The second day of the New York Comic Con started with a bang. I attended the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter panel from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The panel wasn't about the film but rather the animated graphic novel entitled The Great Calamity, that is included exclusively on the upcoming Blu-ray. The Great Calamity director Javier Soto, key concept artist Nimit Malavia, and animation director Matt Whelan were there to discuss the process as well as provide a sneak peek at the short.
Before the discussion on The Great Calamity began, the panelists showed some sneak peeks at the bonus features included on the DVD and Blu-ray. Soto explained that while many people are going digital, things like this are the reason that home video is still around. The first clip was a behind-the-scenes segment discussing some of the intricacies of the film's development.
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Next up was a short focus on Ben Walker, the actor who portrayed Honest Abe. He had to sit in the makeup chair for six hours when preparing older Lincoln and three hours for the younger version. There was a timelapse shot that showed the whole process, which was pretty intense. Walker's entire face is covered with prosthetics. Hair, ears, everything. It all looks so natural though because it works.
The fight choreography was next. Director Timur Bekmambetov mentioned that these scenes were developed by a team in Kazakhstan and then later put through a Rotoscope in Moscow to create a 3D rendering. From here Bekmambetov would decide where to put the cameras to film the fights.
The last bonus feature clip was centered on the stampede scene from the film, in which Lincoln chases a vampire over a horde of rampaging horses. They wanted to make this scene work but obviously couldn't use real horses. Instead they got a studio in New Zealand to put everything together.
Finally, it was time to discuss The Great Calamity. Soto made it clear that this wasn't a motion comic. I agree and I would also hesitate at calling it an animated graphic novel. It's an animated short film, pure and simple. This takes a scene that was in the book, but did not make it into the movie and gives it life. It shows a secret discussion between Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe. Character actor Clifton Collins Jr handled the voicework for Poe while Ben Walker reprised his role for the 16th president.
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Soto was looking for a distinct style for The Great Calamity. After searching through many images, he found a painting on the web created by freelance artist Nimit Malavia that matched up to what he was looking for. Malavia described the piece in question as a personal one, mimicking an old Civil War death portrait. It's actually part of a set, with a portrait of a woman facing the other direction.
The design for Poe was sort of the opposite of Lincoln. Where the president was straight-backed with a light in his eyes, Poe was short and dark. He'd had a hard life of whiskey and women.
Soto had several people tell him that he needed the animated film to have smooth surfaces throughout, like those seen in movies like Toy Story. He knew that that was the wrong look for The Great Calamity and worked with Matt Whelan and Malavia to create the unique style. Whelan explained that it was a different process than what he was used to doing as he was using 3D technology to work with a 2D artist. In the end, they used Malavia's images wrapped around a 3D model.
The panel wrapped up with a clip from The Great Calamity. Lincoln and Poe were talking about how the vampires made their way to America. They were hunted and persecuted in Europe so they went to the land of freedom just like the Pilgrims did all those years ago. It was a very chilling clip and it set the tone for the film very well.
You can check out my interview with director Javier Soto for more information on The Great Calamity.
The Great Calamity is an eight-minute long animated short that will appear exclusively on the Blu-ray release of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, in stores on October 23rd, 2012.
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