Unless you’ve been living under a rock (with no wifi connection) in recent times, you should already be aware that the TV series is a pretty big deal at the moment. From nostalgic 80s-tinged Sci-fi/Horrors to blood thirsty epics where families fight for a chair made from swords, the draw of episodic content has never been stronger. The latest filmmakers looking to hook an audience in with some strong world building and rounded characters are Adam Floeck and Nate Swinehart with their animated series The Sentinel. With a trailer just released and the pair looking for distribution or partnership, we spoke to the filmmakers to discover a little more about what we can we expect from their story and what will keep an audience coming back for more.
The world as we know it is gone. A terrible force known as The Scourge has ripped apart the land, boiled the seas and broken even gravity itself. A band of survivors has taken refuge in a mountaintop fortress, the lone safe-haven from the chaotic world below. They constructed a mythic warrior, a stone giant known as The Sentinel, with the power to restore the world so that it can once again sustain life. Centuries pass as the people wait for their hero to return and liberate them, but a boy named Ori refuses to wait any longer. He is willing to do the forbidden and escape the fortress itself to seek the warrior and fulfill the Legend of Humanity’s deliverance. Little does he know The Sentinel is waiting just outside the fortress walls, and the journey the two must embark on is nothing either could imagine.
The Sentinel is the story of a diverse set of people coping with their inner turmoils as well as with the physical obstructions before them, each trying to find their place in a world that constantly changes and pulls people apart. With this, we aim to emphasize the weight and complexity of the everyday choices Ori and the Sentinel have to make. In this world, the good guys sometimes make bad decisions, and the villains have understandable motivations. As such, much of our inspiration comes from stories with characters forced into uncomfortable situations struggling to make sense of the world and to form an identity that is their own. Some of these include Shadow of the Colossus, The Iron Giant, and the films of Studio Ghibli.
Expecting the unexpected is a pretty safe bet! We’ve created a world that’s both familiar and almost unrecognizable at the same time and we’re excited to take people through it. Even simple things like gravity don’t work the way you expect in this place, this world is constantly surprising you. And the same goes for our story. We chose elements fans of adventure stories can latch onto such as ancient warriors, epic quests and mystic artifacts, but beneath it all there are some larger themes at work that will challenge our heroes and hopefully the audience as well. We promise you won’t be bored!
The Sentinel – Concept Art
Being part of an epic adventure across an unfamiliar world is what we hope will have folks coming back. Our heroes are charged with a pretty huge task, the classic ‘the fate of humanity lies in the balance’ sort of quest, but we’re also going to get to watch this friendship develop over the course of the series between the boy and the warrior and just how the two challenge and change each other. Discovery is a big part of the series too…each new setting is totally different than the last, and part of the fun is just seeing what this world is like and how people have adapted and survived.
We’re both trained as animators so it [3D Animation] was a natural choice of medium for us, especially with the epic nature of our story. The protagonist is a 40-foot giant made of ancient floating rocks, that’s definitely gonna work best in 3D! Audiences also have a certain expectation for the kind of stories animation can tell, and we want to nudge that expectation forward a little bit. There’s been a trend in live-action to subvert tropes and expectations in a lot of series recently, and it feels like animation could use something similar. The Sentinel is gonna surprise and challenge its audience in what an animated work can be. Animation has created some of the most emotionally impactful stories we have, people have a real connection to these works, and they can be a lot deeper and richer in their themes while still being a lot of fun. Also, as far as tools go, we worked primarily in Maya, but also used such programs as the Adobe Suite, Mari, and Nuke.
Legacy was a big learning experience, as it was our first major collaboration together and we almost managed a large amount of artists. Things like pipeline, file structure and clear communication can make or break these sorts of endeavors…already knowing that going into The Sentinel was key, especially because this time folks were helping largely out of friendship or interest in the project. Learning to trust each other and our fellow artists was also something huge…it’s really the vision of a lot of people and Nate and I made sure to always get input and feedback from everyone involved, we wanted everyone to have a fingerprint on this project and it feels much richer for that.
For our next step, the hope is that we’ll be able to secure funding for The Sentinel to fully bring the world we’ve created to its audience. We have our pilot episode ready to start production and a full series plot developed, so at this point it’s just a matter of finding the people who believe in us enough to give us the go ahead to keep moving forward! We can’t wait to share this world and story with our audience so they can be as excited about it as we’ve been to make it!