Arcane: Bridging the Rift | Part 1 – I Only Dream in Risky

With League, the thing is that
you play these characters over and over. Hundreds, in some cases thousands,
of hours, people sit with these characters. Uh… I'm actually just messing around
in the jungle right now. -INTERVIEWER: Who are you playing?
-Mordekaiser. Because he's heavy metal. They're always in this one map,
in this one environment. And, you start to wonder,
like, where do they sleep? What do they eat? What is their normal life like? What kind of families would they have? We knew Arcane was going to be
the very first deep story expression of League of Legends. There's enough video games where the audience asks
for a movie or a show for years and years and years…

And they make it, and then it sucks. And then, guess what? People stop asking. We were afraid of that. We were, like, "If we make something that… isn't at least good, then we're really, really harming the League IP." CHRISTIAN: Right now is the phase… where we're trying to wrap up season one. And this is Ekko… -CHRISTIAN: …without hair.
-Oh yeah, without hair, right.

I forgot. Here. He'll be the worst-kept secret. Everyone will know
when they see him with the mask on, I mean… -You think?
-Yeah, of course. With the trailer, I've seen
several videos of people analyzing it and they're, like, "Oh,
this character is absolutely not Ekko." Well, okay, but the second they see
that he has the pocket watch… Everyone knows
he's the Boy Who Shattered Time. That's right. -Aha!
-Hey. -Hey, how are you?
-How are you? I remember you showed me
that we built, like, a special rig on Jinx.

You can kind of control her face,
going from looking childish to adult. -Do you have that somewhere?
-Yes. So, when we first got
the first rig of Jinx, the idea was to try to connect her somehow, visually,
to what she was as a kid. Rounder face, bigger eyes, a sadder look. We didn't want the typical crazy girl,
laughing around like the Joker and just making no sense. We really wanted
to make her feel, like, deranged and emotionally affected
by what she went through as a kid. CHRISTIAN: I think we were a bit worried,
you know, when we get to the adult Jinx, that we just lose that, like…

I don't know, that… beautiful, little soul that just tries
to prove to her older sister, like, "Hey, I can do this.
Believe in me." I think we should never work
on a project that… that doesn't offer us something personal
to explore. I think, for the story that we have, it's a story about family. It's a story about siblings
that have a hard time… forgiving each other. It's a world
of technology kind of taking over and us feeling
like we're losing control over it.

I think that those are just
things that we, as people, think about and care about. I think we want to also ask some
questions that we think should be asked, without necessarily giving you the answer,
but at least asking, like, "Hey, does a person like Jinx
deserve a second chance? Can a monster ever be forgiven?" I don't know. If you can figure out, like, what is something that if you love it,
a lot of people would love it, that's where you should go hard. And I think
that's what we tried with Arcane. We'll see, but… I think it has potential. How you doing, bud? The skinks. I've had them for… 23 years now. I got them when I was 15 and definitely old enough
to make that kind of commitment. The thing, when you work on a story, is that, just generally speaking,
it never stops. I feel like I just have
voices in my head that argue a lot and, every now and again,
something they say makes sense and then you write it down. Um… That's basically… That's how the characters happen. These are, obviously,
League of Legends characters mostly.

I was original creative
on Riven, up there, and Ahri and, uh… let's see, Wukong, Nautilus, um, Lee Sin. And then, it's just… I don't know,
that guy I thought was cool. So I did go to school for writing. You know, I went out to LA. One of the things that I stumbled upon was a truly… barebones,
desperate-sounding Craigslist post for a video game start-up. My first and consistent reaction to that was this company has no chance.

I started playing in beta, and I found the job offering to work
in customer support at Riot on Craigslist. -Which led me to be interviewed by Alex.
-Yup. For the record. Uh… I think League was just really fun,
because it felt like there was kind of like… the fingerprint of the people who made the game
was so palpable when you played it, because the characters were so quirky,
they were so different. You could just tell people were enjoying
making these characters. Early Champ concept meetings were so fun. We only had the one conference room
and it would just be everyone at the company who liked that,
who was enthusiastic about it just comes in,
and you'd show up with something, right? You'd be, like, "Here's this art I found," or, "Here's this idea I just jotted down.

How do we turn that into a Champion?" I think the reason that we focused on Jinx
was because… I don't know. Jinx just always had
this spirit at the company. Katie de Sousa did this…
it wasn't a sketch, it was a full concept of what she called "Psycho Arsenal". It was not so different, honestly,
from what Jinx looks like right now: the long pigtails and just kind of,
like, guns all over the place. Everyone just fell
in love with it immediately. Vi and Jinx…

Were characters
that Alex and I always really liked. JINX: Bravo, sis. We worked on them together
on the different, kind of, teams. Alex was working on the characters
themselves, like, their creative. There was a reliance with other writers. JINX: She's such a loser.
Always ready to cry. And I worked on the music
and the cinematic on Jinx. So, on the, "I want to try
something fun right now," so "fun" should have
some kind of spike up. -Like, the screechy…
-Okay. I'll try. ♪ Come on, shoot faster ♪ ♪ Just a little bit of energy ♪ ♪ I wanna try something fun right now ♪ ♪ I guess some people call it anarchy ♪ ♪ Let's blow this city to ashes ♪ And, you know,
when Christian made "Get Jinxed", that was… the most storytelling, I think,
we'd seen in a video at that point. Arcane started when Alex and I
sat down together and were thinking, "What the devil we should
be doing next?" Riot, in general,
kind of struggled to put out long-form narrative content.

Our goal was to have
deeper storytelling, right? To not just do video-game action… or as we at the company
tend to call it, fight porn. I don't know if we call it that anymore,
but that's what it was. ALEX: I just always had
this… sense of obligation to the players. It just felt
like we created these characters and the players answered us by spending so much time with them
and loving them, and it just felt
like they deserved to have better stories. Whenever Jinx kills someone,
she actually gets kind of, like, amped up. If basically, the premise is, like– It would be nice
to find some kind of thread, some sort of emotional question thread.

We were just kind of talking like, "Man, how fun it would be
to make something that's a bit bigger in
the animation space, in the story space, and to kind of embrace
all these different strengths that… the team had developed
over the years, animation, music… ♪ Every child ♪ That sounds dumb… …building characters, stories,
and just go deep on it." We had this amazing, amazing partner in Fortiche,
this animation studio in Paris. ♪ Blah, blah, blah, blah ♪ We worked with them
on the Jinx music video, on the Imagine Dragons music video
for "Warriors". ♪ We are the warriors
That built this town ♪ They just always had this X-factor
of these beautiful visuals.

It's super artistic and everything.
It just kind of always clicked. I always thought that… if there's any superpower
that we had in the beginning to make Arcane a thing,
it was… whether or not we could really unleash
the potential of Fortiche. IN FRENCH: The problem is
ending afterwards with a final shot. Renni would be too far to the left
and he'd be too far to the right. -IN ENGLISH: Little buddha.
-The buddha. He's the yes-man of the company.
He's saying yes to everything. INTERVIEWER: Is this a good idea? Yes, it is. Can I do it?
Yes, you can. We do… a mix of 2D and 3D. Because the 2D effects are done… in 12 images per second, then the animation,
it's 24, like other movies, so you have a…
mix of styles.

pexels photo 6953881

A geek with dirty… -INTERVIEWER: Hard at work.
I'm not a fan of pure 3D. I find our style really interesting. It's more organic. IN ENGLISH: How do you texturize it
to look like a painting? We paint! So, let's say you have, like,
a character smoking a cigarette. Instead of having 3D smoke, being simulated by 3D tools, it's actually 2D, drawn frame-by-frame, and it gets this almost cartoony effect. In fact, I started to do
this 2D and 3D mix for 20 years with music videos. IN FRENCH: We're having a bad trip. IN ENGLISH: For me,
it's a new way to do animation. It's not anime,
it's not full CG. It's a mix of… of everything. Are you feeling good about season one? I, uh… It's, uh, it's an interview right now? -INTERVIEWER: Yeah.
-Oh, yeah. I'm not in a good mood.

I met Arnaud at a party. Well, Arnaud was doing fun, cool music videos with no money. IN FRENCH: I was doing animation,
but it was always a bit experimental. Mixed-media stuff, stop-motion, but often with a big live-action element. Cheers! Ask Pascal a little bit. -Ask what?
-INTERVIEWER: Nothing, um… Maybe another day? Maybe a bit drunk,
maybe it's going to be easier. I met Pascal. He was the best guy
for doing characters in Paris.

CAMERA MAN: Strike a pose. When I was a kid,
my dream was to make comic books or work on…
for Marvel and stuff like that. I like characters. I like that you can bring personality
and bring story. I think, back then, I just found
these tests that they would do, where you'd go,
"Man, this looks different. This doesn't look like the typical,
expensive, Hollywood animation production. This just looks like… This looks very French." I think he liked the mood, because it was… more adult, more lighting with flares and haze and something more like a live-action movie. Fortiche, from the very beginning, had
this very unique approach to the camera, making you feel like there's a person
filming whatever's happening.

There was an imperfection
that could only be human in how it moved and how it felt. To be fair, the first answer
when I went to the Riot leadership and was, like, "I think we should make
a TV show about our characters that is the highest budget
ever spent on an animated series and it's gonna be great." First answer was,
"No. Get out of the office." That… That was, like, an "oh, crap."
Like… Christian… has showed up with those bold ideas
and bold asks before. And… But this one was such a leap from music video
to, like, full animated show.

It's so unbelievably daunting and in the back of my mind, I'm going,
"How am I going to talk Christian… out of this? How am I going to help him realize that, like,
we're jumping the shark here?" And then I came back and said,
"Okay, give me, like, $2,000." And they're, like, "Okay, fine." And so, we start
doing some concept art. It was, like, "Okay, this looks really cool, right?
Yeah, that looks pretty cool." I thought it was a great idea, but I also knew how difficult it was
to pull something like this off.

We have something called
the video game curse, which is: very few games have adapted
into film and television… well. One of the things that's really true,
that I think every creative can relate to, is… a lot of great creative ideas,
they're fragile. They start off as a dream
and an idea and a vision and they haven't been
fleshed out, necessarily. "Okay, give us a little bit more, now we can explore
some 3D models and everything. Maybe, like, 5 grand?" They're, like, "Mm, okay."
And- I don't remember getting
any of this money. Anyway… …not to linger on every unimportant… You got $2,000?! This is our first behind-the-scenes
in the writer's room. Alex, what year is it? 1922. While developing the story, we also started working with Fortiche
on these little spikes of, like, "Hey, what would it look like
if Vi was in her apartment in Piltover and she's, like, venting
about how Powder, her little sister, is just always messing up?" It was just a test of, like, "Hey, can we even do animation
where acting feels good?" VI: All we had to do was run, Powder! Didn't we spend a bunch of time
preparing you for this? You and I?! In the back of my mind,
I was going, "I kind of hope…

This loses steam, because… this is so unbelievably ambitious. Like, I don't know how in the world
we're gonna pull this off." ****! That's when I said,
"Okay, could you give me, like…?" I think it was, like…
65 grand or so. MARC: And there was this fight scene
for, sort of, this animation test with Jayce and Vi
on a rooftop. It was so sick just in terms of how the characters
were expressed and how they came to life.

Like, all those little, incremental tests… We're all there just, like, "Yeah… we need more of this." I think that was the time when… …I think they realized… that I'm probably serious
about this project. I said to them, "Well,
I mean, you have concept art now for characters, for environments. You have 3D models,
you have animation tests, you have material
we developed for the pilot." I was, like,
"Are we going to do this?" I sort of think about it as, like, oftentimes not knowing
what we were getting into was an advantage,
because I think if we did know, we would have said, "There's no way!" The animation test, it was beautiful, right? But it was just a small snippet
of what the full series would be and there were so many questions
about, like, "What is the full story?" To me, the stakes were really high, because we want to be respectful
of players' time and trust.

I'd for sure much rather not do a show than realizing something that's just okay. CHRISTIAN: I don't know if anyone
among Riot's leadership necessarily thought that that we would definitely be able to do it. But I think they all understood that we just had to… try. I mean, this was a bet.
It was a risky bet. You just kind of have to,
at some point, make that bet. Otherwise…
it's only going to be, ever, a theory. Fortiche was five people. So, we had to build a studio
of, now, 200, 250, 300 people, which is, like,
how do you build an animation studio? We're a game company.
How do you do that? At that point, Fortiche had produced
two-, three-, four-minute music videos.

IN FRENCH: The gamble
for Christian and Riot was, "Could we make… …five, six hours… of film?" And we didn't know either. IN ENGLISH: When I met Christian,
I remember him talking about the character arcs
and what's going to happen in that episode and "I already have that in mind," and "It's going to be,
like, so emotional." And I was, like, "Dude, you're crazy. We even haven't started
the first minute of the show." I don't think he realized
what he was getting into. But… I think he was… He was a fool. But the excitement he had
when he was talking about the show…

Made the difference to me. Even when there are a lot
of question marks and obvious concerns and, on paper,
it's not supposed to work, because… the experience,
the resume isn't there, like, that's precisely when it's worth
jumping into the deep end of the pool and learning how to swim. IN FRENCH:
We were more scared during the test than when we… when we started working on the pilot. That's where we could kind of internalize
everything we had, all our reference material, where there was this… this geeky side to us, thanks to Christian and Riot, who let us have the keys. CHRISTIAN: Basically, we had the pilot… wrapped up, more or less, and now was the time to start working
on the rest of the first season. We had an entire arc for the first season,
I mean, filled with moments – lots of art, lots of exploration, different locations,
different characters – and we were already feeling
the pressure of the pipeline rolling. These episodes take
a tremendous amount of time to animate and once the episode is
in various stages of animation, changes are possible,
but any change is tremendously disruptive in terms of the amount of time
and resources it takes…

So, you're kind of locked in. So yeah, at some point, there was a meeting on my calendar. And I went to… Brandon's office, and there was,
like, a bunch of people in there. He basically…
He called me and told me, like, "Hey. Yep, I just talked
to Brandon and, like, everyone." It was basically an intervention meeting. And by the way,
that's what we do for everything, even a game. If we're on the cusp of launching
and we think it's not right, like, we'll stop, we'll hold,
we'll pivot, we'll cancel. Perhaps it's time I cut my losses… ALEX: I mean,
I think with everything, creatively, you're always kind of waiting
for that hammer to fall.

We wanted to make sure the story the players got
lived up to their expectations. If we couldn't do that,
then we shouldn't do that. The consensus was, "You don't have the story yet,
and… it's not going to work.".

As found on YouTube

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