In preparation for this feature, director Denver Jackson has been creating a six-part prequel web series, The First Monolith, set several decades before Esluna takes place. This has allowed him time to develop the look and feel of the world of Esluna, as well as refine and demonstrate here the animation styles and techniques that the feature film will employ.

We've gone through a lot of work to make this world utterly unique compared to other series and features with similar themes or mythic structure. The deep mythology created for Esluna, means that layers of world-building not only in space, but in time, are revealed throughout the story. Because so many influences and homages are present from a wide variety of films and other touchstones, Esluna should have the effect of feeling both comfortable and new to the audience, similar to the construction (but not the themes) of stories found in Tarantino's work. Nothing quite like the world of Esluna exists on screen yet, and we're excited to put it there.

 Above: Concept art for Ruby and Terric's home.  Below: Character expressions from web series  The First Monolith .

Above: Concept art for Ruby and Terric's home.  Below: Character expressions from web series The First Monolith.



Denver’s signature animation style is influenced by the look of traditional hand-drawn animation, the animated worlds in Studio Ghibli’s films, and the character design aesthetics of Disney. For Esluna, every character will be hand-drawn at 12 frames per second, and all backgrounds will be hand-painted. Elements that can benefit from 3d animation, such as vehicles and environment camera movement, will be integrated with the 2d animation using an invisible technique called ‘projection mapping.’ This technique involves hand-painting an image and projecting that image onto a 3d model, providing the model with a texture that blends seamlessly with surrounding hand-painted elements.



Denver’s background as a visual effects and compositing artist affords him a unique perspective on art direction and supervising other artists on the film. Imagine if your Director of Photography was also your Visual Effects Supervisor and your Art Director. Knowing how the whole shot will come together, Denver can proactively provide his team with comprehensive and cohesive direction related to making the shot come alive through the compositing, down to specific lighting and shadows in designing sets, painting backgrounds, or animating characters before the VFX elements are even created. This creates more efficient workflow than often found in animation, and brings great synergy to the elements created for these shots. 


To help keep the film grounded, the camera positions will mirror how the script would be shot if it were live action; no over-the-top camera angles or 'impossible camera' work. This classical approach to camera and composition will let viewers focus on the story and the visual elements unique to this world.

 Image from the storyboards for  Esluna: The World Beyon d

Image from the storyboards for Esluna: The World Beyond


Some of the characters in Esluna have seemingly magical abilities. In the story, those abilities are revealed to be technological, related to nanomachines in the air, so when these abilities are used, they will be visually represented by atmospheric distortions that resemble digital video glitches.

 Image from  Esluna: The First Monolith  web series. Young Bataar uses his abilities.

Image from Esluna: The First Monolith web series. Young Bataar uses his abilities.


Not only did Denver direct the prequel web series, but he was the only animator, colourist, visual effects artist, compositor, and anything else that needed to be done to animate this project.  We include a sizzle reel from the web series here; a taste of the look, feel, and adventure in the world of Esluna.