Exclusive Orion and the Dark Interview

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Summary

  • Orion and the Dark is a unique and edgy film that addresses topics people don’t usually want to talk about.
  • The film blends CGI and 2D animation styles, with the challenge of coordinating work done in India and creating a hand-made, raw feel.
  • Netflix provided the freedom and support to explore darker and different themes, making it an ideal platform for the film’s release.


Orion and the Dark helps children overcome fear and thoughtfully handle existential crises. Acclaimed screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich​​​​​, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) adapts Emma Yarlett’s novel about a nervous boy (Jacob Tremblay) taken on a spectacular adventure by immortal darkness (Paul Walter Hauser). He’s completely misunderstood and tired of being hated. They meet other Night Entities who explain the critical nature of their jobs and why Light (Ike Barinholtz) is hilariously overrated.

Director Sean Charmatz, stellar in his feature debut, “loved” Kaufman’s script and was excited to make a “brave film” that “could help people to actually deal with their anxieties.” Orion and the Dark is “a little edgy and scary and deals with things that are not always topics people want to talk about. But I think we did it in a really whimsical way. We were excited about the themes and what the movie was going to be about.”

Producer Peter McCown elaborates on the arduous process of blending the film’s brilliant CGI and 2D animation, “I think just having the primary CG work done in India, a 12-and-a-half-hour time difference, makes it extremely difficult to work with and sync up, but you get into a rhythm.” He specifically credits “in-house” 2D artists Emily Tetri, Greg Sharp, and Julien Bocabeille for “having the drawings look a little like they’re made by a kid. It’s hard to do for professional artists at DreamWorks Animation to make something look a little more sloppy.” Please read below and watch our interview above with Sean Charmatz and Peter McCown.


Orion and the Dark Has a Unique Tone

Orion and the Dark

Orion and the Dark

4 /5

Release Date
February 2, 2024

Director
Sean Charmatz

Runtime
1hr 30min

Read Our Review

MovieWeb: Orion and the Dark is an amazing film. I really enjoyed it. Charlie Kaufman’s script teaches children how to face existential crises. Talk about getting him to adapt Emma Yarlett’s book. What was he like to work with?

Sean Charmatz: He wrote the script. And we kind of took it from there. We loved the script. We were excited about the themes and what the movie was going to be about. I was all for it. I’m so happy that we got to make this film because it’s a film that is brave. It is unique, tonally, it is a little edgy and scary, and deals with things that are not always topics people want to talk about. But I think we did it in a really whimsical way. I think that the film could help people to actually deal with their anxieties.

MW: You guys do a tremendous job of blending animated styles. I was really impressed by the CGI primary story, but then the 2D sketchbook for Orion’s fantasies. Audiences don’t usually realize the time, energy, and effort that goes into making an animated film. Was there anything more extraordinary or difficult about this process?

Peter McCown: Yeah, I think just having the primary CG work done in India, which is, you know, a 12-and-a-half-hour time difference, makes it extremely difficult to work with and sync up, but you get into a rhythm. You start to speak the same language. But then also introducing, like you said, the 2D styles of the sketchbook, shout out to our artist, Emily Tetri, who did a brilliant job designing all that. We worked with a traditional 2D artist, Greg Sharp, to do what was kind of an homage to The Brave Little Toaster for a scene. It’s not this cheerful. It’s kind of got this weird edge, and it makes you a little uncomfortable, which is kind of cool. It’s a tone we were going for. Then an in-house artist, Julien Bocabeille, who helped us with some other shadow 2D animation that we did on the wall. So we just thought it was really texturally important to make this feel crafted in a way…

Sean Charmatz: Hand made…

Peter McCown: And not clean. It can be a little raw feeling. I think that was important. So, blending all of these differences. Sean was such a strong advocate of having the drawings look a little like they’re made by a kid, right? It’s hard to do for professional artists at DreamWorks Animation to make something look a little more sloppy. But like I said, Emily did an amazing job of that.

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Orion and the Dark Faced Big Challenges

Sean Charmatz: Yeah, and a lot of the things we did in the film, we had no reference for. We couldn’t look at another film and be like, “Oh, we want the hair to be like this film.” The hair was one of our biggest challenges, I would say, because we have line work in the hair, and it’s modeled. The line work that you find in the hair and the line work that you find in the backgrounds, there was no movie or person that knew how to put lines on the bed, lines on the dresser, while also being CG. So there were a lot of things that we did, that we had to figure it out without any clear reference. That was a real challenge. I think we did a great job.

MW: Let’s talk about the distribution process. Why take this film to Netflix and go for a streaming launch?

Peter McCown: I think what Netflix was able to give us a little bit more freedom and latitude to go a little, maybe darker left of center, if you will. When you’re putting out a big wide-release theatrical film from one of the major studios, you’ve got to tick a lot of different boxes and hit a bunch of different quadrants to make it an all-encompassing family film. We were fortunate, because DreamWorks gave us the support, and certainly Netflix did too, to lean into something that is maybe a little different and touches on some subjects that maybe animation doesn’t get to explore as often. I think we were both, and everyone who worked on the project was really excited by that aspect. We get to explore this character and this world, maybe a little differently than we would be used to on something that’s a little bit more of a wide release, if you will.

Orion and the Dark is currently available exclusively on Netflix.

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