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Phil Tippett Reveals First Details About 'Mad God' Follow-Up

It took VFX legend and former Dinosaur supervisor Phil Tippett some 30 years to make his directorial debut Mad God.  Primarily produced in stop-motion, the film was produced by Tippett and a small crew of animators on-and-off across three decades. We won't have to wait anywhere near that long for his follow-up. Tippett has offered the first plot details and set images for the new film, which is going by the name of Sentinel.

The new film will have a much more traditional production than that of Mad God. Tippet is partnering with producer Colin Geddes of Ultra 8 Pictures and is pursuing a much more conventional development and production process. Tippett has already begun shooting some footage and has produced a concept video that will be shared with potential partners at the Market at Cannes.

Sentinel is being developed as something that can contain the entirety of VFX history in it, from stop-motion to digital and now AI. Tippett says "There is some AI stuff we’ve done in a little piece during development, which is great because that’s just a bigger palette for me. I can mix and match all these techniques." This is something that is likely to ruffle a few feathers with the significant anti-AI crowd online. But what will it look like in the hands of a master?

Tippet is working with a traditional screenplay this time, trying to avoid the same situation with Mad God, which ballooned from a short film to a full feature. It will also be a bit more narratively conventional- at least to begin with. "It’s much more like a traditional war film at the beginning, and the audience will immediately recognize, “Oh, it’s like a World War One film"  Tippett says.

It's not going to stay that way for long. The majority of the film's narrative is going to unfold within the mind in the final moments of a dying soldier. Tippett says the idea is inspired by the William Golding novel Pincher Martin and the original Twilight Zone episode An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, which was adapted from a book of the same name by US Civil War veteran Ambrose Bierce.

Tippett says that he's working on the script every day and that "it'll never be completely done." He says that he'll still be working on it while he is making the film. He says it's in a very good place right now. "Like a lot of artists, I don’t want to show it off because I don’t think it’s finished," he adds"but there comes a time when you need to have it taken out of your hands in order to move ahead.”

Sentinel will share much of its visual style with Mad God as they both have similar influences. Tippett says that his work is in particular inspired by the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and the films of Czech filmmaker Karel Zeman (The Fabulous Baron Munchausen, Journey To The Beginning Of Time). He was also influenced by effects legend Ray Harryhausen. 

In 1984 Tippett and his wife Jules Roman founded Tippett Studios. The company went on to create VFX for Star Wars, Harry Potter, Starship Troopers, Twilight, Jurassic Park and Robocop. But it wasn't until the age of 70 that Tippett completed a film of his own.“It took a lifetime to get into a position where I understood cinema enough to be able to break it,” he said.

It's not going to be another 30 years wait for his next film- but it's probably not going to be finished next year either. However long it takes the animation and VFX worlds are surely going to keep an eye on this one.