American McGee’s “Alice” Trailer
This was one of my favorite pieces I directed while at LittleBeast. Matt (my producer/friend/partner) and I had met producer R.J. Berg a year before, producing cinematics for his game Future Cop: L.A.P.D.; now he was gearing up for a wicked, twisted fairy tale based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Coincidentally (or not, depending on your take), I had been in early development on a twisted Alice tale myself. Mine was a short film concept, not a game, and it was more of a far future sequel than American’s take (in mine, Alice is a grown woman, in his: a troubled teen) and while very different, they were both dark and rather morbid in nature. I cussed for quite awhile after that initial meeting (as I’d only recently finished designing opening credits for my short, and was really still quite attached to the idea), but ultimately I decided I just had to be involved in American’s game.
The good news was R.J. trusted us explicitly. (The bad news was there wasn’t a whole lot of budget.) I spent three days scrounging up a rough animatic for the trailer, which we then presented to American and R.J. in person. I don’t think I’ve ever had another pitch go better. We cut one brief segment, for economy reasons, and moved forward with getting the trailer done.
Xaos contracted with us to produce the CG, and they did a marvelous job. I had a very clear idea of the art direction I wanted and I pushed for even the tiniest of details along the way. (I recall a long discussion of the style of the ABC blocks, for example.) But the artists at Xaos were both talented and accommodating, and they produced one of the better game trailers of its day. (While the 3D models might look a bit dated by today’s standards, I still think the art direction and tone hold up well.)
The game was something of a cult hit, though its numbers never did well enough to keep EA doing original works, and that’s a shame. American (and R.J.) were both a pleasure to work with (as was Chris Vrenna, of Nine-Inch-Nails fame, who did the soundtrack), and “Alice” remains one of those dream gigs from my San Francisco days. Heck, they even named the asylum after me. It doesn’t get better than that.