"Lunatics!" is a science fiction animated web series about the very first Lunar settlers. "Someone has to be crazy enough to go first!"
Special thanks to everyone who supported this campaign!
Please see our Lunatics! Project Site for further developments.
It's the year 2040, and seven-year-old Georgiana Lerner is destined to become not only the first child to go into space, but she will fly all the way to the Moon with her mother (Hiromi) to join her father (Rob) and his colleagues there.
Cast & Crew
Here's a quick guide to our "Meet the Team" updates about the people making Lunatics!
Writer: Rosalyn Hunter
Director/Producer: Terry Hancock
Character Designer: Daniel Fu
- Karrie Shirou as Hiromi Aoki Lerner
- Ariel Hancock as Georgiana Lerner
- William Roberts as Robert Lerner
- Lex Quarterman as Igor Timothy Farmer
- Paul Birchard as Joshua Farmer
- Veronika Kurshinskaya as Anya Titova-Farmer
- Sergei Oleinik as Sergei Titov
- Karen Jagger as Tina Harris / Iridium Comm. Voice
- Melodee M. Spevack as Narrator (Older Georgiana)
- Jami Cullen as Reporter (US)
- Miki Kuroki as Reporter (Japanese)
- Kristina Ponomarenko as Pad Crew Woman
- David Jordan as Talk Show Guest
- Sophie Le Neveu as Talk Show Host
- Chris Kuhn (Principal Mechanical Modeling)
- Bela Szabo (Principal Character Modeling)
- Gorka Mendieta (Rigging & Effects)
- Sathish Kumar / Spark Multimedia (Principal Set Modeling)
- Vyacheslav Yastrebcev
- Summer 2012 Team: Andrew Pray, Cosmin Planchon, Guillaume Cote, Timothee Giet
Additional UPDATES with project details:
- Budget and goals for production
- Free-Culture Licenses & Business Models
- Visual Style, Blender, and Freestyle for Lunatics!
- Evolution of the story for "No Children in Space" pilot
"No Children in Space"
When they left, there were people all around, people with cameras snapping pictures of Georgiana learner, the "space girl". She could hear people saying those words -- "the space girl" -- everywhere that she went. She found it odd as she had never been to space herself. She had only been to training classes. The closest that she had got to anything like space was when they let her put on her space suit and walk around the base of a swimming pool.
That had been fun. They dropped rings from the surface and she would walk forward and try to catch them. It was slow, moving that heavy suit in the water, and she had pushed her legs as fast as she could, but even with weights at the bottom, she sometimes fell forward and landed on her chest.
The first time that she had done it, mother had rushed forward, concerned that somehow she would break the seals of her suit, but she had only laughed, the sound echoing dully in her helmet as she climbed back to her feet to try again jumping through the water this time.
Georgy was used to blue skies. She had seen them all of the seven years that she had been alive, and she didn't know what it would feel like to live in a place where the sky was always black. Daddy told her that things are never just better or worse, they are different, and although she would lose the blue sky, she would gain a sky full of more stars than anyone on Earth had ever seen. She looked forward to seeing that, and to seeing Daddy again. She hadn't seen him for most of a year, unless you counted calls on the Grid. Her last call had been just two days ago. Mother had smiled wide and said, "Honey, we'll be there soon," in that voice that she seemed to keep only for him. Georgy hadn't said much of anything.
-- Excerpt from the novella "No Children in Space" by Rosalyn Hunter
A number of writers and filmmakers have tried to show us life in space or on the Moon, but they usually skip over this very early phase. And there's a good reason for that: this kind of near-future science-fiction is really hard to do convincingly. We have the challenge of extrapolating realistically from today's technology. We don't get to just assume that magical future technology will solve all of the problems we can't figure out. We have to do our homework, and then we have to actually show you our work. And we have to connect things to real world places, events, and technologies. It presents all of the problems of writing science-fiction PLUS all of the problems of writing true-to-life.
Fortunately, after many years involvement with science, space technology, and the real-life space settlement advocates, writer Rosalyn Hunter and producer/director Terry Hancock have the background to develop this story.
We decided to use our pilot episode to go ahead and show you exactly how to get a seven-year-old girl to the Moon. Because, while it is challenging, it's also entirely possible with current or very near-future technology, and we want to establish a clear continuity with the present day.
So the pilot tells the story in a straightforward progression from rural Kazakhstan to the northern edge of Mare Imbrium on the Moon.
That also establishes some hard parameters for the series -- having seen how their supply-lines operate, we can get a deeper understanding for just what the limitations on the colonist's lifestyle at the ISF-1 Colony at LaPlace D Crater are like. We even see their neighbors -- the US Air Force's nearby Iridium Station, which they use as a landing site.
In the pilot, Georgiana effectively migrates from mid-19th century technology (trains) to mid-21st century technology (the "Lunar Transportation System"), passing through our present-day. And with that comes a special kind of realism. Parts of the beginning of this pilot could almost be filmed on location, if we had the budget. But the end of the film is in the near-future science fiction world of the series. And that's the mission of "No Children in Space" -- to bridge the gap from present-day reality to a very, very plausible future.
With "Lunatics!" we're interested in the lifesize drama and humor that arises from the situations we're putting our characters into. And we're interested in the personality of pioneering people who would be willing to take this bold step. As the tagline says, "Somebody has to be crazy enough to go first!"
The vision of space colonization in "Lunatics!" is refreshingly different and very optimistic: it's a vision of individuals who work with governments and corporations both, but aren't driven by them. It's a humanistic, personal, and independent vision of lunar settlement.
The fictional International Space Foundation, founded by Rob Lerner, is essentially a crowd-funded, grass-roots organization which has found ways to leverage corporate and government interests to get a colony established.
We think that's a pretty realistic picture of present-day real-world space advocacy communities like the Mars Society, Moon Society, National Space Foundation, or Space Frontier Foundation -- though of course it's not exactly like any of them, and perhaps a little more ambitious than all of them.
Rob and his wife Hiromi Aoki Lerner have gone through a lot of hardships on this path, given up for awhile, decided to have a child, then found a new opportunity to redeem their dream and make it happen. Their partners and neighbors-to-be, Anya Titova Farmer, her husband Josh Farmer, and son Igor Timothy Farmer have additional skills needed to make their start-up colony succeed. And they have a limited time to reach an adequate level of self-sufficiency to maintain their colony permanently.
At the beginning of our story, they are almost entirely dependent on materials brought up from Earth at great expense. It's a huge gamble, and the drama of the series is how they will win that bet. This is not a shoot-'em-up and there are no hidden alien artifacts on the Moon in Lunatics. It's a story about pioneering -- which is adventure enough for lifesize people.
It's also a story about two very unusual childhoods: Georgiana Lerner is seven years old when she arrives, and Tim Farmer is 14. Both will have challenges growing up in relative isolation on the Moon in an environment no children have grown up in.
And that raises another tension of the series, raised a little bit in the beginning of the pilot -- is space colonization worth the risk?
Clearly our main characters think so, but there are others who disagree. Space exploration and development has always been political in my experience, and I expect it will remain so. The future world of "Lunatics!" is rife with these kinds of problems just as real space policy is today.
Finishing "No Children in Space"
We've been working for over a year on producing "No Children in Space" (and the "Lunatics!" series as a whole). A lot of stuff has been done on a shoestring budget, largely with the help of donated labor.We already have a mostly-finished audio track with full-cast voices and many sound effects. We even have a little bit of the animation.
Here's what we need to do to finish:
- Create lots of 3D models for sets, props, and characters.
- Animate the shots for the pilot
- Re-record a few bad voice and effects tracks
- Add foley-sound (performance sound matched to the animation)
- Final rendering to 1080p resolution
- Editing and mixing the video
- Mastering the DVD and Lib-Ray editions of the video with extras
Since we recorded voices for "Earth" along with those for "No Children in Space", and since it is very dialog-driven, we will also produce an audio-drama of "Earth" with narration and effects added to the existing voices.
What We Have Now
Two-minute "teaser" demo shows the flight into space from Georgiana's point-of-view. We did this largely as an exercise in collaborating on a completed scene and animation. It's also something we could do with the very limited 3D assets we had at the time (quite a bit more has been added since then):The animatic is an important part of the directing process. It's essentially a plan for how the final episode will be cut (although of course, there will probably be changes as work on animation and it becomes more clear just how the pacing is working):
We've selected a variety of different kinds of rewards to thank you for supporting our project, and to give you a permanent copy of the result. Some can be shipped sooner, and some will ship when we finish production.
For USA addresses ONLY: we will try to ship the first part of your package when it is ready, and delay sending only the ones that require the production to be finished. We can do that because shipping inside the USA is less expensive.
For International addresses, however, if your package includes a DVD and/or Lib-Ray release of the video, we will hold all of the other physical rewards to be shipped in one package. This is because of the high cost of shipping internationally (we don't want to charge you for two shipments).
Stickers, T-Shirt, and Signed Card will bear a logo like this one, with the text "Official Backer - 2013 Pilot Episode Kickstart":
Artbook: Cover art below. This book is actually available in PDF from our website:
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The "Early" rewards have little to no risk. Most are nearly complete and mostly need to be mastered and printed or replicated. The audiodrama still needs to be mixed, but the voices are recorded. The novella is in a draft state, and requires some revision. We're also planning to commission illustrations for it. We've allowed an extra month for rewards including these.
The DVD, Lib-Ray, and high-definition download releases of the episode(s) are clearly dependent on the production risks, as described below.
We've tried to be conservative. April 2014 is my prediction based on the "minimal" funding. However, even so, I will be more willing to miss the deadline than to publish an episode we're not happy with.
We're aiming for an economical style that will tell the story. Clearly we will not be competing with big-budget 3D production houses, but I'm pretty confident we can make a very nice episode, even on this very small budget. We've got some brilliant people working on it. The final quality will depend somewhat on how much we raise -- mainly this will affect things like the fluidity of the character animation.
We can't guarantee that successfully producing the pilot will lead to the series launching. However, we already have story arcs planned which would run into three seasons, so we're pretty committed to trying.
For US addresses, we will deliver the early items when they are ready, and send out DVDs or Lib-Ray packages separately upon completion (April 2014). To keep shipping costs down for international backers, we'll ship everything at once -- so if your package includes a DVD and/or Lib-Ray, we'll ship in April (otherwise the shipping charge would be almost double), if it only includes immediate deliverables, then we'll ship them when they are ready.
The digital package will include an early collection and a separate notification when the episode(s) are available for download. In fairness, I have to point out that the digital downloads are not strictly exclusive. We'll create a nice package and early access for backers, but all of the elements will be available freely online as well (that's the nature of a free-culture project!).
The minimal production budget to finish "No Children in Space" is $25,000. The rest of the money goes to producing rewards and paying the Kickstarter overheads. I've provided a detailed description in my 2nd update:
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike version 3.0, unported:
This applies to the episodes, clips, soundtracks, 3D models and rigs, 2D animation elements, scripts, and so on -- all of our "sources".
Read more about these ideas in our 4th update:
The fact that we are releasing under a free license direct to the Web may seem to preclude making money on the production, but it doesn't!
Obviously we intend to start with crowd-funding. Getting past the pilot (and maybe the first few episodes) will be the hardest part, because we have to get support based on the potential of the project rather than being able to show completed episodes. But as we progress, we'll have finished episodes to show you, starting with this pilot.
After release, for those who weren't in on the crowd-funding, we will be offering "creator endorsed" merchandise, including DVD and HD editions of the episodes. We expect this to be no less profitable than offering DVDs for sale without the free-license, and perhaps much better. We get some "free riders", but also the potential for a much larger audience and fan base.
Read more about these ideas in our 4th update: