Kids Kino ROUND TABLE @ Animation Production Days (APD)

By Viola Gabrielli

Kids Kino Industry hosted a ROUND TABLE at the APD on Transmedia Storytelling – exploring how to develop a universe on diverse platforms that are coherent, the motivation behind new dimensions and the challenges working together with diverse partners. With a focus on Eastern European projects, the Round Table looked at JOURNEY TO YOURLAND, the first transmedia project produced by BFilm (Czech Republic), Plutoon (Slovakia) together with ThePack Studio (Belgium). The project combines 3D CGI animation with a distinctive stop motion appeal utilizing the real-time engine Unity for final images.  Whereas the film had been a priority in the making and has been released this year, the production team wanted to create an IP with a great Universe to explore on diverse (digital) platforms as a game, book and VR experience thus exploring the story in different angles and attracting a wider audience. Jan Hameeuw, Founder & Executive Producer of The Pack Studio in Belgium co-produced the film, taking care of the technical pipeline and the big part of the execution, and is now taking the lead of the project’s VR experience. In the talk with Viola Gabrielli, he looked back into his motivation to come on board of the project, its development process of the story on diverse platforms, its financial and technical challenges as well as the new dimension the story will gain from its freshly produced immersive experience.

Interested in interactive forms to tell a story and missing the right projects for these forms of storytelling in the past, Jan found interest in JOURNEY TO YOURLAND. Together with the Czech and Slovak team they compiled an ambitious plan to 1. produce the story cross platform 2. make the visuals more appealing for young audiences 3. create a world and an IP with its extended stories for diverse (digital) platforms. However, in order to reach this goal there were few challenges within the script and within the available budget (3,800,000 Euro) to overcome. The possibilities to use a game engine provided technological and creative advantages as well as being able to produce more budget friendly. But using a game engine in a full feature-length production is not an easy task, particularly working with artists who have never used this kind of software before. So The Pack was creating the platform SYNK in order to keep the traditional animation workflow in place and transform information into the game engine.

The first other media/platforms than film for YOURLAND were the book and mobile game, obvious platforms to develop parallel to the film when it comes to finance. Placed in YOURLANDS underworld the game offered a casual point and click adventure featuring the boulders of the story. Financial partner was the Slovak Film Fund in cooperation with a Slovak game developer. The book project provided 6 short adventures as a sequel combined with an AR extension that showed how the inventions in each story worked. Regarding the design, the creators intention was to offer a style that was distinctive and different from the film. However, publishers in Belgium did not like it. So the team worked closely together with Czech and Slovak publishers only.

For a more immersive extension of YOURLANDS storyworld the latest VR technology was used to tell a 20 minute prequel. The story focuses on one of the two main character’s mom, who died before the beginning of the movie. It allows the audience to understand a new part of the storyworld in an immersive experience, that technically reuses the background already developed for the movie, allowing the production to drastically lower the costs compared to a stand-alone VR production. With cinemas in Belgium being open for VR extensions and the possibility of festival exploitation, the team hopes to manifest YOURLAND’S IP and reach up audiences that like to be more active viewers.

The whole project development was a long process of 14 years until all elements were fully produced. The important lesson Jan has learned from this experience was to never underestimate the timing of different development processes especially when there is a strategic need to release several works at the same time (for example, the game to be released close to the theatrical release in order to use it as a marketing tool as well).