"Once upon a time there was a game that nobody ever played, sitting on the floor in the back room of an empty arcade. The game was full of life and strife, mega-monsters and robot fights.
We Are The Strange was the title. Now meet the players who live inside, idle." The story
of filmmaker M dot Strange
and his solo indie masterpiece, We Are The Strange
When the trailer
hit the web in October of 2006, it was an instant sensation. The video depicted a surreal digital dystopia full of bizarre characters
and an absurdist plot, all set to rockin' chiptune music
Soon the eccentric creator of the film, M dot Strange (a.k.a. Michael Belmont), opened up his production process to the web. Through use of an official blog
, making-of videos
, and an extensive "film skool"
series, Belmont gave viewers insight into the innovative animation process he calls "Str8nime"
("strange plus 8-bit plus anime"). By collating disparate techniques such as CGI, greenscreen, stop-motion, papercraft, and even Mario Paint, he had perfected a striking
visual style that was not quite like anything seen before.
The premise of the film unfolded, too -- a mute "dollboy" named eMMM
and a cursed woman named Blue
meet, forlorn, in the Forest of Still Life. Together they sojourn into the sinister Stop-Mo City
in search of the perfect ice cream parlor. Meanwhile, the chain-slinging superhero Rain
and his psychotic origami sidekick, Ori, do battle with the monsters inhabiting Stop-Mo in pursuit of their ectoplasmic archnemesis, Him
(based on videogame baddie Sinistar
). But, like the 8-bit games that inspired it, the plot of the film is incoherent and somewhat juvenile -- the focus is on the action and the cinematography.
By the end of the year, Belmont completed the film and even snagged a spot at the Sundance Midnight Movie Festival
, which led to favorable write-ups in Wired
, and the New York Times
. (Not all the buzz was good
, however -- several of the Sundance critics reportedly walked out in bewilderment halfway through the film).
His work finished, Belmont payed back the community that supported him by releasing the movie for free in HD on the web
(eager fans churned out art
and translated the movie into 17 languages
, including Icelandic, Brazilian Portuguese, and leet). He also put together a 2-disc deluxe edition
with scads of bonus features. He still runs a blog
where he chats about filmmaking, animation, and upcoming projects.