By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom can make a great holiday gift for fans of Cthulhu and H.P. Lovecraft’s works. The adult self may well be morbid with his harsh opinions about the people he’s met and the Jazz Age he lived in, but for the youth, his innocence has yet to be tarnished. With snow hitting parts of the Pacific Northwest, I have the print volume, video release and compilation hardcover (amazon listing) to cozy up to and the Dreamlands to visit as I lay snuggled up in my blanket. Some comic book stores may not be able to order them in, and thankfully they can be obtained through Arcana Studios’ website or on Amazon.
I wanted to know more about what’s coming for this trilogy. Reception is great for the animated version, and Arcana Studios is focussing on making Howie one of their flagship products. Michelle O’Reilly (pictured right), co-founder of the company, explained both she and her husband, Sean, wanted to give their production house a bit of rebrand. They want to focus more on kid-friendly content. She said, “Everyone loves H.P. Lovecraft but he’s not very kid-friendly. We made our own version that’s suitable for younger audiences.”
When looking at the two mediums to which this character is developed for, some readers/viewers may well notice a difference in artistic style. “Gary Yuen is our art director and modeler, and I really do love how he went into a much more Tim Burton look especially with Howard. Because there were so many artists on the book series, Howard’s look was never completely locked down,” Sean explained. “One of the greatest things from comic to movie comes from learning what worked and what didn’t work and being able to make those changes.”
With the upcoming two films, Undersea Kingdom for 2017 and The Kingdom of Madness in 2018, alterations to the story are in store. Guns and grenades were used in the print version, and numerous distributors in the animation industry did not like the idea. Teaching kids to use violence is never good. As the next film goes into production, this detail will be gone and new characters will get introduced. Miskatonic University is hinted as being at the forefront. Unlike the role-playing game and a few cinematic treatments where heroes have to use weapons of mass destruction to deal with cosmic terrors, gentler methods to win the day in the animated version will have to be considered instead. The only work is to rejig the story so readers still find some similarity to what series writer Bruce Brown created.
“From a production point of view, we are reusing the animation assets across three movies. It saves us a lot of time in design and modeling, and our entire animation team is literally rolling from one movie to the next. We’ve kept some of these employees in their full-time position, without any interruption, since 2010 and I am very, very proud of that,” said Sean, “It’s been our number one focus to nurture and grow our studio and it’s sometimes amazing to think we’ve come this far.”
More films will be coming. and Sean says Steam Engines is next in the pipeline, to be distributed by Cinedigm. He’s in negotiations with Shout! Factory in what is next after the Howard Lovecraft trilogy is finished. This producer would like to see Pandy, Ultraduck, A Cat Named Haiku, Aqualung translated to theatrical releases and he also has a sequel in mind for Pixies called Pixies & Trolls.
“For live action, Amnesia is in development with Film Nation, and I’d like to see 100 Girls, 10th Muse, Kade, American Wasteland and Corrective Measures,” mused O’Reilly.
Between writing and overseeing these cinematic projects, this producer sometimes finds time to relax. On a daily basis, he feels to handle everything tossed at him is impossible to manage.
Sean revealed, “So much of what I do is react to problems or situations and it’s difficult to reflect the past and articulate the future I envision.”
Whether that’s with more live-action, animation or in print, this CEO of Arcana Studios is constantly busy. He is currently working on the cinematic adaptations for the continuing adventures of Howard Lovecraft in the Undersea Kingdom and the final story, Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness distributors can be happy with.
“On the publishing side, I’m going to continue an all ages book and I’ve just started a high concept live action slate of books. New publishing titles are: Lex Talionis, Magistra Vitae, Geronimo Rising, The Socrates Project, Gene Simmons’ Zipper & Dominatrix, Herbert West & Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice and the new Kade graphic novel.
“Sounds heavy, but it’s working out amazingly well. We are very thankful to be here and continue doing what we are so passionate about,” said O’Reilly