Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on October 23rd, 2012. Included exclusively on the Blu-Ray release is an animated graphic novel entitled "The Great Calamity." I had a quick chat with Javier Soto, the director of the project, at New York Comic Con prior to his panel.
James Ferguson: What can you tell me about The Great Calamity?
Javier Soto: The Great Calamity is a story within the novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter that we've adapted into a fully realized animated short. What I love about the piece is that it's a slice within the universe of the movie that isn't crucial to the storytelling process and the overall story arc, but it sheds some insight when viewed.
So in the movie we see the vampires are in America. They're an accepted anomaly. What this short does is reveal how vampires got pushed out of Europe and into the Americas. Initially we wanted to do this as a live action extension of the film, but the limitations of budget and trying to coincide with the creation of the film pushed us into another direction. I think we ended up with a better piece because of it. It's its own thing. I've always felt that this is like the Animatrix or Gotham Knight, where the movie exists and then if you love that universe, you get to see other interpretations of it. I think going into animation but shooting towards a goal as high as Animatrix or Gotham Knight yielded a piece that is beautiful to look at but feels within the universe of the film.
JF: This is being called an "animated graphic novel", but is this more of an animated project?
JS: Animated graphic novel has come from a desire to make this unique. With the Blu-ray, you have to have leverage. The thing that's going to catch people's eye. It's an animated short, but I think the beauty of it is that if you park on any frame of the piece, it looks like a graphic novel. It's about how you sell it, but it is an animated piece and it's unlike anything you've seen before. I know people say that all the time, but I think there's a very small group of DVDs that have tried to do something like this. Wall-E had an extension that looked like the movie and I think the graphic nature of this is really what sells it as an animated graphic novel.
JF: So there are not speech bubbles popping up? These are all voice overs?
JS: Not at all. This is a movie. I love Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis and the old Disney animated films. What I love about this is that it sits in that world. It's not a flash animation and it's not repurposing images from storyboards. It's its own thing. It was a production that coincided with the shooting of the film. We worked on this for a year and a half. We knew from the very beginning and Fox was very ambitious about the type of content that they wanted to place on this. So it really was a mini movie, a mini-production.
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JF: So there wouldn't be a plan to release a physical graphic novel for this because it's more of an animated product.
JS: No, but I know in pre-release they did a motion comic that's kind of a piece of the book as well. We'll see what the response to the disc is, but I think you could take frames from this and compose them in a way that you tell the story, and it could play as a graphic novel as well. Usually you adapt a graphic novel to an animated piece or a live action, but here I think you could do the opposite and it would hold up.
JF: Did you collaborate with author Seth Grahame-Smith or the filmmakers in creating The Great Calamity?
JS: We did. Not with Seth, because I wanted the piece to really be an adaptation of his book. The collaboration existed in that we took the story from the book. The dialogue is very much his dialogue. It feels like the Lincoln in the book. I think people that love the movie but were introduced to this project through the book will feel that this bridges both worlds. I don't think Seth would be disappointed in any way in the way we have adapted this. And Jim Lemley and Timur were very involved in the process. As I said, we were working on this for over a year, so they would give us notes, we'd get on conference calls. When things weren't looking quite right or when they were pulling too far away from the movie universe, they were quick to let us know. They were also very supportive along the way. At some point, Tim Burton had to approve it. Everybody was very helpful.
JF: The film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has a very specific look and style to it. Was it difficult in trying to match that in the animation?
JS: That's the beauty of this. It feels akin to the movie, but it's its own thing. Because you're working with a schedule that's working at the same time as the movie, you can't wait for them to finish environments that are similar to what you're developing. Really what we did is we took the book and we took the script of the film. Seth adapted his book so you really get a lot of mood and atmosphere from his script. I think more than the film itself his original script really influenced the vibe of this piece. Having said that, I think you look at the piece and there are a couple of scenes in the movie, like the apothecary sequence, [where] you can really see that color palette and the way that we chose to present things. It feels very much like those sequences. It doesn't pull too far away from its source.
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JF: Did the actors from the film voice the characters in The Great Calamity?
JS: Yes, Benjamin Walker came in and he's our Abraham Lincoln. The challenge in this is that we have Edgar Allan Poe, who's not featured in the movie. So we went out and were very ambitious in who we were trying to cast as Poe and we found Cliffton Collins Jr. He's a great character actor. People would say "Well, who's Cliffton?" but if you've seen Star Trek, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, Guillermo del Toro's upcoming Pacific Rim, Traffic, Capote, this is the level of performance that Cliffton is capable of and that he brought to the piece. It's really interesting because you have an actor that's not in the movie but he's now interacting with the Lincoln from the film. I'm extremely proud of that.
It all starts with the voice in animation. You have your design and you have your voice. Both of their performances really anchor the piece at a level that most DVD supplements don't achieve.
JF: Are there plans to explore any further adventures of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?
JS: I leave that up to Fox. Now that we've built a universe, I would love to explore more of the relationship with Poe. The beauty of it is that once you build the world in 3D and with matte paintings, then you can go off and tell other stories. So we'll see if there will be other explorations of this relationship.
HorrorTalk would like to thank Javier Soto and the creators of The Great Calamity for taking the time to chat with us. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on October 23rd, 2012.
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