Heroes of Envell: welcome to the virtual world
One can find everything in the animated series Heroes of Envell produced by Parovoz studio: exciting story, interesting characters and excellent humour. The series about four young gamers has already won hearts of many fans. It has also become the first Russian project in last 25 years premiered at MIP Junior television market in Cannes. Film director of the project Anton Lanshakov, design producer Sergey Moiseyev, and composer Alexander Billione helped us to understand specific features of Heroes of Envell.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU FOR CREATION OF THIS ANIMATED SERIES?
Anton Lanshakov: We try to create an adventure story. I always loved series with adventures where heroes were in a real danger. I took an example from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Dragon Hunters. To be honest, I watched only two episodes of The Last Airbender. It’s true that sometimes you draw inspiration even from few seconds of watching. I can add here Regular Show (there are unusual plots) and original Jumanji (comedy and adventure in the ideal proportion), and Time Masters.
Alexander Billione: Exciting screenplay and realistic characters! Each time I start writing music for an episode it feels like I’m living it through together with the characters! I always want to know what is going to happen later!
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE SPECIAL THING IN HEROES OF ENVELL?
Sergey Moiseyev: Evolving story, excellent atmosphere, gorgeous antagonist, jokes and plenty of easter eggs and references.
Anton Lanshakov: For me, it’s in realism! Okay, in real life, a giant lizard couldn’t animate exhibits in Cabinet of Curiosities with the help of clever devices — museum employees wouldn’t allow it! But the way the characters react to this and to many other events is way that anyone would react to it. I like that the action takes place here and now. I like that the characters have simple and familiar to everyone problems except fights with monsters. Yes, they have to save the teacher, but still they do have to go to school. So, the special thing is realism. Okay, realism and new outfits of Buckwheat. Okay, okay, new outfits of Buckwheat is a true special thing of the series.
Alexander Billione: I agree, the peculiarity of the series is that the characters very realistically perceive all events in the cartoon. For instance, in the first episode, when all main characters fell into the world of Envell they didn’t just begin to admire the unusual views, but asked themselves a number of logical questions such as «how did we get here» and «what is it».
ARE THE CHARACTERS BASED ON REAL PEOPLE?
Anton Lanshakov: Yes, Art, Vic, and Phil were modelled after my friends. Ilya is inspired by the neighbour living next to my dacha. And my sister was inspiration for Kira. That’s why relationships of Vic and Kira are very much like to those that I have with my sister. But Vic is not the only one that resembles me. All main characters were partially based on me. Many their personality traits are similar to mine. I’m as proud as Art, and as lazy as Phil. Morgarth is an exception. He’s completely made after me. I always loved bad guys in films.
IT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO KNOW WHETHER THOSE PEOPLE LIKE THE SERIES?
Anton Lanshakov: Funny, but only one of them has watched the series — the one who provided inspiration for Art. He saw an episode, heard his last name, and was surprised. He called me: «Hallo, Anton. There, in your series, a character has my last name. Is this me?» «Sure!» I replied. He said: «Cool!» There’s one more fan of the series now.
DO YOU LIKE PLAYING COMPUTER GAMES? WHAT GAMES INSPIRE YOU WHILE WORKING ON HEROES OF ENVELL?
Sergey Moiseyev: I adore computer games. Undoubtedly, the series is built on strong basis provided by games. The main narrative is made like in Online RPG. Animated inserts are inspired by immortal platformers. I won’t mention the games we were focused on. Let everybody imagine his own one.
Alexander Billione: Of course, I do love! It seems to me, the one who doesn’t love to play just hasn’t tried. Especially when there are games with entertainment and story as good as in films. But when composing soundtrack I drew inspiration from adventure fantastic films such as Back to the Future.
Anton Lanshakov: I always liked weird, bizarre games such as Earthworm Jim or crazy Alice, which is American McGee’s Alice. We used those games with a little-known Skullmonkeys and Oddworld series as a models when creating the world of Heroes. Metal Slug, previous Castlevania, and new Terraria games provided inspiration for 2D pixel inserts. I wanted the game to look retro, but still more visually interesting than old games of 80’s.
HEROES OF ENVELL ARE FULL OF PUZZLES AND EASTER EGGS, WHY? WHAT ARE THEY MADE FOR?
Anton Lanshakov: It’s simple, we put our favourite games as easter eggs. Except Mario. I don’t like it, but everybody knows: the series becomes cooler with a reference to Mario video games.
WHAT’S YOUR ATTITUDE TO FANFICS, TO CREATIVE ACTIVITY OF FANS?
Anton Lanshakov: It’s wonderful, when our series inspires you to create something! This is the best thing that can happen to a producer of animated series. You don’t have any restrictions such as only 10 minutes for an episode. You are not constrained by your own plot. You are not constrained with the limits of your budget. You don’t have deadlines. I saw many fan arts, but I haven’t read any fanfics yet. I will do, when I end up the project. Because I’m sure, when I open the first page the initial thought will be: «That’s it. They did it better.»
Sergey Moiseyev: I don’t have enough time to keep an eye on fan communities of Heroes of Envell due to my constant occupation at the project. But I regularly visit some of them. I constantly follow the official group.
GRAPHICS AND ANIMATION ARE VERY PECULIAR IN HEROES OF ENVELL. SERGEY, WHAT GIVES YOU INSPIRATION IN ELABORATING THE STYLE OF THE PROJECT?
Sergey Moiseyev: The style firms up episode by episode. Each new episode is a challenge for us. We try to make it better and better every time. We strive to take into account modern tendencies and popular things. The cartoon is thoroughly worked out. Many aspects and details can’t be noticed when you watch it for the first time. Well, the Inspiration for me is what we get in the end, the final version. This happens again each new episode. Just like other viewers, I can’t wait to see what is going to happen, what will it look like.
HOW THE MUSIC STYLE OF HEROES OF ENVELL MAY BE DESCRIBED?
Alexander Billione: Musical style of Heroes of Envell is a film score where elements of cyberpunk and fantasy are combined. We had agreed about that with Anton before the work on the project started, even before the theme song was written, because the fantasy game world of Heroes of Envell is filled with high technologies of future.
ALEXANDER, YOU WORK ON DIFFERENT ANIMATED SERIES, WHAT’S THE MAIN FEATURE OF THE WORK ON THIS PROJECT?
Alexander Billione: The main feature of my work on this project is that I write music for Heroes of Envell as though it were a real full-length film. But again, before I began writing music, we had considered this issue with Anton and decided that everything should be serious like in superhero movies.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHARACTERS? DO YOU HAVE THE FAVOURITE ONE?
Anton Lanshakov: I adore my characters. I’m happy and I’m worried for them as though I were one of them. It is a pure pleasure to write their dialogues. Most of all I like to write for Val.
Alexander Billione: Of course, I do love them! Before I begin composing I experience all their emotions and adventures in my mind. And my favourite character is Phil.
Sergey Moiseyev: How can you feel about your characters? No doubt, I do have my favourite ones, but in general, I think of all of them as old friends. We grew up together, we know all their secrets and vices. We have much in common, we love the same things. Art is my favourite character. He’s very daring and brave. Yeah, and he owns a shotgun. Though people often say that I resemble Phil.
ANTON LANSHAKOV, AND ONE MORE QUESTION: HOW DID THE HISTORY OF THE PROJECT BEGIN?
Anton Lanshakov: One day, Evgeny and I were playing in LittleBigPlanet. Evgeny is a creative producer of Parovoz studio. LittleBigPlanet is a console game. The game initially seems good and simple, but it turns out to be a complete nightmare in the end. Evgeny’s and mine characters were trapped between a hydraulic press and a girdle under power on the last level. A jump to the left — and the characters would be crushed by press. A jump to the right — and they would get shocked. It was a desperate, hopeless situation. The very situation when the most interesting ideas could be brought to life. We wondered. And suddenly we had an insight.
Evgeny said, «It would be great to make a series where the action takes place in a computer game». And I replied for that reasonably: «Yes, but not the whole action. It is better when one half is in a game and the other takes place in usual real world.» We forgot about the game and went to develop the idea. Then, half a year after that bad session in LittleBigPlanet, after dozens of versions and hundreds of written pages we were finally satisfied with the scenario and started creating the first episode. Okay, joking apart. The truth is that Evgeny said: «Anton, we should jump on the press when it comes above the girdle». And I replied reasonably: «Then we will be smashed against the ceiling.»
You can find more information about the animated series Heroes of Envell at our website!