Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit - Making of
Once upon a time in 1991, The Line’s Wesley Louis sat down with some colouring pencils, and started drawing a comic book about an armored rabbit with superpowers and a sword. Little did he know he had taken his first step on a journey that he wouldn’t see completed for another 24 years.
In 2013 Wes found the comic stuffed into the back of an old folder. 10 pages that, though unfinished, and slightly ravaged by time, perfectly captured all the joys and obsessions of a 13 year old child of the 90’s. Desert chrome, speedlines, ninjas, saturday morning cartoons, it was all there. The blueprint for his career, scrawled onto yellowing paper with a startling degree of skill.
He bought it into work and there was something about it that we couldn’t put down. Yes it was nostalgic, but more than that, it was a fully realised world, of heroes villains, and monkey sidekicks with guns.
Wes started to imagine what it’d be like if it were a real cartoon from the 90’s and before he knew it he had storyboarded the intro sequence. Rina May and Box of Toys Audio put together a rock solid theme song, and pretty soon everyone was hooked.
The project began with a flurry of doodles. The challenge was to expand the world of the comic whilst still being true to the source material. Vultanor and his henchman, Oozan (both features of the original comic book) were joined by Eusabius, a one-eyed pirate giraffe, and Nola, a spectacularly uddered, hammer-wiedling cow. Stan (our hero) also gained a squad of anthropomorphic warrior friends: Sam, a battle hardened fox with a cybernetic arm, Fernando, a travelling monk, Harland, a fast talking Cockerel, And Wyatt, a master tactician/ frog.
Wes pitched the idea to Electric Theatre Collective who immediately got behind it, providing much-needed funding and moral support, and pushing the idea into the realms of reality.
When the designs were ready we proceeded into animation. Alongside Wes we had three of the best animators in the business, our long time collaborators, Johnathan Djob Nkono, Peter Dodd, Matt Timms, and Duncan Gist. The team went to great lengths to be as true as possible to the the kind of animation we knew and loved from 90’s cartoon intros such as Thundercats, Samurai Pizza Cats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Usagi Yojimbo, and Flying Hat Turbo Adventure...pretty much anything with a really long title.
The rare but highly skilled role of the 2d animation cleanup artist was a vital component getting look right for Ninja Rabbit. We turned to Denise Dean, a veteran cleanup artist, who immediately nailed the look of the linework, and executed it deftly throughout the short.
Compositing was left in the capable hands of The Line’s Max Taylor, who brought an eye for detail to the production that matched that of its creator. Studying and imitating the marvellous imperfections of cel-colouring, and in-camera effects, Max was able to create two different versions of the film - a clean ‘celluloid’ version, as well as a slightly ropey video transfer, using real analogue equipment to generate a product that was indistinguishable from any bygone cartoon you may have recorded onto VHS in the 90s.
We wanted to believe STANR existed so bad. We wanted other people the believe it too, so we released it as if it was real. The ruse was crafted over the period of months, with backdated blog-posts and badly photocopied model sheets uploaded to forums, in the hope that someone would take the bait. We even went as far as to paint a single cel from the film, as well as selling a Ninja Rabbit lunchbox and flask on Japanese Ebay.
Did we feel bad about pulling the wool over people's eyes? Maybe a tiny bit, but it was so much fun. Forums like 4Chan and Reddit kicked off with characteristic fury, debating the intricacies of the animation techniques, and querying its provenance with a level of inspection we were not ready for. Barcodes were looked up, metadata was scoured (its always the metadata that gets you). We were rumbled. But the responses remained broadly positive. People seemed to want it to be real as much as we did.
Super Turbo Atomic MEGA Rabbit
When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released in 1987 it caused an uproar in the UK censoring bodies. The name "Ninja" was considered to have excessive violent connotations for a childrens program and had to be replaced with "Hero". They also had to remove all references to nunchukas in the show, one of the signature weapons of the Michelangelo character. Wesley wanted to reflect this in STANR. Wyatt, the frog character has a pair of Nunchukas in the final version of the animation but in the VHS copy we replaced this shot with one of him pressing some buttons on a computer and scratching his head. "Super Turbo Atomic MEGA Rabbit" is most likely the version that would have been aired in the UK
The VR Experience
Halfway through production process we teamed up with the astoundingly talented team at NoGhost. NoGhost were into the world of STANR from the outset and began testing the idea of building a virtual reality experience around the film. We had no idea what to expect from them but the day they invited us over to see the prototype we knew it was something very special. We had played VR games before and they'd only ever made us feel sick or confused. This experience was a million miles removed from that. As we began demoing and testing the game in the office, we got to see the immersive power of what they had created up close. The experience will be available to view online shortly from NoGhost website, keep an eye out. You remember what VR was like in the 90s? Basically it's nothing like that.
Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit Art Book
The PDF contains 108 pages of animation sequences, storyboards, character designs, model sheets, sketches and background art. Featuring designs by Jonathan Djob Nkondo, Backgrounds by Callum Strachan and Effects Animation by Matt Timms. As well as the original comic which started this whole project off, drawn by a 13 year old Wesley Louis in 1991.
The physical book will be available to order online shortly. For the moment you can get the PDF version from our Gumroad.
Created and Directed WESLEY LOUIS
Executive Producers LEE PAVEY JAMES SINDLE DANIEL MARUM GILES CHEETHAM
Storyboards WESLEY LOUIS
Additional Storyboards TIMOTHY McCOURT
WESLEY LOUIS JONATHAN DJOB NKONDO
Graphic Design MAX TAYLOR
PETER DODD JONATHAN DJOB NKONDO DUNCAN GIST WESLEY LOUIS
Effects Animation MATT TIMMS
Clean Up Lead DENISE DEAN
Additional Clean Up DUNCAN GIST AMIX FILM STUDIO
Background Artist CALLUM STRACHAN
Additional Backrounds BJORN ERIK-ASCHIM KRISTIAN ANTONELLI
BJORN ERIK-ASCHIM JONATHAN DJOB NKONDO
Colour DUNCAN GIST HELENE LEROUX MAX TAYLOR TIMOTHY McCOURT
Compositing MAX TAYLOR
Music and Sound
“SUPER TURBO ATOMIC NINJA RABBIT THEME ”
Written, Composed and Performed by RINA MAY
Music Production and Sound Design
BOX OF TOYS AUDIO CHRIS DIDLICK MAGNUS ARWENHED BEN LAVER
“WTL Productions”Voiceover ASHAN LOUIS-PHILLIP SAMAYA ALEXANDER JOSHUA FONTAINE
AUDREY LOUIS ANTOINE JAMES LOUIS NATALIE PLATT CHRIS KING SAM TAYLOR LAURENT ROSSI GABRIELLA CERENZIA ELECTRIC THEATRE COLLECTIVE NO GHOST COLLECTIVE HANAE SEIDA AZIZ KOCANAOGULLARI JENNY WELLS MERVIN LOUIS NANOU BLAIR GOULD TOM SHEARING DAN JESSOP ROSA NUSSBAUM