This article is available in: French
Floating Rock Studio has unveiled a trailer to showcase their new IP: Kyōryū. A concept that blends post-apocalyptic Japan and prehistoric creatures.
The team at the studio, consisting of around fifty people, is highly ambitious and aims to expand the project into both an animated series and a video game. We had the opportunity to speak with the studio. Here is the trailer, followed by more details!
Benjamin Mulot, an animator who has worked on films like Jumanji, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Avatar 2, is the creator of Kyōryū. It all started as a personal project focused on a dinosaur rig: at first, Benjamin just wanted to to improve his creature animation skills.
He provided us with some insight into his motivation: in large visual effects studios, people are assigned to projects based on production needs rather than specific skills. In other words, animators are given tasks based on availability rather than their unique talents. This frustration inspired him to create personal projects shared on YouTube and TikTok, which received positive reactions and views. This led him to explore the concept further and create his own story. He was impressed by the reception of his work: good feedback as well as lots of views. This led him to explore the concept further and create his own story.
He discussed the idea with Garrick Rawlingson and Laurent Herveic, two of the co-founders of Floating Rock Studio. They were enthusiastic about the idea. So was the head of Hillfarrance, a venture capital company that heavily invested in Floating Rock. Furthermore, the studio was planning to launch an internal pitching system, similar to what studios like Pixar do: employees can showcase concepts, which, if approved, become development projects and, later, animated features.
Benjamin Mulot joined the team, kept developping the project. A few months later, it was selected during the first internal pitching session.
In terms of storytelling, Kyōryū draws on Benjamin’s relationship with his father, which is reflected in the two main characters: a T-Rex and its offspring.
Kyōryū is also a good example of the target audience Floating Rock is aiming for with its upcoming projects: themes geared toward a teenage/adult audience rather than a family audience.
An animated series and a video game
The goal is to adapt this narrative universe into both a series (consisting of 8 episodes of 20 minutes each) and an episodic video game.
Benjamin Mulot, the creator of the original concept, explains that the idea is to create a dialogue-free series, similar to Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal. This approach, he adds, puts animation at the forefront to convey emotions through expressions and body language. Benjamin Mulot also mentions that this will allow the project to move away from the cliché of talking animals, as seen in Disney films. This will give the project its own identity and provide a unique challenge for the teams.
The video game, on the other hand, will explore a parallel story, but the concept is to create a truly transmedia project: an episode of the series might explain an element seen in the game, for example. The ideal scenario is to release a new episode and a game level simultaneously each week to offer a comprehensive experience.
Of course, it will still be possible for the audience to focus on one format over the other. Furthermore, the simultaneous release will depend on distributor constraints.
Floating Rock intends to avoid photorealism and develop its own stylized look. The video game and the series may not necessarily have the same visual style.
This explains why the trailer includes some stylized shots. They should be seen as tests, though, rather than a representation of the final look.
The team emphasizes that the budget (time and money) was limited for the trailer and that visuals will be further enhanced in the future.
During our discussions with Floating Rock, the team also wanted to address the cultural aspects of the project. Besides Benjamin Mulot’s one-month visit to Japan, a Japanese member of the studio served as a cultural consultant to ensure that the representations in the trailer made sense, especially concerning the text. The Japanese composer who was tasked with creating the soundtrack for the project also provided his input.
Unreal at the Heart of the Project
The team used Unreal Engine for the trailer, with the goal of using the same assets for both the series and the game. The team relies on USD and Prism for their pipeline. In terms of rendering time, the trailer averages around 1 minute per frame, a significant improvement compared to what Floating Rock achieves with renderers like Arnold or Redshift on other projects.
Despite recent layoffs at Unreal, the studio remains confident in the engine and its team. Floating Rock hopes that long-term improvements in Unreal’s animation tools will allow them to rely solely on this tool. Until then, the team continues to use Maya for animation.
A Thriving Studio
Floating Rock Studio specializes in visual effects and animation. Based in New Zealand, it was established nearly four years ago by a quartet of directors: Lukas Niklaus, Garrick Rawlingson, Stephanie Parker, and Laurent Herveic. While the company initially operated as a vendor, offering its services to various clients, Floating Rock Studio recently raised $4 million from various investors, including the venture capital firm Hillfarrance. The goal is to expand the company, with a dedicated IP division for creating and developing the studio’s intellectual properties.
One interesting aspect of Floating Rock is its high proportion of French staff. The studio explained us that many of them were already in New Zealand and previously worked in well-known studios, but they also recruit French talents who come over to New Zealand specifically to work at Floating Rock.
Funding & production
The New Zealand government is openly supporting Kyōryū. For example, they facilitated meetings with different studios in California. At this stage, the team aims to generate interest by engaging with as many studios, media outlets, distributors, and platforms as possible. A similar approach has been initiated in China, Japan, and South Korea.
This direct approach does not preclude the studio from pursuing more traditional avenues. Expect to see Floating Rock at Annecy next year, during the MIFA pitching sessions!
On the video game front, Floating Rock’s long-term vision is to establish a dedicated division, but the studio remains open to collaborating with an external studio for Kyōryū.
Regarding the budget, a total of $20 million (USD) is envisioned for the series, which would practically reduce to $12 million thanks to New Zealand’s tax credits.
The video game, on the other hand, would require $1.5 to $2 million for a vertical slice (a portion of the game that also serves as a proof of concept before continuing production). Tax credits are also available in this case.
New Zealand has advantageous economic treaties with around a dozen countries, including Japan and France, providing various potential avenues for co-production.
To wrap up, here is a collection of exclusive concept arts, research, behind-the-scenes images related to the project.
For more information
We’ll follow this project closely in the coming months.