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The Wingfeather Saga Animated Series: An Artist’s Intro

If you’re a fan of Andrew Peterson’s “Wingfeather Saga” tales, or like the concept of this fantasy animated series, join the Kickstarter campaign.
| Mar 18, 2016 | 2 comments |


The Wingfeather Saga is a series of four fantasy adventure novels written by Christian singer/songwriter/author/all around super-talented uber-mensch Andrew Peterson.

North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew PetersonAndrew’s song writing leaves you smiling through tears as he weaves the bittersweet streams of current loss and failing with future hope and redemption. He brought this layered sensibility to his Wingfeather series, mixed with a healthy dose of fun and whimsy, as well. Often described as “The Lord of the Rings meets The Princess Bride,” the series has developed a dedicated and passionate following among many, especially owing to its inclusion of eternal themes of courage, destiny, faith and redemption.

For years these same fans of the series have been asking Andrew to make a film based on the books. Eventually, like the persistent widow, their cries moved the needle.

So within the past year a team of experienced animation professionals has coalesced around Andrew to see if we can’t make this a reality. Our little band of merry trouble makers includes:

  • Andrew Peterson,  of course;
  • Producer Chris Wall, formerly of Big Idea and dancing/singing vegetable fame;
  • Director Tom Owens, head of story for Dreamworks’ wildly successful How to Train Your Dragon films but also a director on a couple of VeggieTales episodes over the years;
  • And myself, a longtime CG animation and art explorer and production expert, currently at Valve making cool video games, but I also was once a director and studio manager for Big Idea.

Is it just me, or are you sensing a theme here, too?

Together we’ve committed to try to bring The Wingfeather Saga to life in animation.

In one way or another we four have known each other for the better part of the last 10 to 15 years and have often collaborated on previous projects. With similar goals and tastes and a desire to see something cool, meaningful and redemptive brought to life we dug into the material to find a way to forge this path to the screen.

Rather than settle on a 90-minute feature film that would necessitate the cutting of many beloved characters and dropping significant story details, we determined to make an animated series. This approach would allow the richness of the world and characters to unfold in a way that honors the books as well as the themes held therein.

However, just having a dedicated fan base for the books — as well as experienced professionals to do the work — isn’t quite enough to convince executives to fund the production. In the business this project would be described as “execution dependent.” This means that before people sign checks to bring the story to the screen (and big checks they would be, because animation is expensive!), they want to actually, you know, kinda see what it is they’re buying.

Fair point.

So the plan was set to make a short film with the goal to nail down the artistic style, the narrative tone, translate the world and the characters from the written page to a visual life, and tell a story that hits the mark in order to qualm the well-founded financial hemming and hawing of those who would fund such a series.

But remember what I said about animation being expensive? Yeah, that’s still true even for a short film. Disney or Dreamworks spend over $1 million for every minute of animation you see on the screen. Even far less-extravagant TV shows still spend $30,000 for every minute. So what’s a team of plucky, but not independently wealthy creatives to do? Quick, Batman — to the Crowdfunding-Mobile!

The Wingfather Saga Kickstarter campaign began a smidge over two weeks ago with the goal of raising $110,000 to produce a short animated film to share with the world and the show that we can do this thing. Mind you, we know we can do this thing. It’s been our jobs to do this kind of thing for the last 20 years and we’re good enough at our jobs to have the best in the world hire us to do it for them. But “execution dependent” and all that, so…

Anyhow, to our surprise and gratitude we hit our fundraising goal in 48 hours. Thank the Lord for active and passionate fan bases! We’ve also hit our first three stretch goals, each one allowing us to bring one more character to the screen and further open up the world of Wingfeather in the short film. In the world of crowdfunding this means we have a real winner on our hands! We have a couple stretch goals remaining that we’d love to hit so that we can really pull back the curtain and blow the socks off of folks with check books to fund the animated series.

However, according to folks much smarter than me, the real fruit of a crowd funding campaign isn’t the money to make the short film. Instead the fruit is the audience building. The more backers we have the easier it is to show the powers that be that there is an unmet demand and desire for this kind of content, and specifically this story. When executives see thousands of people willing to give to a project then they understand that those folks are a proxy for thousands more who would go in for a story like this. Seeing all these backers means that they won’t be giving us a bunch of money to make something that nobody will want to watch.

(In the entertainment business that’s known as a “stupid thing to do.” This is deep insider knowledge I’m dishing folks. Roll with me here.)

Keith Lango, CG visual development

Keith Lango, CG visual development

So we’d love to have you come along for the ride! Jump over to our Kickstarter page to find out more, see what it is we’re doing and if you feel like it, help us out if you can. Share the story and the Kickstarter link with those you know and a few that you don’t. Sure it may be weird at first. But you and I both know that you need to get out more and make some new friends, anyhow.

I definitely won’t say it’s what you ought to do as a Christian, because honestly that’s kind of a sleazy tactic to guilt people into doing something and it cheapens both our community and the art we produce.

But if you genuinely like the Wingfeather Saga stories, or even the idea of it sounds intriguing and you’d like to see it made then hop on board and partner with us as we seek to bring a great story and a little light to the world.

A 23-year veteran of the VFX and animation industry, Keith has written and directed a number of projects ranging from DVD movies to TV shows to Oscar-nominated short films for a variety of studios. His passion for story telling has pushed him into the realm of live action film making while he continues to develop animated projects. He currently works as an Animator/Creative Director at Valve, a leading game studio in the Seattle, WA area.

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Leah Burchfiel
Leah Burchfiel

If the pic above is any indication, I’m not sold on the blocky-looking style. It works for animated vegetables, but……
Just remember, RWBY had to have cool fight scenes.

D. M. Dutcher
D. M. Dutcher

Ok, being blunt. I don’t back demo reels, especially demo reels that I can’t see unless I pay $25.Yeah, animation is expensive but Makoto Shinkai did She and Her Cat in 5 months more or less by himself pre-Kickstarter, and then went to Voices of a Distant Star. I think you’ll build your audience more when the demo video is widely available and you kickstart for a pilot, or for a web animation series.