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Immersed in Movies: Joyce Gets His Golem

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by Bill Desowitz
April 23, 2013 12:01 AM
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Good news: Despite failing to reach the funding goal of $750,000 from its Kickstarter campaign, Bill Joyce's "Golem" videogame will be completed at his Moonbot Studios in Shreveport, Louisiana, thanks to alternate financing and the support of Guillermo Del Toro, who will produce an animated "Golem" feature spinoff directed by Joyce.

The ancient Jewish folktale about a clay giant and guardian of Prague in search of independence and a soul is the perfect project for Joyce and Moonbot -- the original monster template: fighting the Borgias and their war machine built by a young Leonardo Da Vinci.

"There's such a rich mythic world of Renaissance Prague that we're tapping into," Joyce relates. "It's fairy tale city and they treat their fairy tales as historical fact. And they treat The Golem as something that really happened. I mean, there really was a Rabbi Lev and there is a grave where he's buried and The Golem's ashes are supposed to be in the attic of the new/old synagogue built in the 1400s. 

"But their history is so [great] and all these crazy myths that are plied into the history, and we're taking these myths and treating them the way they did. There are only two cities that I've been to that seem made up, Paris and Prague. They just seem too whimsical than everyday life and have something more going on."

Joyce said the Kickstarter campaign created great awareness and investors came calling to provide funding beyond the $750,000. He first approached Del Toro about collaborating during the making of "Rise of the Guardians" (a bitter commercial disappointment that merely reaffirms the need for a new business model that he is building at Moonbot).

"And now Guillermo's committed to this. I told him we wanted to do a game first because it's a great way to test out design and mood and even elements of plot. And so now we're building the story and plot mechanics and the game mechanics, which are intertwined from the get-go. There are choices the gamers make as Golem that will alter how the story plays out and, to ultimately win the game, they will have to find the right series of choices. It will always come to a narrative conclusion, but it still will be a competitive game and won't be repetitive."

But at the core is an emotional connection with Golem, as Joyce strives to tell new kinds of stories. "The thing that got me mesmerized about the way games are going were 'Journey' and 'Limbo,' which hint at themes not fully explored and are both quiet and meditative and occasionally terrifying. So we want to do something that is in between a big adventure game and also quieter and more exploratory. 

Joyce is currently outlining the "Golem" movie, which he will co-write with Del Toro, who has a keen sense for narrative clarity. And Moonbot is getting tremendous experience animating games, shorts, apps, and, eventually, the feature. Joyce believes it's the model of the future.

Speaking of which, Moonbot will follow-up its Oscar-winning "Morris Lessmore" with another short this year and has three others in the works. In addition, they have several other games, including a holiday release with Sony called "Diggs Nightcrawler," combining Mother Goose and film noir. 

But "Golem" is the potential game-changer: "We want to give the game and the film and the book the sense that this was the intellectual capital of the world; this was the technological, cutting edge city."



Animation Scoop's Contributing Editor Bill Desowitz blogs regularly at Immersed In Movies.

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