Calabash Animation, the acclaimed animation studio led by Sean Henry and Wayne Brejcha, takes viewers into the animated fantasy world of “Eternal Descent,” the popular comic book/music series created by guitarist Llexi Leon, with a new two-minute short that brings to life the gothic world envisioned in print by Leon and illustrator Jason Metcalf.
“The style of the comic was already established,” Henry says. “The first part of our job was to adapt the characters into an animation-friendly style while keeping as much of the look and mood of the original comic as possible. It was a daunting task because the comic art is very detailed and naturalistic; there are few artists who can work in this style fluently. Many animators are comic book fans, and our creative team was excited about the challenge of working in this darker, more realistic style.”
A visually stunning fantasy comic book series published by IDW, “Eternal Descent” features storylines filled with gothic adventures featuring guitar-wielding heroes. Acclaimed heavy metal guitarist Leon is the mastermind behind the story, which centers on three main characters — Lyra, a lead singer/guitarist in a popular band whose fame-at-any-cost attitude has made her vulnerable to Loki, a powerful demon plotting world domination. Helping Lyra is Sirian, one of heaven guardians. What unifies Lyra and Sirian is their weapon choice: searing electric guitars.
In addition to the powerful art of the comic books, which recalls the classic 70s animation magazine Heavy Metal with a modern spin, is the music created by Leon and produced by rock legend Eddie Kramer (Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones).
The combined visual and audio components make “Eternal Descent” a truly visionary concept that has led to thousands of fans and endorsements from leading music manufacturers like ESP Guitars, Digitech and DiMarzio guitar pickups.
“The concept was action heavy and effects heavy, and although the budget was limited, I was hoping for hand drawn character animation wherever possible,” Leon says. “Everyone I spoke too said it couldn’st be done. Calabash was the only studio willing to take on the challenge without compromising the script. They were optimistic about the potential of the piece, and they understood what I was trying to achieve. More importantly, they had the creative vision to think well beyond the technical challenges of the action and effects sequences, confident that everything would be possible by mixing mediums and combining techniques.”
Set to an ominous musical score featuring some amazing guitar solos, the story line of the short centers on a concert featuring Lyra that quickly turns from cheering fans in an outdoor stadium to fire-eyed demons trying to capture Lyra. She falls from the stage, crashes through the ground and lands in an underworld coliseum where Loki confronts her. As the battle begins Sirian comes to Lyra aide. Lyra escapes, but the cliffhanger ending suggests it is only the beginning.
Calabash animation director Jessica Plummer led the creative team through the complex production. For her, the challenges centered on managing the production and character details.
“This was a very different project outside our usual fare,” Plummer says. “As a director, the challenge was not only understanding the characters and their world, but also trying to convey that insight to the rest of the team. We wanted to reveal the nature of these characters — from their poses to their expressions. With so little time to get to know these characters before we started work, it felt like we were cramming for a final exam at school.”
Added Henry, “Everyone knows Calabash for our high-end character work, but we are sometimes pigeon-holed because so much of our work tends to be more on the ‘cartoony’ side. This was a chance to show the world some of our other capabilities.”
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