What once was a novel is now starting to become common place… and in this case it’s a very good thing.
A few years back, the Wachowski Brothers created “Animatrix,” an almost independent series of animated shorts that didn’t break from the flow of the Brothers’ “Matrix” movies. At the same time they added to the richness of the overall universe.
One director who paid particular notice of all this was Zack Snyder. Many may have forgotten that when he released “Watchmen” he also had a totally animated DVD released as a companion piece. Entitled “Tales of the Black Freighter,” it told a horrifying pirate tale in traditional animation style. As it wasn’t part of the main movie, it didn’t take away from that film. At the same time, anyone who knew the original comic would realize the importance of “Black Freighter.”
Last week, Snyder decided it was time to do it again, but also differently. Under the guidance of the up-and-coming Swiss animator Ben Hibon, he and Warner Bros. produced and released a series of four animated segments as part of a Web campaign. Each one was, in its own way, tied to “Sucker Punch.” At the same time, you didn’t have to see them in order to enjoy the movie.
“There were four shorts to represent the four worlds the girls have to go through to collect their prizes and escape,” Hibon explains. “What was cool was Zack and Warner Brothers were cool about doing them the way I did them.
“As a creative team we felt we were giving more to the fan. They are meant to say what the antagonists of the movie are all about. Also, because they would only be seen on the Internet, they are not to be seen as throwaway. They more like the codex on the side of a text book or a side story in a comic book.”
Working on a major feature film is nothing knew to Hibon. Born in Geneva he started earning his chops by doing story-moving clips for video games. It wasn’t long before he caught the attention of Warner Bros. They then hired him to do the “Three Brothers” animated clip that was inside “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1.”
“It was what made Zack Snyder decide he wanted to work with me on “Sucker Punch,” says Hibon. “It was a different tone. It also involved different techniques. Then again, we did them for a very different purpose. The Harry Potter piece was very much an integral part of the story. The “Sucker Punch” shorts are not. They are more supplemental. They don’t break the narration of the film. They are separate, kind of prefaces to the main story, and meant to only add to the flavor.”
Which they most certainly do. Whether it’s the tragic tales of “The Trenches” or “Robot” or the more straight up horror of “Dragon” and the “Black Samurai” segments, they employ a radically different art direction from the core film, yet feel perfectly in tune to the main movie in general.
It appears Hibon’s track record is getting him some attention. He’s now in deep negotiations for not one, but two, animated feature films.
“It’s a very good time to be in animation,” says Hibon. “It’s a very dynamic medium. I think with a little luck you can see as many animation styles as there are animators.
“I’m a big fan of cinema in general. I’m in love and grew up with both Japanese and American cinema. These days Europe is starting to develop its own wide range of styles from an amazing pool of talent that’s more based on Belgian and French graphic novels than anywhere else. There is an excess of amazing material there.
If his work on “Sucker Punch” and “Harry Potter” are any indicator, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of Hibon in the very foreseeable future.