By Marty Mulrooney
Orient City: Ronin & The Princess is an upcoming animated film described by its creators as a “samurai spaghetti western.” Featuring gorgeous hand-drawn animation, the film was recently announced via Kickstarter, with the project’s two filmmakers and graphic novel creators hoping to raise $30,000. Having previously reviewed his graphic novels R.E.M. and Harbor Moon, AMO is delighted to present an exclusive online interview with one of the talented creative minds behind Orient City, Ryan Colucci!
Hi Ryan, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I’m just your average, everyday real-life superhero. I am a lacrosse fanatic, MMA wannabe and I also make movies and graphic novels.
What have you been up to since I reviewed your graphic novel R.E.M in 2013?
Last year I directed my first live-action film, Suburban Cowboy. It’s a small film… a gritty thriller that is being sold right now, so I try to keep myself busy and not freak out about that.
I also have a young adult graphic novel in production, Bulderlyns. It’s close, but still a few months away.
You recently announced your latest project, a hand-drawn animated film called Orient City. What’s the premise of the film?
Orient City is a samurai spaghetti western and takes place in an ultra-violent city that stretches vertically. We wanted this to exist in a world that was unlike anything either of us had seen. And the shape is something we feel is unique – a city that stretches vertically on top of four rocks connected by the channels of water at their base. As the city rises up, connected by stairways and cable cars, so do the classes and high society lives an opulent, wasteful lifestyle above the clouds.
In the centre of it all is Boshi, our hero. Or the closest thing to it. He’s a fallen samurai who spends most of his time in an opium den. He’s hired by a man named Rooster to protect a wealthy family. Set up to fail, he winds up bonding with the daughter, Nessa. The little girl would rather become a great warrior than a princess and when she’s left all alone she must do exactly that.
What can you tell us about the main character, Boshi?
He’s deeply troubled. All of the people in this world are rough around the edges. This is a world built on violence, bloodshed and corruption. Even the best of them are still extremely flawed.
I grew up on spaghetti westerns, and the heroes of those were characters that lived by a code – but their own code. It wouldn’t fit in today’s politically correct universe. I love that. Guys like Harmonica and Blondie, who don’t speak often, but when they do it means something. Who are faster with a trigger than their mouth. That is Boshi. At some point he was a proud samurai, but when we start he is wasting away in an opium den – a disgraced ronin. Our hero has cold sweats and the shakes and isn’t fond of conversation. To say he is rough around the edges is an understatement.
How long have you been working on Orient City?
It actually started while Zsombor and I were doing conventions to promote R.E.M. At C2E2 in Chicago Zsombor was sketching a samurai Batman art print called Dark Ronin, we started spit-balling ideas… and Orient City was born.
Side note: that print came out awesome and is actually a reward in our Kickstarter!
The footage released so far looks great! What technologies and processes are being used to make the film?
We have a Corel, Photoshop pipeline. We will be mixing some 3D in, like particle effects and the like.
In terms of the art or concepts behind the art – the most important guideline we keep in mind is that everything from the smallest details to the choreography of a fight scene has to have both Western and Asian movie elements in it. If Zsombor creates a typical western wanted flyer, he makes it a scroll and puts it on rice paper with faded Kanji symbols on it.
I know you’ve had great success with crowdfunding in the past. What made you decide to use Kickstarter again to fund Orient City?
Having had success with R.E.M. definitely gave us the confidence that we could do it. Raising money for independent films is hard. Raising money for independent 2D animation is even harder. We’re in this time and place where creators can go right to an audience and put it out there for them to back… or not. We don’t take asking for pledges lightly. We put a lot of effort and thought into this and hopefully that shows. And we are going to kill ourselves making this film as good as can possibly be.
Our goal is $30,000. It sounds like a small fortune to me, but that takes into account the money you need to pay Kickstarter (and Amazon for credit card processing), as well as rewards/shipping. The reaction to the art itself has been amazing and I can only hope enough people want to see this come to life.
Zsombor and I are both huge fans of 2D animated movies. It was actually both of our dreams to make animation, or cartoons. I can’t give you a specific reason why, but when we started brainstorming this project we both assumed it was going to be 2D animation from the very beginning.
However, we do plan on turning this into a comic if we reach a certain stretch goal in the Kickstarter campaign.
Who are you working with on this project?
Zsombor Huszka. He is based out of Budapest and was actually a member of the Hungarian national fencing team. He’s also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt. So he’s not your traditional artist… and it gives him a very good perspective on the action scenes because they are coming from actual experience.
Even though we are a world apart, we have a short-hand working together. It started almost immediately on R.E.M.. When I made my directing debut last year on Suburban Cowboy, Zsombor actually did hand-drawn animated titles and they were nominated for an Excellence in Title Design at this year’s SXSW festival, against massive films like Spectre and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Is it fair to say this is your most ambitious project to date?
It is the most grand and epic in terms of story. But my first film was probably the most ambitious. We literally built a CG-animation studio from scratch, at a time when no one was even doing independent CG-animation in the US.
What rewards can Kickstarter backers look forward to?
We are offering some more sensible items, like the film itself, t-shirts and movie posters… and things that we would actually want that fit the world we created.
All of the rewards are based around the artwork. We have a series of art prints that reflect samurai or wild west culture, like The Dark Ronin that I mentioned earlier. Backers can also get personalized commissions; from more classic black & white images to very stylized colored versions that put them into the world of Orient City. Something cool that relates back to the film is drawing someone as an ink-washed avatar. Because the film is traditional animation, we thought it appropriate to offer animated cells. You select a frame (out of 8 from the final film) and we are going to print each layer of animation on a cell – which is going to look very cool once framed.
If these sound at all interesting, check out the campaign. There is a ton of artwork that will give anyone a good idea of the look and feel of the film, and at the end of the intro video is the opening shot of the film – which is a long boom-up through Orient City, from the water to a saloon.
What are some of your favourite animated films?
I actually just put a lot of thought into this and here is my top 10:
- Princess Mononoke
- Iron Giant
- Ghost in the Shell
- Alice in Wonderland
- Spirited Away
- Grave of the Fireflies
- The Lion King
What’s next for you Ryan?
Right now the main focus is on Orient City: Ronin & The Princess. The response to the hand-drawn animation has been very kind to say the least. Let’s hope my script lives up to that. If we are successful on Kickstarter, it will tie me up until December of this year.
And then wrapping things up on Bulderlyns and getting that into the world. I have what I hope is my next live action film, but it isn’t exactly up to me what happens with that. These things are above my pay grade.
Thank you for your time! I always look forward to your latest projects and can’t wait to check out Orient City!
Thanks – can’t wait to share it!
For more information about Orient City – A Hand Drawn Animated Film Kickstarter – and to pledge your support – please visit: