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Review: The Great Calamity (from the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter blu-ray)

So I had a bit of a time getting to NYCC on Friday morning and missed one of the panels I was really looking forward to. It was a preview of the upcoming blu-ray release of the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. More specifically, the animated short “The Great Calamity” which will be included on the disc. Thankfully, their publicist is awesome and set up a quick phone interview with the creators of the project. 

First off, I’d like to make it known that the company producing the marketing for this short keeps referring to “The Great Calamity” as a “motion comic”. I think this is just one of those situations where the suits heard this as a “buzz word” and since they hadn’t seen animation like this before, decided that it would be better than calling it a “Cartoon”. “The Great Calamity” is most definitely not a “motion comic”. It’s also not a cartoon.  The easiest thing to call it is an “animated art piece”. As you read on, I think you’ll get a better grasp of what I mean by that.

During the call, I spoke with Animation Director Matt Whelan and Key Concept Artist Nimit Malavia. I say, “Key Concept Artist”, but as I spoke with the guys, it became clear that he was the artist. Period.

Do yourself a favor and look up this guy’s artwork. There’s some amazing pieces.

Only in his mid-20’s, Nimit’s career has included so much varied work that it’s not difficult to see that his talent is worth keeping an eye on. His work can be seen in almost every medium. Galleries, comics, movies, tv, and now, animation.
When this short had begun production in September 2011 at  House of Cool studios, director Matt Whelan and his department didn’t have a clear direction on how to go ahead with it. Matt had worked as a CG supervisor on films like Tron: Legacy, and David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, for which he was nominated for a 2012 Genie Award. All they knew was that Nimit’s work had influenced the vision of Content Director/Producer Javier Soto, and he wanted that reflected in the animation.

Not exactly relevant to the article, but check out this amazing cover piece Nimit did for “Wolverine & Jubilee” #2.

After a few unsatisfactory attempts to create something based on his designs and artwork, they decided to take the next obvious step.  Bring Nimit in and have him “paint” his artwork directly into the computer to be animated. When I posed to him my favorite question, “What work have you done that you’re most proud of?”, his answer was working on this short piece with Matt and his team, because he had found it one of the most challenging and satisfying projects in his career thus far.

The short is atmospheric, visceral, and gorgeous. After a moment, you don’t even realize that what you’re watching is an animated piece of artwork. Nimit’s matte paintings were mapped onto both the environment and the 3D figures. The result is a tad jarring at first, I will admit. But then again, isn’t any deviation from the norm? It lends to an amount of detail in the art that is normally lost in animation without an enormous budget. Even then, in a lot of big budget animations, you sometimes wonder where the money went. Anyway, with this, it took very little for me to acclimate and warm up to it.

As for the story, a few people have made comments that it doesn’t look like it fits with the movie. To an extent they’re correct.

Poe looking morose and pensive….I mean…does he even *have* another look?

The story in “The Great Calamity” is concept that expands upon the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe as mentioned in the AL:VH novel. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s pretty much everywhere now, so you haven’t an excuse to run out and pick it up, or buy it on your nook/kindle/e-reader/whatever.

“The Great Calamity” will be an extra available on the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Blu-ray, which releases next week on October 23rd.  If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out. It was a really cool and fun movie directed by one of the few names out there that still understands the importance of atmosphere in horror films, Timur Bekmambetov. Timur made the excellent “Night Watch” series about the age-long conflict of Vampires and Humans, AND one of my personal guilty pleasures, “Wanted”. YES I read the comics. YES I enjoyed them. NO I don’t care that the movie had practically nothing to do with them, I think it’s fun anyway….now go crawl back in your hole.

I’ll post a full review of the AL:VH film and the disc’s content as soon as I get it next week. Until then, check out the preview for TGC right here (quick note: this trailer was released exclusively to IGN, but the rep I coordinated this article with gave permission to use it here, so don’t gimme no flak about the IGN watermark!):

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