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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Orient City: Ronin & The Princess - The Kickstarter for this animated film.

A couple of days ago news of a brand Kickstarter campaign landed on the desk of 5D headquarters. Now I don't want to sound all big-headed and conceited like, I really don't, however I do get quite a number of press releases and invites each week for a range of projects. Unfortunately, time being such the precious commodity that it is, I simply don't have the capability to do them them all. 

So occasionally, when two or three requests simultaneously come to me as they did just a couple of days ago, the decision has to be relatively quick - and in the case of this article, the subject matter was decided upon in just a few moments after a small number of choice words leapt off the press release;

'Samurai', 'Spaghetti' and 'Western' were the first of them, oh and three others that seemed to go together just wonderfully well; 'ultra violent animation'. Well that was me hooked in then. Because anybody who knows me knows of my eternal obsession with Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns and the Samurai films of Akira Kurosawa et al.

Not only did this speedy press release perusal result in some hugely enjoyable research, it spawned an equally enjoyable interview with one of the film's creators, as well as the next 'legendary' 5D Website competition - but more of that last point later.

The Kickstarter launch in question was from acclaimed graphic novel, R.E.M creators Ryan Colucci and Zsombor Huszka who were proudly announcing the launch of their hand-drawn animated film, Orient City: Ronin & The Princess.

Ahh, already I can here some of you asking just what is the plot of this animated film? Well let me tell you........

"Orient City: Ronin & The Princess is a samurai spaghetti western that mixes the characteristics of the American Wild West and Feudal Asia. 

An unforgiving place, Orient City is a vertical tangle of rock and skyscrapers interconnected with waterways and cable cars. The poor, quite literally, dwell at the bottom. 

At the center of it all is Boshi, a fallen samurai who has sworn to protect a young girl whose family has been assassinated. Together they head to Orient City for one thing… revenge."

The team launched its campaign just this week to bring the striking 2D animation to life, and is already on their way toward their overall crowd-funding goal of $30,000 to help cover the total cost of the film. The link for their Kickstarter page can be found RIGHT HERE

If my advice is worth anything at all I would recommend going to the page straight away, if nothing else to watch the info video clip which includes a quite frankly breathtaking opening shot from the film - it looks stunning! Of course, on the crowdfunding page you can also see the plethora of rich information about the film itself, the perks available for contributing and further examples of the incredible storyline created by Ryan Colucci and the stunning artwork from Zsombor Huszka.

So, as I mentioned earlier, I was lucky enough to arrange not only a fascinating interview with Ryan Colucci, but in addition Ryan kindly agreed to offer up a beautiful original art print drawn by Zsombor. The competition question can be found at the end of this interview and it, together with further details on how to enter can be found on the competition page of the 5D Website at

So without further ado - the interview bit with Ryan Colucci.........

Q) Before we get into the specifics of your latest project - c'mon, tell us about yourself.... You know, influences, inspirations etc etc! 

I grew up as a child of the 80s, so the Star Wars films basically defined my childhood. I love new and interesting worlds, and I love world-building. But the biggest overall influences on me were the things that I was repeatedly watching everyday. TMNT cartoons, Muppet Babies, Ducktales, Saved by the Bell, Charles in Charge, etc… It has cultivated this odd 80s sensibility and outlook on the world. I also spent a lot of time just sitting on the floor in the living room while my dad watched old westerns. That has left an indelible mark on me.

Since my current project is hand-drawn animation, we are definitely influenced by Miyazaki, specifically for me Princess Mononoke. But I guess Ghost in the Shell is the one that stands out the most. It was the first time I saw an animated film that was definitely not for children. It wasn’t until then that I realized I wasn’t alone in the world. It transcends animation – it’s one of my favorite films, period.

Q) So Orient seems to have a plethora of flavours;  samurai spaghetti western that mixes the characteristics of the American Wild West and Feudal Asia! So how did the story begin in your mind & how long has it been evolving?

Like I said, I love world-building. There’s a difference writing a story or movie that exists in our world and seeing it come to life and creating a unique world that exists somewhere other than my head. And that has always been my dream – to see that come to life.

I didn’t specifically have this world in mind – that didn’t happen until Zsombor Huszka and I were on the road hitting as many conventions as we could to promote our graphic novel R.E.M. You have a lot of down time in the car and at a convention table, so he was always sketching. We both love samurais, and he loves to draw samurais, so he sketched a samurai Batman (which we finished as an art print) and then we started spit-balling ideas… And Orient City was born.

We were both interested in making an animated film that isn’t necessarily for children and we wanted the world to have this epic, grand scale… beautiful but ultra-violent at the same time.

Q) The animation work of your collaborator, Zsombor Huszka is stunning. Tell us about him & how you work together.

He is based out Budapest and was actually a member of the Hungarian national fencing team. He’s also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt.  So he’s not your traditional artist.   

Even though we are a world apart, we have a short-hand working together. It started during R.E.M. and continues today. We spend a lot of time going back and forth on design work. Once that is done, bringing it to life is more about labor and small tweaks.  

For Orient City, the most important guideline to keep in mind is that everything from the smallest details to the choreography of a fight scene has to have both Western and Asian movie elements in it. If Zsombor creates a typical western wanted flyer, he makes it a scroll and puts it on rice paper with faded Kanji symbols on it. 

Q) The Kickstarter campaign has a couple of weeks to go as yet. How's the campaign going?

The response to the hand-drawn animation has been very kind to say the least. Let’s hope my script lives up to that.

This thing is going to very, very violent… while also being quite stunning to look at.

Q) Tell us about some of the stunning perks for contributors to the campaign (I especially like the scroll print).

Thanks… I can’t take credit for that one. It was all Zsombor. The opening shot of the film is rather epic. Our city stretches vertically, and we start at the bottom and boom up until we arrive at a saloon. Zsombor wanted a print that showed the entirety of that opening shot – and since our film is obviously inspired by Asian-culture/themes, doing a scroll print just made sense.  

Besides the film itself, which you can get as a digital download, DVD or Bluray, most of the rewards are based around the artwork. We have a series of art prints that reflect samurai or wild west culture. My favorite is probably The Dark Ronin (Batman as a Samurai) – which is actually the start of this whole world.

We also have personal commissions. Something cool that relates back to the film is drawing someone as an ink-washed avatar. Because the film is traditional animation, we thought it appropriate to offer animated cels. You select a frame (out of 8 from the final film) and we are going to print each layer of animation on a cel – which is going to look very cool once framed.  

Then we have some traditional things like the Orient City T-Shirt and two versions of a full-sized movie poster.  

Q) I know this isn't your first Kickstarter campaign. Tell us a little about what planning goes into a successful campaign (without giving too much away!)

It’s extremely hard to plan for what people want.  If we knew that I wouldn’t be so stressed. So we put as much as we can into it in terms of information and artwork… trying to make what would traditionally be black text on a white background to better represent our project. We are artists, so it’s the one thing we can do to spruce up the campaign.  

I learned a lot from R.E.M. in terms of what rewards were working or not working, both in terms of how hard they were to deliver and what people were responding to. In large part, I put way too many rewards on that one and watered it down. I fear that maybe I did that here too. I don’t have some great answer because I’m still learning as I go. And a movie and a graphic novel are different animals.

The truth is, my friends and family don’t necessarily like the same things I do… which means my reach isn’t that great.  So I’ve put a lot of time into social media.  But it’s a very fluid thing, I don’t know what posts will get traction. I try to post a lot of quotes from filmmakers or actors I respect, or movies I love. It’s not easy to find 350 quotes, most of them I have put on an image… and I can’t really say if that has made a difference. However, it has been fun interacting with like-minded people. I spent so much time alone working, it’s good to have a conversation – even if it is taking place over social media instead of in-person.

Q) What is the current climate like for crowdfunding campaigns, graphic novels and animated films?

I’m sort of in the thick of it, so I don’t have a full grasp yet.  We had a lot of great feedback and success with R.E.M. – but Orient City is still early in the process.  I can only work my butt off and hope for the best. I can tell you that we are going to kill ourselves on the film. We want every frame to be something you could pull out, make a print out of and be proud to hang on your wall.

Q) So the Kickstarter campaign will hopefully be a success. What is the timeframe for the completion and release of Orient?

I hope you are right! We will be done with everything by December 1. That gives us time to not only finish the animation itself, but we have scheduled enough time plus a pad to put together/create all of the rewards.

Q) What are the other future plans of Ryan Colucci?

Right now the main focus is on Orient City: Ronin & The Princess

Last year I directed my first live-action film, Suburban Cowboy. It’s a small film… a gritty thriller that is being sold right now, so I try and keep myself busy and not freak out about that.

We actually did hand-drawn animated titles for that and they were nominated for an Excellence in Title Design at this year’s SXSW festival, against massive films like Spectre and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Q) Oh, and I almost forgot. You've graciously agreed to offer a prize of The Dark Ronin 11x17 Art Print on the 5D completion page of the website. What is your question for the entrants to answer?

A Fistful of Dollars is an unofficial remake of this samurai film?

The Prize - The Dark Ronin 11x17 Art Print
To win go to the competition page at

This article can also be found via the 5D website There you can find a veritable feast of blog articles, news items, pictures and other mouth-watering salutations to the gods of the geeks and the nerds. We have now inherited the earth, you know.

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