According to Charmatz, “We all saw it as our job to basically not touch as much as we could, leave Charlie’s writing as much as we could. We wanted to add more physical stakes. To me, it was mostly about the stakes being really clear. [It was] about what the characters wanted and making sure the audience felt that… The rest was Charlie making an incredible script for us.”
Animation for the film is being done out of Mikros Animation’s studios in Paris and Bangalore. Apart from its Aardman collaborations, Dreamworks first employed an outside studio to animate one of its theatrical films with 2017’s Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie , which was made by Mikros in Montreal. Captain Underpants was a commercial and artistic success, celebrated for its innovative and stylized animation choices. The film grossed $125 million at the box office on a budget of just $38 million. The studio later recruited outside studio help on its films Spirit Untamed and The Boss Babe: Family Business, both featuring work done by Jellyfish Pictures.
Captain Underpants was Dreamworks’ first effort in a larger push to make films with more conservative budgets. Although the budget for Orion and the Dark isn’t public yet, Charmatz did tell us that it was more in line with independent animated features than the popcorn blockbusters that Dreamworks is best known for producing. That said, the director found joy in experimenting with the limitations imposed by a smaller budget. He says the film’s crew had to find clever ways to fulfill some of its creative goals, like filming ink splotches on their iPhones and adding them into the film as transitions.
That indie spirit is also seen in the film’s tone, which will be more subdued than what audiences may be used to do in the typical Dreamworks production. The studio has impressed with its willingness to try new things in recent years, and Orion looks like another exciting step in that direction.
Lamb explained, “We wanted something that felt kind of handmade, that was unfinished with a natural quality. Something that wasn’t cleaned up and hyper-real. We leaned into our limitations, and I think in a lot of ways that led to the final look of the movie.”
Bian added, “One of the elements of that handmade feeling is seeing the linework. And we kind of got that from Ronal Searle’s beautiful pen and ink style. It feels very drawn, and so we wanted to find a way to capture that and bring it into the 3d world, which we did successfully.”