Graham Chapman. A Python, Homosexual, Doctor Of Medicine, Comedy Genius, Alcoholic, Lunatic and- According to John Cleese- A Freeloading Bastard. When Justin Weyers and Alex Tovey founded Made Visual Studios, they were tasked with the difficult job of bringing an animated Graham Chapman back from the dead (although not really, of course). Here’s what Justin has to say on the matter.
This is an interesting story to tell, and we are going to do it with the other members of Monty Python, 15 animation companies, a couple of composers, guest stars and also a few monkeys. Not only this but we are also jumping on the bandwagon to create it in stunning stereoscopic 3D, so Graham will really be face to face with you. But wait… Isn’t he dead?
Graham Chapman wrote a book called The Liar’s Autobiography, published in 1980, and then in 1981 he recorded himself reading it in a single night, in Harry Nilsson’s studio, at a time when audiobook recordings were not yet commonplace. These tapes have been pulled apart and put back together with re-recordings to turn this book into a colourful feature film. This was done by the three main directors Bill Jones, Ben Timlett and Jeff Simpson, who have been hard at work writing and re-writing the script for 4 months.
The film is produced by Bill and Ben Productions and is expected to be about 85 minutes long, ready for theatrical release by Trinity here in the UK and by Brainstorm Media in the States. In the United States it will have a debut on the television and online services operated by Epix. Bill and Ben productions produced and directed the multi-Prime Time Emmy Award nominated Monty Python Almost The Truth: The Lawyer’s Cut, telling the story of Monty Python, and marking the Python’s 40th anniversary celebration. So why not keep telling the stories about this hilarious comedy group, starting with the one that passed away in 1989, Graham Chapman, or as you may know him ‘A Very Naughty Boy’.
Stereoscopic 3D has been taking over in the last couple of years, and going to the cinema and seeing something without glasses feels weird to me at the moment. The only way to start any project is research followed by research, so after going back to Avatar and then watching every 3D film that has been coming out from Pixar’s Up to Pina (amazing stereo work), and even Justin Biber’s Never Say Never, which was a couple of hours that I have lost forever.
My stereoscopic journey has been epic. We actually first spoke publicly about this project back in November 2010 at the Barbican, London, where there was a Short & Sweet film night showing 12 different stereo projects. At that point I don’t think we actually knew what we were creating as I stood at the front and tried to sum the project up in 5 minutes. Right then and there I knew we were developing a monster that was only going to get bigger and bigger.
One of the biggest hurdles in the project was finding all the animation companies who would be interested in bringing their individual styles into a stereo environment. There are a lot of conferences and discussions going on about shooting live action stereo but nothing touching the illustrated animation world. I’m not really talking about CGI as in a way this set up is ready to render out 2 cameras as the assets sits in a stereo3D space. Lets talk about cell animation or oil on glass or stop frame or even compositing a mixed media effect.
Mmm now I’ve got you thinking. Well it got us thinking. We would theoretically need to make sure each company were able to work in stereo and we may possibly need to train them. In came myself and the team at Made Visual Studio to commission the animation. Our first task was to draw up a list of all the companies we admire and would love to work with. These companies needed an open mind and must be prepared to give a lot of love to this project, not only in their time but also in learning a new way to experience their work.
Starting with a long, long list we began calling around and gauging interest. We were amazed by the positive feedback and next thing you know I was using all modes of transport, travelling around the countryside meeting everyone face to face. London, Bristol, Manchester, New York, and just around the corner. It was important that not only the company could actually complete the work but have the right frame of mind to work on a project that has never been done before. The excitement in the whites of people’s eyes never lies. Stay tuned.