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Tuesday, January 29, 2002


ADV Films has selected the production team that will be responsible for bringing the animated adaptation of Chaos! Comics' popular character Lady Death to life.

Co-producers Carl Macek and Andy Orjuela will soon travel to Asia to work with artists at SunMin Image Pictures Co., Ltd. under the supervision of director Young H. Sang, to begin the arduous process of creating the animation for this re-telling of the classic gothic heroine's origin.

The original screenplay, written by Macek, revisits the origin of Lady Death in what ADV Films calls "a faithful adaptation of Chaos! Comics founder Brian Pulido's original story." New plot elements have been introduced and key characters have been re-designed by Orjuela "to breathe new life into the property."

Executive producer John Ledford hopes to create a new production model with Lady Death that redefines the relationship between Asian animation studios and Western creators. Creative elements such as design and storytelling are the domain of domestic talent, while offshore "boutique" animation houses handle animation production services.

"This is not an attempt to clone anime production techniques," Ledford said, "but rather a genuine effort to develop a new working relationship that respects the various talents of the entire creative team."

Macek, who has been a fixture in the animation industry for over 20 years thanks to his work as President of Streamline Pictures and story editor for Harmony Gold's influential 1980s series, Robotech, is putting his experience into the construction of this new animation model. The goal for Macek, who also serves as the director of Lady Death, is to define a production environment that draws from the best of both worlds.

"Over the last 10 years, Japanese animation techniques have become accepted norms around the world," Macek said, "thanks to the success of various television programs and video games, not to mention the huge number of animated programming available on home video. But what is apparent in any survey of anime is that, in many instances, it has become a case of style over substance. Working to take projects out of cliched design cycles and produce a unique vision based on subject matter and core audience is key to ADV's plans."

Orjuela, who also served as co-producer and art director of ADV's first animation co-production, Sin, will be a key factor in this process. As co-producer and art director of Lady Death, his responsibility is to fashion an original environment populated by unique characters that are both fresh and familiar at the same time.

"The fun part is getting to create a new world," Orjuela said, "and then having a staff of artists halfway across the globe put their own spin on it, with the resulting work strengthened and enhanced through genuine intellectual co-production. It's an exciting way to work."

Korean-based SunMin Image Pictures' previous work includes Batman: The Animated Series for Warner Bros., Gargoyles, Timon & Pumba, 101 Dalmations and Hercules for Walt Disney, The Maxx for MTV, and the Grammy award-winning music video "Do The Evolution" for American rock group Pearl Jam.

Here's how ADV describes the movie:

"Lady Death tells the story of innocence betrayed and then reborn as a powerful elemental force capable of challenging the very roots of evil incarnate. Set in 15th Century Sweden, the film follows Hope, the beautiful daughter of Matthias - believed to be a skilled mercenary, but who in actuality is Lucifer, the Lord of Lies - who is accused of being the devil's consort following a hellish incident witnessed by a local priest. Ultimately, the mock inquisition sentences Hope to be burned at the stake. Unable to think clearly, she accepts Lucifer's offer of life in Hell - presented by the malevolent Pagan - over a hideously painful death. Lucifer's grand plan to pervert a pure soul meets unanticipated resistance, and Hope soon finds herself transformed into Lady Death. Together with the valiant outcast, Cremator, Lady Death challenges Lucifer's hell-spawned kingdom of darkness. The resulting conflict explores the depths of faith and love as an alternative to the corrupting power of evil."

Lady Death will be produced as an all-digital, wide-screen feature-length film. The production will be designed to appear as traditional cel animation, but the work will be completed in a "paperless" environment. The advantage of using this process is that the dark environments of the underworld and the even darker demons that populate it can be visualized with a palate of colors that are virtually impossible to achieve utilizing traditional animation techniques. The goal will be to approach the color palate seen in contemporary comic books and video games.

The production of Lady Death should take a year to complete. Along the way, ADV plans to continually update fans and industry insiders with glimpses of this unique production in various stages of completion.

"It's always interesting to get a peek behind the scenes of any production," Macek said. "It keeps interest high, and it creates a sense that something cool is coming our way."

(Note: Designs with this story are from 1999 and are being changed.)

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