It's very important for Tim Miller and Jeff Fowler of VFX and animation house Blur Studios that you know they're huge fans of Eric Powell's "The Goon." It's why the duo--along with producer David Fincher--are hustling so hard to put together a story reel for prospective studios for their CG adaptation of the Dark Horse ongoing. A story reel is a feature-length cut of all of the storyboards for the film with music and voice acting, and they've taken to Kickstarter to get this $400,000 project funded.
Fowler is a writer, animator, and director responsible for Blur's Academy Award-nominated short "Gopher Broke" and Miller is a veteran visual effects creator, who parlayed his work with David Fincher on the titles for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" into a directing gig on the recent, Fincher-produced live-action "Halo 4" launch trailer. Blur's also aiming for additional CG ads for some upcoming games that they can't yet talk about, and previously announced projects like "Deadpool" at Fox and "Gravel." But for right now, their focus is on "The Goon."
"The same reason it makes a great comic book is the same reason it would make a great film," Fowler tells me. "There's nothing out there like it. Eric's world doesn't have any kind of parallel in comics or film." That world is a rundown version of the 30's where the scarred title character acts as muscle for the local gangsters while also putting fist to head to all manner of supernatural creatures and freaks. But if you've read the comic, you know it's not simply one of those mashups that could easily be summed up as "gangsters vs. zombies," instead weaving a complex and occasionally emotional, and often very funny story of rough justice and revenge in the backwoods.
Fowler says it has what he calls the "window dressing" of robots, zombies, and supernatural action, but at its core, it's the story of a thug attempting to be a better man in an evil world. "It's kind of like Robin Hood if the villagers didn't know he was a good guy," Miller adds.
A "trailer" has been kicking around since around 2010 featuring the voices of Clancy Brown and Paul Giamatti as Goon and Franky (roles they've been attached to since the project was announced back in '08). But that was really more of a proof of concept, the actual production struggling to find a studio home precisely because of how out there and unique the source material is.
Fincher's name attached to the project should be enough to get this made, right? Why the need for the story reel? For Miller, a script simply isn't enough for studio execs who might not be able to visualize the world of "The Goon" on the page. He says that most studio execs are so inundated with materials from filmmakers--including Blur's own care package of a grip of "The Goon" comics--that it's unlikely that they get to reach much or any of what's passed along. "We're lucky if they've skimmed through some of the comic books and thumbed through the script," he says but that with the story reel, for two hours execs will have something more concrete to focus on and a clear view of what they're going for with the film.
More importantly, the support of the fans through the Kickstarter campaign would show that there's an audience for the material. Potentially, Fincher could simply back the whole thing himself, but that wouldn't translate into distribution and getting "The Goon" out in front of eyeballs. "A Hollywood guy writing a check for a vanity project doesn't speak to the studios the same way as the fans supporting the project in a very real and material way."
Miller says that all of the elements of the feature are in place, though, introduced gradually during Powell's 12-year run with the character at Dark Horse (who is also co-producing the feature). "At the end of this long 10 year arc, you really have this traditional three arc structure," he says. The planned story would cover the origins of Goon, and the introduction and conflict with the Zombie Priest. That means the story would wrap back and cover Goon's time in the carnival.
When I ask them about the challenge of getting mature viewers into a theater to see an animated comic adaptation ("The Goon" movie is shooting for a PG-13), feel like that's more of a marketing issue than any kind of hard rule about more adult animation grabbing an audience in the U.S.. Fowler says that in the same way that you can't lump all live-action films together, the same shouldn't be done to animated features. We got into the discussion of the underperforming "Paranorman" from Laika, which skewed a little older but failed to connect upon release. Miller says that part of the problem was the way that movie was marketed, which pushed it squarely towards kids (he's quick to point out he hasn't seen the movie, but it was definitely intended for a somewhat more mature viewership).
To that last point, I asked about the rating and keeping the action, violence, and raunchy humor of a series featuring a story called "Satan's Sodomy Baby" intact in a PG-13 film. Miller counters that "The Goon" was never really about explicit sex or violence, and that the world they're building around the source material would work in their proposed. "We could still have 99.9% of what Eric put into the comics."
So have they successfully made their pitch? Blur's already put down half a million of their own money at this point, so will you pony up the funds to help them get another step closer to getting the feature made?