Monday, 13 October 2014

Kickstarter Spotlight: Gerry Anderson's Firestorm

Well this is certainly an ambitious idea. If you've looked at past crowd funding you'll have seen that everyone and everything has been tried with the growth of the site over the years. Video games, films, television, music and even potato salads have all been tried with varying levels of success, but over the years some of the fire has worn off. Many backers have been burned by some of the more pie in the sky ridiculous ideas and disappointing results from some of Kickstarter's biggest successes. It's caused a few new project pitches to lower their expectations, but with the opportunity for something bigger. Here's just one example, Gerry Anderson's Firestorm.

The idea is to bring back marionette shows to television by reworking an anime the late Thunderbirds creator had been a consultant for. The entire thing is to be made with the same practical effects, experienced individuals and minds which made the cult classics endure through the ages, and prove they can still be successful today. However, the Kickstarter itself is being used as much as a platform for proof of this interest as it is getting the series going. Rather than trying to fund the whole series, the project will be to help fund a minisode displaying what the crew can bring to modern television.

This is quite the intelligent move for a variety of reasons. The most obvious among these is that it simultaneously keeps costs down while at the same time proving to television networks that there is an audience out there. Petitions are so common these days that they tend to be overlooked. A large list of names willing to put cash behind something, and a short demonstration showing just what the series can pull off? That's definitely going to stand a much better chance of turning people's heads. Combined with the crew being able to work off of existing vehicle designs keeping the costs down further, and it's a surefire success. Hell, the thing is already funded right now.

So if it's already funded why is worth backing? Because of the stretch goals planned and clearly laid out. The current minisode planned is only a good five to eight minutes long, but that will increase exponentially with more cash given. With enough backing that will extend to a twenty-two minute pilot setting the scene for the series, and a forty-five minute feature length pilot going into greater detail atop of that. However, rather than having them set far apart, each stretch goal is added close together with individual additional scenes being added on as more cash is given. The most current one for example is to help show off the control room for Storm Force 9's Ocean Storm. Speaking of which we have the story outlined as well, largely keeping most elements from the anime:

"By the end of the 22nd century mankind has pulled itself up by its bootstraps. The wars and political disputes that were so common throughout the 21st century are long behind us, and man has finally taken responsibility for his own actions. The Earth in 2200 is very different from the one we worried about in 2014 - environmental, social and humanitarian crises are a thing of the past, and things have been that way for nearly 50 years. But in 2202 a new threat emerges.

Terrorist activity surfaces on several continents. At first the world governments deal with them quietly, without any real public awareness but the activity becomes better and better co-ordinated and more widespread. Soon the Continental senates decide to take action, and they invest vast amounts of resources into forming Storm Force - an organisation designed specifically to investigate and neutralise this new threat.

Supplied with the most advanced technology available Storm Force begin operation Firestorm to bring down the terrorist group known as Black Orchid. But as the 9th division of Storm Force (SF9) begin to make progress, they discover that Black Orchid is only a very small part of the picture, and that they themselves have had to make an impossible choice..."

Yeah, it's keeping most of the common tropes from UFO, Captain Scarlet and Stingray, but as Jamie Anderson has stated many times, the production crew is keeping the spirit of past successes close to heart. This is to say nothing of the production team itself. A few major names like Steve Begg are already attached, many co-workers from past Anderson shows putting in an appearance and voice actors range from Nicholas Briggs to other Anderson familiars. Those already slated for appearances as major characters and cameos are Nick Tate (Space 1999) and both Shane Rimmer and Matt Zimmerman (Scott and Alan Tracy, Thunderbirds).

The production is being transparent with its audience, knows exactly who to target and it has been met with great success so far. This said, there are a few notable issues which people might want to be aware of. The foremost among these is the designs of the puppets themselves, which are something of a departure from past creations. While they have the same proportions, the hair has been sculpted into their heads rather than using fake hair in the manner of older series. It's hard to tell how this will shape out on the whole, but both it and the eyes do give them an unusual look. A few people have noted this to be uncanny valley-esque but that's really down to individual opinion.

This said, while the show is also benefiting from Mark Woollard's direction (an old hand at marionette shows in this manner) the early teaser clip is somewhat questionable. The older shows were noted for some unusual quirks when it came to their direction thanks to the puppets, but here we have something truly odd. The early teaser footage displays a POV shot of one character working on a bomb, and it really only serves to show a few of the limitations of this work, especially the hands. The older series always used humans for such close ups to dodge any distinct problems, so having such an obvious mistake made by the footage promoting their work is eyebrow raising. Sure, it's likely this is not going to be repeated in the finished work, but this is the first real look into the show and supposed to entice people to back this.

The final thing of note which people should be wary of is that the pilot might not see some of these people behind it. This is openly stated within the project and there is an obvious push for total transparency to show backers just what they're getting into, but a lot is riding upon getting the right people in to do this work. Mighty No. 9 has already shown some of the problems having a key member of the team be someone backers did not necessarily agree upon. While the atomic explosion of controversy and accusations from that project is hardly likely to be repeated here, it does show some of the risks which come with choosing the right staff and the approval of backers.

Really though, on the whole this seems to be an interesting project which has been intelligently planned out. It's one fans of practical effects work and old Gerry Anderson shows should definitely get on-board with if this sounds at all appealing to them. They should just be sure to look carefully through the majority of the information available before choosing whether to back it or not.

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