Khan Kluay- TV teaser from Tod Polson on Vimeo.
Several years ago Kantana Films asked me to help develop a t.v. show project called "Khan Kluay". The stories were about the adventures of a little Thai elephant that would go on to save Thailand from outside forces.
Being short on time, I designed something very simple and graphic that would be easy to animate in Maya. I decided to make the end of the teaser a series of illustrations... showing less animation, and more of the world of "Khan Kluay".
Above: Early character and color sketches for the t.v. show pitch. Several of these designs are inspired by doodles by the famous Mark Oftedal.
This pitch generated a lot of interest in the project in Europe. Thus the studio asked me to develop "Khan Kluay" as a feature film.
Khan Kluay- Early Test from Tod Polson on Vimeo.
We got some seed money to develop the feature. I was able to bring over writer Ariel Prendergast to help develop the script, and "super artist" Aaron Sorensen, as my co-director. Above is the first test we did with a more 3D look.
I wanted to keep a soft, artsy children's book feel. The studio wanted to make the film look like a Pixar movie... but without Pixar's budget, or experience. This test was my compromise. The rigs weren't finished... and we were still figuring out the background styling... but it was enough for the studio to push forward with production.
I worked closely with Aaron Sorensen on the story and character design, Aaron's style is really graphic and fun... translating well to 3D. It's Ironic that Kantana "let us go" because the character designs were too "western"... after all, the studio hired us to help make the film "international". The designs remained virtually unchanged after we left... and can be seen on t-shirts, cups, and other products throughout Thailand.
In this video clip I explain our basic development process, and present an early trailer to the movie. The trailer at the end of the presentation is "unfinished". My co-director, Aaron Sorensen, and I were only able to make a "first pass" on the animation, texture and lighting... as the studio felt it was "good enough". The sound on the trailer was re-dubbed after Aaron and I left the project.
The two years I spent as the creative director of "Khan Kluay" was a real joy. A small crew of us working together, writing, designing, and researching. The team spent a lot of time "outside" the studio, researching how wild and domesticated elephants live, working with "Mahuts", and animal experts. We also worked closely with historical experts, and even members of the royal family to make sure that we got everything just right.
Here are some samples of the key artwork we generated based on the script. A big thanks to Patchanu Noree and the crew for doing such a great job! Patchanu is an amazing designer, and a good friend, who was able to help translate my vision to the screen. We made dozens of paintings like this describing each major story beat. Spending months designing trees, grass, Thai huts, insects, clouds... trying to give the film a unique feel... mixing Thai and western design. After I left, the studio opted for "realism" in styling... but I think some of the spirit of what we made still remains. Until next time - tod