse of the Cheshire Cat,
and The Mysterious Island, all with a full orchestral
soundtrack, plus a “making of” documentary. If the funding hits
$340k (£207k) — which it’s on target for — a fourth short,
Ask the Professor, will be made. But why such support for
an animation style that conventional wisdom says is dead?

“I believe it’s not the audiences but rather the producers and
executives in charge that are not receptive to 2D,” says Lopez.
“When you read the multitude of comments on the various threads
online that have spawned since the launch of the campaign, it’s
plain to see that there is a resounding voice that votes in favour
of 2D animation film production. The animation industry is not
abiding by the laws of supply and demand. There is a demand for
quality 2D animation that is not being met.”

The intention to save 2D animation sits at the heart of
Hullabaloo. “2D is an art form that really allows me to be
the most expressive, especially when it comes to emoting
characters. It is a unique art form that captures the soul like no
other,” says Lopez. “Animation production has grown immensely,
which may be considered a good thing [but] the industry has also
become saturated with productions that lack quality. [There’s] a
general sense of cynicism to storytelling which, unfortunately, is
becoming an acceptable standard. We’re looking to do our part to
renew a higher standard of quality and a more sincere
approach.”

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18 September 2014 | 5:08 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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