FALLING ALL OVER AGAIN
GrimBrother One: So to start off, what would you say sets Halo: The Fall of Reach – The Animated Series apart from both the beloved novel and the comic series?
Frank O’Connor: Well, apart from the fact that it’s fully animated, beautifully scored, dense with the rich suite of Halo audio, sound and visual effects and artfully directed by the folks at Sequence, I’d say this is a faithful adaptation of a beloved novel. We’ve always been careful to make sure that we take full advantage of the media in which we present and so in the case of Fall of Reach, that means building what’s effectively the origin story of much of what we understand to be the Halo universe.
Without getting into the weeds, we’ve been careful to align with the novel where it makes sense, but in visualizing the universe – which has evolved so much in the intervening years – we were presented with a few challenges, but also a lot of opportunities. So you’ll see a few differences, choices of Covenant ship, weapons and so on, but it adheres tightly to the core canon, with a few flourishes here and there to fill in gaps or smooth over previous errors.
Kiki Wolfkill: This is an adaptation of the origin story of John and Blue Team that is firmly-grounded in both the novel and comics. As with any adaptation, we focused on how best to tell the story through the medium it is being retold through. Sequence is known for their powerful but lyrical visual style and so Halo: The Fall of Reach is told through the voice of those animations, through an amazing score, and through a suite of talented voice actors. 343 has always loved exploring different creative perspectives and all of these tools gave us the ability to express the legend through a slightly different and very emotionally-compelling lens. Our goal is to bring John and Blue Team’s story to life in a different way both for those already familiar with the story and for those who may only know Master Chief as an armored Spartan.
GRIM: Can you speak to any challenges that are specific to the development of an animated piece such as this one as opposed to the development of a novel or comic?
FRANK: I actually think that the main challenge is being forced to drop inner monologue, but that also gives the artists and director the opportunity to show more than the claustrophobic confines of a novel permit. That in itself however brings up a challenge all adaptations go through – does the new media match the reader’s imagination and vision of the content? Or does it exceed it? Obviously the latter is the best result.
KIKI: Hmmm… the budget looks a little different ;-) It’s an incredibly fun challenge to adapt from the written page into animated visuals – if a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the right visual shorthand to deliver on the detail and description that words have the luxury of time to deliver? How do you fit a novel into just an hour? Often it meant strenuous – and sometimes combative conversation – between ourselves as well as with Sequence to distill down to what the heart of the story is… what is most important to relay to ensure that the viewer not only understands plot but also feels connected to the characters and the story.
GRIM: It can absolutely be a challenge, but certainly no more daunting than it is rewarding. Now let’s talk about the timing of this series in particular. Why did we feel it was important to revisit this specific story as we lead up to Halo 5: Guardians?
FRANK: Guardians focuses so heavily on Blue Team in some ways, that we felt almost obligated to explain to players why these characters, who you’ll meet anew in the game anyway, are so important to the history of the series. And really, this is something we’ve always wanted to make, regardless of the timing.
KIKI: The theme of family and the bonds that exist between soldiers (and even AI) has always been intriguing for us. We left the Master Chief at the end of Halo 4 contemplating a future without Cortana. Who can the Master Chief trust? In Halo 5: Guardians, John is reunited with Blue Team who represents a different kind of family for him – what is their bond and how was it forged? Halo: The Fall of Reach explores not just John’s origin story but also that of Blue Team itself.
GRIM: Should fans expect to experience or notice any cool connections or inclusion from previous Halo fiction?
FRANK: We’ll actually have a whisper of connection to Halo 5: Guardians directly, but that’s a subtle nod only book readers will even notice; overall it’s definitely a properly encapsulated version of the original story.
KIKI: Yes indeedy.
GRIM: Whoa Kiki, easy on the detailed spoilers! Shifting gears a bit to the actual production process itself, how has working with SEQUENCE on this project differed from working with them on something like the Terminals (seen in Halo: Anniversary, Halo 4, and Halo 2: Anniversary)?
FRANK: This series is artistically going to share a lot with Sequence’s previous style, so you’ll see some continuity for sure, but the scale and fidelity of the animation for this is more ambitious than Sequence’s already gorgeous, dreamlike tradition – and this is fully animated and mostly 3D. It’s just a lot more work, and not just in animating, but in shading and texturing the painterly style. It’s hard work.
KIKI: This animated series is different from the Terminals in that it is a 60-minute single-arc story that has much more visual complexity – particularly around characters – than the Terminals previously had. Telling that long a story across 3 episodes and mapping the emotional arc across that amount of time is a challenge, especially given how beloved a story this is. The guys and gals at Sequence have been doing a fantastic job in evolving their own style and storytelling methods to rise to this challenge – they are very passionate about delivering on a great experience.
GRIM: Do we plan to show John’s face?!
FRANK: You’ll certainly see plenty of young John.
KIKI: You’ll also see his arms and legs.
GRIM: Again with the spoilers! So before we close for today, what is the biggest thing you hope fans will take away from Halo: The Fall of Reach – The Animated Series?
FRANK: I think as a primer for the worlds we’ve built over the last 15 years, Fall of Reach has always been a fantastic foundation, and this simply makes it more accessible than ever before.
KIKI: I hope it will feel like coming home for those who already know the story, like hearing a favorite tale by the campfire again but told from a new storyteller. For those who do not know the story, I hope it builds a new connection to our universe and to the man inside the Mjolnir. The Fall of Reach novel was the first piece of Halo content I read after playing Halo: Combat Evolved and it started my own love affair with the universe which until then had been framed just by the game. That novel is part of why I personally am so passionate about Halo storytelling and I hope this animated series can do the same for other players and viewers.
GRIM: Well, can’t think of any way to say it better than that. Thanks so much to the both of you for sharing your thoughts with the fans today!