ANNECY, France — Thursday morning saw Netflix host an Annecy Works in Progress session for its upcoming first Japanese Netflix Original anime “Eden,” when members of the film’s production team shared concept art, story boards and animation techniques before screening a lengthy trailer.
Netflix has shared two images from the panel exclusively with Variety.
Set in a far off future and a world which has been inhabited by robots for centuries, their human creators having gone extinct long ago, most of the robots of the mechanical metropolis Eden 3 don’t even believe humans ever actually existed. Most consider them as creatures of myth.
On an otherwise normal day, two ordinary farming robots heading to the fields stumble across a cryogenic pod containing a young human girl. In a world that is definitively not ready for human reintegration, the two secretly raise Sara into young adulthood, opposed along the way by the horrifyingly ominous-looking Zero and his army of black and red robot soldiers.
Unfortunately, series creator and Qubic Pictures CEO and producer Justin Leach couldn’t attend the day’s works in progress, but he was able to send a few notes which were read out by Netflix chief producer of anime, Taiki Sakurai. He also participated in Tuesday’s Netflix Original Anime: A Celebration of Anime and a Look Ahead panel.
Leach first had the idea and started pitching Eden 20 years ago when he and Sakurai were co-workers at Production I.G. Since then, Leach has kept busy on films and series like the “Ghost in the Shell” franchise, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” “Ice Age” and many more.
“I was right out of school at the time and I had this idea, but put it on the shelf,” Leach said on Tuesday. “I got some experience in production and finally I was able to pitch this idea to Netflix, who were looking, and this is what they selected.”
“So, never give up on an idea,” he finished, “Sometimes you don’t expect it to happen, but these things can come true.”
Lead concept designer Christophe Ferreira, a French-born animator living in Japan for the last two decades, shared early artwork he created based on the series’ script and suggestions from Leach. Most interestingly, he shared a breathtaking shot of the city of Eden 3, which most could be forgiven for not recognizing as a metropolitan center.
“I made a mistake in reading the script, so when they asked me to make a robot city I made this big cube as the city,” he admitted, showing early-stage artwork of the massive, completely reflective cube covered in greenery and surrounded by water. “That wasn’t what they asked, but I did it. It felt more original.”
A major theme in the film is the balance between the high-tech robot characters and the natural world around them, which they go to great pains to protect. Playing on that theme, many of the shots shared on Thursday demonstrated equilibrium in composition between tech and nature.
After Ferreira finished his design discussion, director Yasuhiro Irie took the mic and described how the film’s team translated the concept design art into the final 3D animated product that will stream to Netflix viewers. He showed how characters were animated as well as the series’ locations and backgrounds – all done by hand – and went into great detail about the production pipeline they constructed.
Irie finished his portion of the presentation with a live, in-room demo of how he edits the drawings which are then sent to the series’ animators, using a brief clip sent to him the day before.
The session concluded with a screening of the series’ finished trailer, loaded with original music and scenes from the series, many of which were demoed in earlier stages of production only minutes before.
Explained at both of the week’s sessions, the series is massive in its international production scale.
Character- and lead concept designs are handled by Toshihiro Kawamoto and Christophe Ferreira in Japan, where Kimiko Ueno took Leach’s original script and fleshed it out into the final screenplay. Clover Xie is serving as the background art director in Shanghai, Chinese company Nice Boat Animation is painting backgrounds, and Kevin Penkin, in London, composed the series’ music. The series’ four, twenty-two minute episodes are produced by Qubic Pictures in Japan and CGCG in Taiwan.
“We have such an amazing group of people working on this project and I couldn’t be happier,” Leach boasted at Tuesday’s panel.