Every once in a while, an animated film will catch my imagination and remind me why I love this medium so much. Nova Seed (currently streaming on Prime), which I saw for the first time at the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International in 2016, was such a film. I absolutely loved it and it immediately became one of my all-time favorites.
At this event, unbeknownst to me, Nick DiLiberto, the film’s creative overlord, was sitting right next to me in the theater. I found that out right after the screening and told him how impressed I was by his work. We struck a friendship, and since then I have been eagerly awaiting his next movie.
Well, here it is! Empress of Darkness, is finally out and Nick DiLiberto has done it again. This new film certainly lives up to the high standard the filmmaker had set for himself with Nova Seed.
The fantasy/sci-fi “quest for the sword” story is beautifully told in a kinetic style that I found enthralling. Using subtle camera moves and hand held simulation, Diliberto pulls you into his world of ancient castles, sacrificial rituals, alien savagery, stormy landscape and magical artifacts.
The animation might appear simple at first but it has an incredible amount of depth to it. Sometime broad, sometime subtle, but always engaging. I was particularly impressed with the acting of the main protagonist. You can feel his struggle, his terror, his epiphanies, throughout his chaotic journey. DiLiberto knows how to create tension and suspense. I found myself on the edge of my seat more than once, rooting for the hero as he faced constant jeopardy and impossible trials.
DiLiberto’s signature art style reverberates over every aspect of the film, from the imaginative character designs to the 80s retro fantasy/sci-fi environments and concepts. DiLiberto is a child of the 80s, and you can see where his inspiration came from. Although his influence might be obvious, DiLiberto realigns all of it through the prism of his brilliant artistic mind. This is visionary filmmaking in its purest form.
I must also mention the superb score by Stephen Verrall which adds drama, energy and emotion. Verrall’s soundscape combined with DiLiberto’s imagery brought me close to tears a couple of times. It’s a great example of visuals and music blending in perfect unison.
All in all, there in NOTHING I donít like about this film. To me, itís a perfect 10! The fact that DiLiberto created this entire animated feature by himself is not only a task worthy of high praise, but an inspiration to all of us in the animation community.
And to top it all, Nick gave me a nice credit in the film! How cool is that?
Now that I’ve joined the crew of Paramount’s Tiger’s Apprentice, I thought I’d post an update of where things currently stand with The Saga of Rex feature film for whoever is interested.
On September 12, once my 6-week contract to design signature effects on Netflix’s Magic: The Gathering was completed, I returned to work on The Saga of Rex, and did another hardcore sprint until the end of November.
In early November, I’d been contacted by Paramount Pictures, inquiring if I’d be interested in joining their core crew to help develop the effects for their upcoming animated feature, The Tiger’s Apprentice. After chatting with Director Carlos Baena and production designer Robh Ruppel, I decided that this would be a good fit for me. I joined the project officially on December 2, 2019.
After 2+ years working on The Saga of Rex full time, I believe this is a healthy pause, mentally and financially. A good opportunity to hone my craft further while working with a talented director and a good crew. It will allow me to come back to Rex with a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of purpose. Although, I might try to keep moving on Rex on weekends, the film will mostly be on hold for the duration of my contract on The Tiger’s Apprentice motion picture.
For the past 2 years, I’ve been devoting 100% of my working hours, storyboarding, art directing and animating, The Saga of RexFeature Film. Soon, I’ll be taking a little break from Rex, to design and animate magical effects for the upcoming Netflix series,Magic: The Gathering. I haven’t shown any footage from Rex since the original Kickstarter, and today, I thought it would be a good time to release a short teaser showing people what I’ve been working on.
Since starting full time on The Saga of Rex on September 4th, 2017, I have created an articulated animatic of the 68-minute film which contains rough layouts, rough poses, rough animation breakdown, rough FX and camera moves, all synchronized to the score. I’ve managed to complete over 10 minutes of finished color footage (including reworking and upgrading 3 minutes from the Kickstarter).
Aside from the adapted screenplay, by my friend, Jesper Moller, and some help on the in-betweens by my pal, Seung Kim, the film has been and remains up to this point, a solo effort. Last year, we didn’t renew the option with Grid Animation (the Belgian company which held the movie rights for the past 5 years), so everything reverted back to me. Now, all options are open. Let’s see where the future takes it.
We just sold our very last copy of the second printing of Insanely Twisted Rabbits. We don't intend to reprint the book but copies can still be acquired through Amazon Marketplace. Thanks to everyone who supported my book endeavors.
Wow, it’s been a while since my last update, but believe me, it's been for good reasons. I just finished the marathon of a lifetime!
For the past 14 months, I have been working like a mad man and I’m happy to announce that The Saga of Rex now exist as a feature film. Yes, it’s rough, mostly black and white, and needs a lot of polishing, but it’s perfectly watchable, has a full soundtrack and best of all, it’s now all set up for production. In fact, I’m so happy with this version of the film that I hope it makes it as an extra on the DVD (and Blu-ray) as, The Saga of Rex Animatic Director’s Cut.
I wish I could show a snippet from it, but for the time being, I need to keep everything under wraps. Hopefully, a trailer will be forthcoming in the not so distant future.
I’m going to do a few more tweaks until the end of November, but by in large I’m done for this year and ready to enjoy some time off before resuming production in January. Stay tuned...