"Monsters Inc. meets The Nightmare Before Christmas inside a retro Japanese video game"
April 9, 2009 7:15 PM   Subscribe

"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, overstimulating 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, Variety, 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.
posted by Rhaomi (5 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
If you want the HD version, BTW, you can use &hd=1 at the end instead (the youtube links in the post go to the HQ version).
HD Part 1
HD Part 2
posted by wildcrdj at 9:38 PM on April 9, 2009

Thanks, wildcrdj.

Also, I just wanted to say (if only to freak out Matt again) that I've been working on this post for ONE! AND A HALF! YEARS! (sorta)

I was going to post about it after the movie first came out, around December 2006, but the first version on YouTube was low-quality with big, ugly subtitles. Then it appeared in HD on Stage6 a few months later -- but as soon as I started gathering links for the post, the entire site shut down (!). I only just recently found the HD version on YouTube, so here it is, finally. I'm just surprised that it had never even been mentioned on Mefi before, not even in the comments.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:47 PM on April 9, 2009

haven't watched it straight through yet (just clicked around the timeline a bit in youtube) but the visuals I've seen so far are really well done. It seems to play out like a feature length music video, so I understand why Sundance critics would walk out of it. Hell, I'm not even sure I like it myself, not having watched it through yet. But he clearly put a lot of work into it. This isn't your standard "Ooh! I have after effects and premiere! let me make weirdness!" type thing.

On the other hand, if the movie has as little dialog in it as I think, this will be brutal to sit through.

someone in the industry, please make an affordable desktop voice and foley recording solution! please. no more dialog-less animations!
posted by shmegegge at 8:52 AM on April 10, 2009

So I just tried to eat dinner while watching this but after about 20 minutes I had to turn it off because it was making me nauseous.

It's certainly... interesting. And worth looking at. I'm not sure its something I'd want to sit through for and hour and a half, though.
posted by Alex404 at 3:59 PM on April 10, 2009

Looks pretty remarkable -- not sure I can handle watching it. I bet this is blowing the mind of some 16 year old film nerd somewhere, though...
posted by ph00dz at 5:41 PM on April 10, 2009

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