Co-operative CGI filmmaking
In the midst of the MPAA and the RIAA suing anything that moves, it is somewhat refreshing to see efforts like Elephants Dream appear out of nowhere. Drawing their finance from an enthusiastic but restrained public who pre-ordered the DVD, this amazingly professional CGI film was released this week for free on the web... The term Free can mean a lot of things and in this case it not only extends to charge (you pay nothing to download it) but also free as in freedom - the entire project is licensed under a relatively nonrestrictive licence meaning you are free to re-use their material as long as you attribute it and observe the spirit of the licence. The music, the programs used and the data that makes up the film is all there for the more avid fan to toy about with and even, if you're feeling exceedingly creative, create your own spinoff of this film.
Running for a little over ten minutes, Elephants Dream may not be the most polished CGI effort ever to see the day but given that the animation was the work of only seven animators, it does make one wonder when, rather than if, we shall see a feature length release following this unconventional appoach. Opting for a relatively oblique theme, the creators have seemingly painted themselves in a corner with the children''s market so no bad jokes or singalongs in sight. Better still, this effort transports us into a realm similar to that painted by Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City) or the earlier efforts of Caro and Jeunet with a dash of Lynchean mystery.
The major question is whether this form of funding ("you pre-pay so we can give it away") will work on a larger scale - will Elephants Dream be seen in 20 years time as the film that started it all or be some obscure entry as the first and only truly open and free CGI film? With a followup in the works, we can but hope it shall be the former rather than the latter.
See their website: ElephantsDream.org and download the film.