I didn’t know Flatland was a real trailer.
If you want my real honest truth, I thought this entry was a practical joke being pulled on me.
Surprisingly, it’s real! The Flatland Team: Dano Johnson, Jeffrey Travis, and Seth Caplan pulled off a hilarious, amusing, and very well done CG film.
Dano Johnson took some time to answer a few Channel Frederator Qs.
1. Tell us a bit about how this project came to be.
The project began when producer Seth Caplan was finishing the producing program at the American Film Institute and he was trying to think up properties that were copyright free. He found a group of books he had enjoyed reading in high school and pulled out the thinnest book – Flatland. Since it was written in 1884, it could definitely be adapted. Nobody had really made Flatland into a widely released film since 1965. He and I had gone to college together in Austin, TX and he knew I’d started my own animation company so he asked me if I knew of the book. I had read it in high school geometry and I was definitely interested in the potential to make an educational and entertaining film. Seth also approached an Austin filmmaker we both knew, Jeffrey Travis, who was a Flatland enthusiast. Together, we began developing the script and the look of the film in late 2004.
2. Who are some of your influences?
My main influence as an artist/animator is actually Jim Henson. I’ve always had an affinity for his characters and actually did a bit of puppetry before realizing I could bring characters to life inside the computer (spending less time lying on the ground with my arms in the air).
3. How was it collaborating with such famous voice actors?
Working with the voice talent was an exciting and crucial part in making the film. In early 2006 we had a solid script and we began trying to cast. We didn’t have much money to offer but we felt that some actors would see how determined we were to turn a classic book into an educational movie that really inspired students. Fortunately, we found the right actors! Our executive producer, Will Wallace, got the script in front of Martin Sheen and he really connected with the idea. Jeffrey Travis did a great job directing all the voice talent and sculpting the performances in the recording studio. Martin slipped right into the part and was very professional, diligent and creative. During the 3D sequence, Martin had us rolling in the aisles as he experienced flying through this ‘new’ dimension for the first time. Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) was our main choice for the young heroine – she was especially excited to portray a character that young girls could look up to. Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Andy Barker P.I.) was hilarious as the zero-dimensional King of Pointland. On the DVD extras we have some great outtakes of him in the recording booth. We only did about 2 takes since he was so perfect! The last major character to be recorded was Michael York as the Sphere. I performed the character in the scratch track but it wasn’t until March ’07 that we were finally able to record Michael (he was touring as King Arthur in ‘Camelot’). He really liked the book and its ideas and brought the Sphere to life in ways I had never imagined (and fortunately in ways that timed up to my prior blocking and timing). All in all we feel incredibly lucky to have attained a cast that other films would kill for. All our actors, in Los Angeles and Austin, were very generous and just happy to be a part of Flatland.
4. How long did it take to finish this project, from start to finish?
Throughout 2005 and 2006 we were developing the script and playing around with character and set design. I had made a teaser trailer back in 2005 that was essentially an animation test, so in August 2006 I began finalizing characters and working with illustrators Maura Murnane and David Young to create the sets and props of Flatland. I directed and animated all the camera movements and main characters, while a small group of volunteer animators helped out with extras and prop animation. I hadn’t worked much with 3D animation, so I brought on Sara Farr to animate most of the Spaceland sequences. Early on we also brought in composer Kaz Boyle and sound designer David Crumley, who would compose music and mix sound effects as I completed chunks of the movie. We wrapped animation about 24 hours before our Austin premiere on May 20th, 2007, hosted by the Austin Film Festival. We had 2 sold out screenings and it was great to celebrate with the cast, crew, and friends (and then promptly fall asleep).
5. What are you working on currently, and is there a sequel in the works for Flatland? Perhaps where we learn about the Fourth Dimension?
Now that Flatland is on DVD we’re working hard to get it out to educators and Flatland enthusiasts. Princeton Press is going to release a new edition of the novel using our artwork and an introduction by Tom Banchoff, Flatland historian and an adviser on our film. So look for that in Spring 2008! Producer Seth Caplan actually has a live action film, ‘In Search of a Midnight Kiss’ that will be released soon in theaters. Director Jeffrey Travis has a live action feature film script he’s developing – ‘Marshall Hollenzer is Driving.’ I’m finally returning to my animation company, ‘Collection Agency Films’, and starting on a project involving the country duo ‘Big & Rich’. We all 3 really love Flatland and there’s always a possibility that we might continue the mathematical adventures there. People have already suggested the title ‘Flatland Squared’ as the sequel, so that might be too good to pass up!
Thanks for submitting Flatland for us here at Channel Frederator guys! We look forward to seeing what you guys will come up with in the near future!
On a sidenote, I’ve always wanted to do an epic movie about the little flat 2d guy stuck inside the traffic light box perpetually moving in one direction, always running from the gigantic red hand shape that is about to squish him.
(I walk a lot, and my mind tends to wander…)