Company’s innovative new technology platform marries live-action human performance with CGI to bring unprecedented level of emotion and fidelity; four-episode miniseries gets Veteran’s Day release on Netflix.
After two years in development and another 20 months of production, Trioscope Studios’ gripping World War II animated drama The Liberator premieres today, Veteran’s Day, on Netflix. The four-part animated miniseries is based on the true story of World War II infantry commander Felix “Shotgun” Sparks, who led the 157th Infantry Battalion of the 45th Division, an integrated, Oklahoma National Guard unit of white cowboys, Mexican Americans and Native soldiers (over 52 tribes) drawn from across the west.
Written by Jeb Stuart (Die Hard, The Fugitive), directed by Greg Jonkajtys (Sin City, Pan's Labyrinth, The Revenant) and produced by A&E Studios, Unique Features and Trioscope for Netflix, the project is the first ever produced in Trioscope Enhanced Hybrid Animation, a new patent-pending technology combining state-of-the-art CGI with live-action performance, designed to bring an unprecedented level of emotion and fidelity to the animated drama experience. Jonkajtys developed the Trioscope technology together with partners L.C. Crowley and Brandon Barr. Crowley, along with Barr, serve as producers on the series.
When asked why he chose Commander Sparks’ story as their first major project, Crowley, Trioscope’s CEO, explains, “The Liberator project really chose us. It was the perfect storm of timing and luck. In this extraordinary series, everything we hoped to achieve came together perfectly. From period drama and action to the need for complex emotionality, this series is the absolute perfect fit for Trioscope.”
Conceived as a live-action production, development on The Liberator began long before the Trioscope team was brought on. “The project had been set up as a live-action series, written by Jeb Stuart using Alex Kershaw's book ‘The Liberator’ as its source,” Crowley says. “After the course of several years of hard work, A+E determined that the project would be too costly to produce as originally planned. Shortly thereafter, we showed a few A+E execs some test material that Trioscope created and they loved it. It was then decided to pivot the creative approach and make the series in Trioscope Enhanced Hybrid Animation. We completed the test episode, which everyone loved, and Netflix joined the team soon after.”
The series marks Los Angeles-based Trioscope’s first large project with Netflix and serves as their intro to the medium for large scale dramatic stories. The studio has also already partnered with Dark Horse Comics, Oni Press, Unique Features and Hulu on several unannounced projects.
According to Crowley, “The Trioscope platform is all about combining the deep emotional nuance viewers expect from premium live-action drama with the escapism and visual abundance that world-class animation brings.” He continues, “From our proprietary smart makeup and etching tools to our robust digital stylization and time calibration tools, Trioscope is designed to give creators a nearly unlimited palette for creating their own moving graphic novel storytelling experience.”
“Animation is great at building anything that can be imagined,” adds Jonkajtys. “Trioscope’s technology allows creators the opportunity to tell a visually compelling story with rich detail in a way that conveys the human emotion and drama of a serious subject matter.”
As described by Crowley, the production process begins by shooting actors’ live performances in a specially designed studio he calls “The Trioshere.” He goes on to note that “many of our on-set tools applied during filming are designed to interact with the camera to provide the key data that drives Trioscope's graphic novel signature look. But we are not using mocap of any sort. We want the actor's performance to be as unaltered as possible. From there, we bring the footage into post and apply a series of ‘secret sauce’ tools to enhance and marry the etching and style work done on-set, and then envelope the footage in a CG wrapper, styled to mirror the footage.”
Crowley and Barr have a long history together, having launched the successful Atlanta-based production company School of Humans a decade ago. The company built a reputation on genre defying and experimental projects such as Daytime Fighting League (Adult Swim), Stuff You Should Know (Science Channel) and Behind the Screens (Netflix) as well as progressive approaches to content through their podcasts, including the critical hit Hell and Gone.
An award-winning director, animator and VFX artist, Jonkajtys has served as a VFX creative at Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic as well as Café-FX. His directorial acclaim includes international short films such as Ark and The 3rd Letter, and among his many credits include Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Avengers: Infinity War, Sin City, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Revenant.
With his uniquely styled and animated World War II drama now in front of a global audience, Crowley hopes viewers “come away from watching The Liberator with the feeling that a whole new entertainment door has been opened -- an exciting new space for immersing themselves in stories that transport them to worlds distant from their own and ones that elicit compelling new emotional journeys as well.”
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.