Author Topic: Halo Legend: Frank O'Connor speaks  (Read 321 times)

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Halo Legend: Frank O'Connor speaks
« on: February 11, 2010, 01:08:00 PM »
For those that can't get enough of a Halo fix with ODST Firefights, and the slow build up of Halo: Reach is killing you from stress, help is in order. Pause the endlessly-looping Halo 3 soundtrack on your iPod and settle down for the release of Halo Legends.
The DVD (released as either single disc or two-disc special edition set) collects seven animated shorts based within and around Bungie's Halo universe and marks a historic collaboration between some of Japan's top animation studios and Microsoft.

Ahead of the DVD release on February 15 we caught up with Microsoft's 343 Industries Frank O'Connor to quiz him about the project.
So, how did this come about? And what's your background?

My background is pretty varied. I'm from the UK originally, and I have a background in print media and video game magazine journalism - with a couple of Future Publishing magazines on my resume.

I moved to Bungie in the middle of Halo 2, working on community, marketing and fiction stuff with the studio, and helped ship Halo 3, before settling down again at Microsoft, with 343 Industries. The project itself came about from years of simple conversations and as a kind of logical extension of the ideas we first explored in the Halo Graphic Novel - that is, assemble our favorite artists and writers and have them explore interesting corners of the Halo universe - only this time, we did it in the anime space.

We approached it the same way. Made a list of studios and stories we thought would go well together and we, asked, cap in hand, if they'd be interested in working in our worlds. Luckily, they agreed.

Is Legends a collaboration between yourselves and Bungie, or did Bungie have a set idea of what it wanted to see in the project?

The Legends project was entirely 343's - although we can't of course ignore the important fact that it's a universe and characters that Bungie invented. That said, a lot of ideas and seeds of ideas were mine that we never got the chance to expand upon while I was at Bungie.

Was there anything Bungie didn't want you to touch upon, or were you given free rein?
We were careful not to intrude on areas in which Bungie was still working - Halo Reach, for example, but we did work with Bungie to insert a couple of characters and events from ODST and other places.

Largely it was a case of not stepping on each other's toes. Our materials in the ancillary fiction are designed to support and complement Bungie's, not to compete with them. The franchise may belong to us technically, but they're its "daddy" and they're our most important creative partner.

How did you amalgamate Eastern animation philosophies yet retain the essence of the Halo universe?

Given that Halo and video games in general borrow and bend a lot of anime and Japanese video game tropes to begin with, it really wasn't much of a stretch. The fact is that the Halo universe is so strong that it can easily withstand artisitic and aesthetic interpretation. A Warthog is a Warthog, no matter who's animating it and a Spartan is a Spartan.

We were careful to ensure that we weren't forcing something deliberately western out of the collaboration, otherwise what's the point? We may as well have made it in the US if we were going to approach it that way. And we have tremendous respect for the abilities of artists and writers. Let them wrestle with the subject matter and craft something with a bit of their soul in it, or you have something ultimately soulless.
How were the shorts created?

Initial story concepts were wrangled here - based on the relative strengths of each studio. These were then presented as ideas to the studios, who were keen for guidance and goalposts.

In some cases, they took scripts directly from us and in others, they started their own concepts from scratch. After that, it was normal filmmaking - storyboards, approvals, edits and more approvals. With five studios and eight pieces in total, it all went remarkably smoothly.
How long did you have to make them? Was it a rush to get them finished?

Well, we knew roughly when we wanted the first episode to air, and I think we got within a week of that, so to be honest, there weren't too many surprises. We can thank the Studios' hard work and the efficiency of our partner, J-Spec (thanks Taka, Joes, Maki and co.) for that. Also, lots of late nights and weekends here in the States.

Is it easier creating film shorts than feature length movies, or does the shorter running time create its own problems with the restrictive time limit?

With that much material and that many resources to juggle, I suspect that a full-length piece would have been easier, but I think this was worth the extra effort in that it let us explore more frontiers and shed light on previously darkened corners of the universe.

How many team members worked on the project?

Dozens! I could go count all the folks in the credits but I still don't think that would capture all the people who worked on this both here and in Japan.

So now you're moving on to other projects within the Halo universe?

Of course. That's what we live for. That's why 343 Industries exists.


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