Executive producer and President of McFarlane Productions Terry Fitzgerald treated an enthusiastic audience to an exclusive preview of the new animated direct-to-DVD “Spawn” feature film Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
The feature is still in pre-production, so there was no real footage to speak of; nevertheless, Fitzgerald and director Chuck Patton did not come empty-handed. First they screened a brief teaser trailer and some behind-the-scenes footage of McFarlane himself acting out a scene for the animators and then Fitzgerald and Patton introduced the rest of the production team. Also present were producer Joe Goyer, animator and character designer A.J. Jovkhmar and Andrea Yomtow, who leads the CGI modeling crew.
Fitzgerald explained the genesis of the project. “The original Spawn animated that ran for three seasons on HBO was a personal highlight for me,” he explained. “We broke a lot of ground. I think we were the first ones doing that kind of dark cartoon. And for the next two years I was getting 300 emails a week asking, ‘When’s it coming back?’ Now, long story short, Todd was doing toys. But when McFarlane Toys was up and running and able to function on its own, I went to Todd and said look, there’s a demand, and we talked about it and we kept coming back to the idea that we wanted to work with Frank Paur. So we talked to Frank and did some negotiating and when he was on board that was when it all took shape.”
Fitzgerald went on to describe the project in greater detail, saying, “It’s an eighty-five, ninety-minute feature, somewhere in there. Possibly it might work as a TV pilot, you know, the way the first episode of a new show is a two-hour movie. The thing is, this movie is dark. It’s not for under 13. There is some nudity — not a lot of nudity, but a little bit — and a lot of violence. I mean, it’s Spawn. Violence? Yes. Blood? Yes. Gore? Yes. You saw that bit in the trailer we just showed with the guy– we have guys with their eyeballs being removed, you know, which is always good, and so the market is limited for networks that can handle this stuff. HBO is interested. Showtime is interested.”
Patton took over as he talked about AJ’s character designs, projecting them for the audience on the giant-screen TV behind the panel first as line-art sketches and then with the painted color layered on. In addition to Spawn himself and supporting cast favorites Sam and Twitch, he also showed off some new characters, explaining the thought process that went into each design and growing more enthusiastic as he explained the motivation for each one.
Marie – “Marie’s our heroine. She’s a sort of oracle, a junkie oracle, who’s gotten involved with stuff that’s a lot bigger than her. The key word for Marie is ‘haunted,’ and that’s the look we tried to get.”
Lukas – “Lukas is our villain. He’s much more realistic. We don’t have a Cagliostro or a Clown in this feature, we wanted our new guys to be much darker, much nastier, but also much realer, you know, things you’d see outside your window. Lukas is a badass. He’s really, really scary. He’s a young, up-and-coming Russian mobster who plays on people’s superstitions, he sews people’s eyes shut… he’s a badass. He’s mean. And he shares something with Spawn — I don’t want to give it away. But we haven’t seen the last of Lukas. He’s like the next underworld Caesar.”
Barabas – “He’s a tank. He’s a big black badass thug, Lukas’ right-hand man. He’s six-foot-six, 320 pounds of solid muscle– but then you’ll see, Lukas is even scarier.”
Jackie – “She’s us. She made one bad decision and now she’s paying for it, it’s coming back to haunt her.” (“And she’s got back,” AJ put in, to much audience laughter. “I wanted to vary the figures, especially the female form, more than you see in animation. So she’s got a little bit of a caboose.”)
Perry – “He’s a twitchy hophead meth fiend. He’s Jackie’s boyfriend, the linchpin of the story; he kind of sets things in motion. He’s animation’s first tweaker! And he does things a tweaker would– you know, meth comes out through your skin and crystallizes, so you’re always itching. And so Perry’s always scratching.”
Summing up, Fitzgerald said, “Here’s the bottom line. I went in with the HBO DVDs and said, ‘this is what we have to beat.’ Not meet, beat. And we’re doing it. This is an urban horror story. In Todd’s script, New York is hell– and Spawn is here to scare the shit out of you.”