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What is the ideal animation style for a Bionicle movie?

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:kaukau: We've seen a few animation styles for Bionile now.  I am, of course, partial now and forever to style from MNOG and the early shorts.  Since then, we have had the style from the first three movies, the shorts from the Hordika era, the style from The Legend Reborn, and the very literal style from most advertisements.  I've sure some of us have imagined what Bionicle would have looked like in a "life action" adaptation as well.  Out of curiosity, if there were a serious,big-budget Bionicle movie, what do you think would be the idea animation style?  Does it also depend on the storyline?

 

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I'm one of those weirdos who adored the style of the Miramax movies, so my answer practically gives itself xD

Don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to the more set-accurate styles too, but... sometimes those just feel like they lack life, to me. The movie style, with its expressive faces, its way of making characters feel more like something that was alive and beathing rather than simply animated toys... I'd be all about something like that. Maybe not exactly the same as the Mirmax style; but something that retains the impression of the Toa and Matoran as living, breathing beings feels almost essential to me, by now.

Although, that said... I'd alternately be really interested to see Bionicle adapted into a traditional animation style, too. That would, perhaps, necessitate even greater liberties being taken with the character design, since the amount of pencil-mileage required to fully hand-animate them with total set-accuracy would be nothing short of insane; but I would be really, really fascinated to see what could be done with them in that medium. CGI's great, of course; but Bionicle done in classic hand-drawn animation would really win me over.


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"New legends awake, but old lessons must be remembered.
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Corpus Rahkshi bio: Blizzard / Skyrise bios: Tarutu, Kastir, Littiuu, Alarei

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I, too, love the Miramax style. They went beyond just animated toys, they showed us the characters how they would look in real life. They could've made the movies completely set accurate for the sake of selling toys, but they decided to dedicate themselves to providing an authentic, realistic portrayal that respects the internal rules of the Bionicle universe. I have a huge amount of appreciation for that decision alone.

That's not to say I don't like set accurate portrayals. The old CGI promo videos in particular look stunning, and the MNOG style is very classic and endearing.

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It's a good question. I think, though, that more important than the animation style is the character design. Without having seen the fourth Direct-to-DVD movie, I do think the character designs used in Miramax films make sense from the standpoint of having expressive characters, but also looked a little too organic for characters that can literally build themselves. Maybe something between the Miramax and set accurate style would work for a 3D CGI animated film.

An animated movie inspired by the art from the first few comics could be a fun experiment, though.


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Well, let me look at the animation quality of the Bionicle video media: 

1. The animation from the first three movies does make the characters look kind of organic for how they have muscles on their bodies, which is something that I like. However, there is an overuse of red eyes. I mean, not all heroes are evil. Underneath masked characters’ masks, there is that dot that looks like it replaces an actual mouth, despite the masks make the characters look like they do. Characters in general kind of don’t look like their sets. Plus, the Ko-Matoran Kohlii players, Great Disk Matoran, and Voporak never appeared in the movies for the movies while the plant monster in the second movie never completely appeared, despite their important roles in the movies. Bionicle: The Game has a similar mistake, but worse. 

2. The animation in The Legend Reborn (and the Hero Factory TV show) made the characters look almost like their sets (which makes them look like toys come to life, like Toy Story), much more than how the first trilogy depict them, which is what I also like, despite the script being kind of short and that awful cliffhanger. Plus, there is some extra stuff that fills on the empty-looking parts of their bodies, and it’s nice to see some muscles in the characters’ empty holes and teeth. However, the sets still are not accurate to the sets completely. I mean, some characters are missing some of their weapons from their sets, like Mata Nui not having a Thornax Launcher. Plus, there are some silly things, like not all characters from the 2009 storyline appear in the movie for some reason, and all Matoran look like Tanma and Photok. Plus, the characters have spinning axles on their bodies for some reason, and there are some animation mistakes, like some parts being misplaced. The Skopio looks like Telluris and his vehicle meshed together, which looks gross, while the Scarabax monster looking like Malum, despite them not appearing in the movie. It’s kind of hard to tell whether the characters are smiling or frowning with their Iron-Man-like heads. That’s a bit silly and lazy. Bionicle Heroes had this similar animation, but mostly flawlessly. 

3. The characters in the CGI animations, including the commercials, look exactly like their sets flawlessly, which is a good thing. Wish they could make good TV shows and movies like that, though. The animation in Hero Factory’s Invasion From Below followed the same path, but made the characters feel realistic logically, like the scales on the Jumpers and Heroes looking like their action-figure selves rather than minifigures.

4. The 2D animation used in the Mata Nui Online Games and related shorts in 2002-2003 are nice. 

5. The 2D animation used in the 2015 shorts are okay, and I like that they have real mouths, but the quality is kind of low. There are some inaccuracies, like Pohatu not having his dagger, the Lord of Skull Spiders doesn’t have his Golden Mask, and all characters have three toes per foot rather than some having four. The script is rushed, too. 

6. The 3D animation in Bionicle: The Journey to One is pretty perfect for how the characters look almost exactly like their sets, and they look more human by shape of their bodies, despite the animation quality being a little poor, looking much like 2D, like how Iron Man: Armored Adventures looked, how weapons go through their bodies, the fingers should be lengthened, characters not having real mouths, and the script being rushed and weird. 

So, I would be choose TJtO’s way of animation, but make it look 3D, like TLR, and put some muscles on some parts on their bodies, like the trilogy in 2003-2005. That would be perfect in my opinion. 

If there were a live-action movie or a theatrical animated movie with a huge budget, I would imagine what my vision would look like. The characters would look like the Transformers from Bumblebee in 2018 and CGI characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe if you can think about it. The same would go to Hero Factory if HF and Bionicle share the same universe (I always believe that Bionicle G1 and HF do because of their very similar looks) in a cinematic universe.


I like Lego, Bionicle, and Hero Factory!:)

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:kaukau: I'm noticing that a lot of people have had things to say about muscle and the facial expressions.  Building off of that, I've had my own preferences for a while.  I like the semi-organic look from the Miramax films.  However, I don't like the expressions on the masks.  I like the idea of masks being treated like actual masks.  With that in mind, I wouldn't mind seeing the actual anatomy interpreted more liberally, with less reference to the sets and more inspiration taken from the technical descriptions of the Matoran life cycle gleamed from the comics, while the masks would more or less be interpreted literally from the sets.

One of the cool things about the sets, I think, is that there was something about them that obviously inspired a lot of imagination.  I remember always thinking that the design of the sets was meant to roughly approximate the idea of a character, as LEGO sets always do, and there was a lot of creative space for me to speculate about what the "real" Toa would look like.  Were they completely robotic?  Were they cyborgs?  There was a wonderful ambiguity about it.  After all, the animals shared the Technic design, and the animations made a point of how the Bohrok were machines, unlike the Matoran.  The Miramax films answered some of that speculation, although at the same time they took away a little bit of the mystery that came with it.  Not to much, though.  Watching them back in the day, it was still definitely a unique world where robots who weren't actually robots lived in tribal societies.  I like the idea of Bionicle movies keeping the surrealism and mystery of that image.

Similarly, there was a great ambiguity about what Makuta was.  He was without physical form, and yet he also came off as a strange mechanical being.  Within the flashbacks, he was a supernatural immaterial being, represented by a black stone, brother of Mata Nui, both being somehow tied to the Great Beings.  Incidentally, this backstory did quite a bit to tie everything in the setting together, knowing that there were great supernatural forces involved in crafting the world, without knowing much about them. 

The Legend Reborn definitely disappointed me a bit.  Within the storyline, the Glatorian and the Agori were organic, which to me was an opportunity to represent the sets in a completely new way.  I thought that they should have kept only the helmets, and otherwise designed the bodies after what sort of organic creatures the sets would have logically approximated.  Outside of these characters, if a movie was set within an incarnation of "classic" Bionicle, I might still want to see an animation preserving that sense of mystery about the characters.  It would have to be mysterious in a different way than the sets.  The sets are mysterious because they are vague approximations, and you can only imagine what the characters would look like in real life.  A movie with good quality animation would have to give an actual portrait of the characters, and would have to maintain the mystery and leave room for interpretation in a different way.  One of the ways I imagine that being accomplished is through keeping the mask expressionless.

Since I've brought up the subject again, here are my final thoughts on the matter.  I really like characters in movies who wear masks, and communicate everything through strong body language.  Take, for example, Darth Vader, Spider-Man, The Witch-King of Angmar, and a few others.  There's a bit of a ballet and theater in how the story is told purely through their physical performance, combined with  their vocal performance, great shot composition lighting, and music.  That is, ideally, how I would like to see a high-end Bionicle movie represent its characters.  Although I said that I would appreciate great vocal performances, at the same time, I do really appreciate the silent-film feel of the MNOG games and Bohrok animations, so I would want to avoid speaking when there's a good and natural reason to have a speechless scene directed in the style of an epic silent film.

 

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I love the Miramax style, but I will admit it took some getting used to as a kid. I was very disappointed with how some characters (specifically the Rahkshi) looks so radically different. The masked characters were always better about that, though. My personal headcanon as a kid was that the  movie forms were canon, while the toy forms were statuettes to represent them, like the Matoran might have toys of the Toa in their rooms.

TLR animation was forgettable but serviceable. I'll just say it wasn't the main reason the movie was so disappointing.

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"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
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19 hours ago, Vorahk1Panrahk2 said:

I think, though, that more important than the animation style is the character design.

Hitting the nail right on the head, IMO.

Regardless of what proportions a Bionicle set should have (being, as we all know, a toy), alien and robot designs in film should match form to function; the Xenomorph from Alien or the bugs from District 9 look odd as a prerequisite for those films to work; robots like Wall-E are designed for cuteness in mind, etc.

Since we're supposed to see the Toa (and Glatorian) almost as superheroes, they should look, well, like superheroes, and have proportions to match. The proportions of the '02 Toa Nuva are such that, if put to screen exactly as they are, they would have elongated arms and over-sized heads; they would look more like gorillas than Power Rangers! Miramax (rightly) did what they could to make the designs more palpable for a film. They had a slightly easier job with the Toa Metru (who had the most human proportions of any canister Bionicle set), but you can see with the Hordika they just can't make it work; the Hordika are supposed to be weird looking, of course, but they're also supposed to be the heroes were know and love. 

The set-to-film approach The Legend Reborn takes would have been more successful if the characters they had to depict had sets that were more human in proportion (a la, the Metru). Instead we have the Inika build to work with, with its too-flat torso and over-long arms. Mata Nui's shoulder-blades look awesome in set form and totally ridiculous on-screen, IMO. 

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On 9/15/2019 at 10:39 AM, Mukaukau Nuva said:

Hitting the nail right on the head, IMO.

Regardless of what proportions a Bionicle set should have (being, as we all know, a toy), alien and robot designs in film should match form to function; the Xenomorph from Alien or the bugs from District 9 look odd as a prerequisite for those films to work; robots like Wall-E are designed for cuteness in mind, etc.

Since we're supposed to see the Toa (and Glatorian) almost as superheroes, they should look, well, like superheroes, and have proportions to match. The proportions of the '02 Toa Nuva are such that, if put to screen exactly as they are, they would have elongated arms and over-sized heads; they would look more like gorillas than Power Rangers! Miramax (rightly) did what they could to make the designs more palpable for a film. They had a slightly easier job with the Toa Metru (who had the most human proportions of any canister Bionicle set), but you can see with the Hordika they just can't make it work; the Hordika are supposed to be weird looking, of course, but they're also supposed to be the heroes were know and love. 

The set-to-film approach The Legend Reborn takes would have been more successful if the characters they had to depict had sets that were more human in proportion (a la, the Metru). Instead we have the Inika build to work with, with its too-flat torso and over-long arms. Mata Nui's shoulder-blades look awesome in set form and totally ridiculous on-screen, IMO. 

I always found it difficult to pose Mata Nui because of his shoulder blades. I'm pretty sure if you actually tried fighting with them, you'd accidentally decapitate yourself. And the transformation scene, where they just zap into existence, is unintentionally hilarious.


"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

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Click here to visit my library!

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When rumors of a BIONICLE film started to spread back in 2002 I always imagined it would be closer to this:


I was kind of disappointed with the style the Miramax film went with. I'm not sure where all the "organic detail" started. I always assumed that the Bionicle characters were all robots, mechanical, and could build/improve themselves using Turaga "magic". But inside the machines were living, intelligent souls. The first instance of anything "organic" was the Krana. LEGO was pretty adament that the Bohrok were not living things -- as the Rahi or Matoran were -- and that the Krana brains were organic, alien, and alive controlling the Bohrok. This is why the Krana were made of rubber, to incite the builder's imagination while placing the weird brains on the Toa's face where a plastic mask had been.

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I really love the Miramax style. Always have, always will. IMO they did a really good job with stylizing the characters to allow for more expression while still keeping them recognisable.
 

And there is also the question of relatability, after all. It's certainly easier to relate to a character that can express their feelings - even Wall-e had some kind of "facial expressions" to communicate his emotions. If all Toa/Matoran etc just had unmoving masks as faces, it may be interesting from an artistic viewpoint. But it would distract from the story, especially in a movie where children are the target audience :)

 

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personally, i'd kill for an anime-style bionicle movie.  i feel like all the "over-the-top weirdness that is somehow also extremely awesome" that bionicle is known for would translate really well to an anime style, seeing as a lot of anime also has over-the-top weirdness that is somehow also extremely awesome.  if not an anime style movie, then at least a 2D-animated one that's also really stylized.

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Let us imagine how awesome an over-dramatic fight sequence would look in the style of TLM. It'd have the expressiveness of 2D animation coupled with that stop-motion look we're all so familiar with. It'd be like a photorealistic Spider-Verse (albeit, hopefully with a more consistent framerate).


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Kind of like Journey to One but with very through rendering would be good. Maybe the style of the non Bionicle lego movies. An emphasis on the mechanical nature of the characters and focus on realistic feeling lightning and environment would be ideal.

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