The Art of Pacific Rim: The Black–Go behind the scenes of the latest Netflix animated series

Review by C.J. Bunce

Have you ever wanted to create your own Netflix TV series?  In the new behind-the-scenes book The Art of Pacific Rim: The Black, the producers, directors, writers, and animators tell you exactly how they created two seasons of Pacific Rim: The Black, a hit dystopian science fiction animated show for Netflix (reviewed here yesterday).  The book, by writer Andrew Osmond, is a collection of concept artwork, designs, environments, creature variants–all those visual elements that came together to become an anime sequel TV series tie-in to the big-budget live-action movies.  The movies were a box office success, but TV has different rules as well as opportunities.  Follow along as the creators adjusted their decisions to meet their budgets, and how they sold, scripted, and created a show with animation offices on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.  How did they do it?  Below check out some pages from The Art of Pacific Rim: The Black, new this month from Titan Books and available here at Amazon.

I’ve reviewed several books documenting the latest in animation film and TV series, but this is the first to really start at the beginning, with the competing scripts for the series, written by Greg Johnson and Craig Kyle.  Polygon Pictures in Tokyo had been seeking a tie-in project for Pacific Rim for several years, and Los Angeles-based Legendary’s producer Ken Duer ultimately selected them to create the animations.  The challenge was creating a look that was less 3D CG animation, since they wanted to take an anime approach.  Typically anime fans favor the 2D design look for this tokusatsu film style–a battle of kaiju monsters and robots.  As a plus, Polygon had a history creating shows for the Transformers.

Producer Duer and writer Johnson detail the work coordinated between the U.S. and Japan teams.  They share that the U.S. team leading the production felt they gave the Japan team more and more creative freedom, which made the show better, and this became greater in the second season as the artists became more familiar with the character personalities.  This included making the kaiju convey expressions.  Director Jae-Hong Kim and some of the team were able to meet with each other in person, but the film was also made during the pandemic so much was created over Zoom meetings, too.  Kim says much of his work was uniting everyone else’s ideas.

Part of what makes TV shows come in on budget–and get follow-up seasons–is using what they call “assets.”  The assets can be developed characters, environments, digital sets, and weaponry.  Some of these, especially ideas developed but discarded early on, may be able to be re-used in later episodes.  And that was a reality in this series.

In interviews the crew discusses how they bridged the movie stories with the TV series, including adding in throwbacks and Easter eggs.  One scene features several giant Jaegers from the movies.  As you’d expect in a behind the scenes book like this, it’s full of character design development for all of the key characters, the many kaiju and the Jaeger machines.  The designs are a must for fans of Godzilla movies, and those interviewed share how much more they could put into an animated series over a live-action version.

Each of the 14 episodes gets a summary of the story, followed by newly introduced characters, monsters, and environments.  Readers will see some storyboards, big double-page images from the final cut, plus sketches, and a lot of cool sci-fi tech futurism.

For sci-fi fans, Pacific Rim: The Black has it all, and The Art of Pacific Rim: The Black shows you how it was done.  Don’t miss the complete series in two seasons, both streaming now on Netflix.  The Art of Pacific Rim: The Black, new this month from Titan Books, is available now here at Amazon.

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