Elephant’s Dream

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Elephant’s Dream purports to be the world’s computer-generated film made entirely using free/open source applications.

It was made by an ad-hoc group of young animators who converged in Amsterdam and worked on the movie for 8 weeks before it was finished.

Elephant’s Dream premiered on Mar 2006. The production was done using the Blender 3D content creation software. Also used were The Gimp and Inkscape for creating some of the graphics, amongst other programs (if you use/have used Blender and would like to publish a review of this program on Freewaregenius please Email me).

The film’s production qualities are nothing short of spectacular, especially when you consider it was made by a bunch of guys using freely available software and not a fancy multimillion-dollar animation company like Pixar. On the other hand some people have criticized this film as being story-less and no more than a spectacularly animated demo; see below for a brief synopsis of the storyline as well as my own stab at an interpretation.

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The storyline: An old man (Proog) guides a younger man (Emo) through some sort of dream reality, a matrix-like meta-universe or a machine or inner organic world that seems infinitely menacing and scary. Their journey together is so fraught with dangers as to leave little opportunity for reflection on the part of the hapless Emo, but lots of opportunities for fantastic animated visuals of iron-tentacles and other larger than life dangers that explode on screen in spectacular 3D animation. And yet Emo apparently grows tired of and increasingly skeptical of the dream world surrounding him. The climax comes when Emo attempts to break away from his hapless existence controlled by Proog and a flurry of activity and seemingly uncontrolled dangers look like they are beset to harm both of them. But are they? We never know, for the older Proog finally knocks Emo unconscious, an act that seems to signify the triumph of his own paranoid reality over the world of his younger companion (whose reality is only hinted at and never allowed to manifest itself).

My interpretation: this may be an allegory on the state of the world today, a world where leaders and experts (i.e. “older men”) see only imminent danger and doom (terrorism, WMD’s, illegal immigrants, Islam as the the unknowable ‘other’), and are comfortable simply to silence any other visions or interpretations of reality, even as they are potentially sympathetic characters who seem less outright evil than paranoid or ignorant. After all, you get the sense that Proog was motivated more by an utter conviction of the validity of his perceived reality than malice, and everything that he did was ostensibly to protect Emo (indeed he seemed desperate to have Emo simply buy into and validate his world view). Note also the reference to “The hanging gardens of Babylon” (which just happen to be located in present day Iraq); and while I’m at it, might I not connect Emo’s mention of “The Colossus of Rhodes” with the World Trade Center?; after all, the Colossus at its time was the tallest statue in the ancient world before an earthquake brought it down forever.

Ok, I’m done.Go ahead and watch the movie (see links below; you will need a bittorent client to download).

Go here to watch on Youtube or here to download Elephant’s Dream and the “Making of” documentary (lots of different sizes versions of the movie; choose the one that suits you). Also check out the Elephants Dream home page. Other resources: “The making of Elephants Dream session given at the 2006 Blender conference. Also visit Elephant’s Dream page in Wikipedia.