It's been a really long time since I last posted, so here's a little recap of what I've been up to.
I finished my work on Paramount'sThe Tigerís Apprentice in March of last year. From April to June, I was able to work full time on my labor of love, The Saga of Rex movie.
In July, I was recruited by Brad Bird to help develop one of his projects. For a couple of months, I provided special effects and character concepts.
Once that assignement was wrapped, I joined Space Jam: The Legacy, where I acted as 2D Effects Designer and Lead Effects Animator for the Deluxe Animation unit in Toronto. Deluxe was the company that was hired by Warner Animation Group to create the 2D animation sequences. The job was intense and demanding, but also fun. Working with old pals, as well as new friends like Dan, Igor and Calvin made me feel part of a community again.
After a pretty exhausting several months, I finished my contract on Friday, May 7.
I decided that my course of action after Space Jam was to finish my feature film, The Saga of Rex. Therefore, I'm beginning a 3-year sabbatical to complete my 68-minute 2D feature film, The Saga ofRex.
I already have the equivalent of about three years' worth of full-time work vested in the film, and I decided it is time to give it the final push. I started a countdown clock at the top of the page, that will be a constant reminder of my completion date. I've never missed a deadline in my career and I certainly don't intent to miss this one.
I'm confident that with another three years of hard work, I will have the film ready for theatrical and/or streaming release. For those unfamiliar with the animation process, it may seem like a long time, but usually animated feature films are made with hundreds of people over a few years. Six years for one guy (with help on the inbetweens by my good friend and Padwan, Seung Kim) is actually not that long when you think about it.
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?