One can find everything in the animated series Heroes of Envell produced by Parovoz studio: an 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. The film director of the project Anton Lanshakov 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.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE SPECIAL THING IN HEROES OF ENVELL?
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 the 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 truly special thing of the series.
ARE THE CHARACTERS BASED ON REAL PEOPLE?
Anton Lanshakov: Yes, Art, Vic, and Phil were modeled after my friends. Ilya is inspired by the neighbour living next to my dacha. And my sister was the 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 of 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?
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 model 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 the 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 for 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 by 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.»
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 about 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.
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 my 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 the 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.»