Penny Dreadful is a supernatural horror drama written by John Logan and directed by Sam Mendes. Set in Victorian London, it features characters from three famous Gothic novels: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
To promote the show, Beakus was asked to animate a series of shorts introducing each text, narrated by writer and broadcaster Matthew Sweet.
The first in the series was released this week and tells the story of Frankenstein. It explains the inspiration for the book, common misconceptions of Frankenstein’s monster and key themes raised in the text. The following two videos, on Dorian Gray and Dracula, will be released early next week.
The films feature a similar style to Wootsch’s promo for Savages’ track, Marshal Dear, and his short film The Hungry Corpse, set in Trafalgar Square (see below). “Sky saw a link between those and this project, so it was quite a natural fit for me to design the imagery. However, I did quite a lot of research around the period, the writers and the books,” he says.
Each film uses a mix of 3D 2D artwork, which was created digitally and by hand. “Many of the shots are composed in 3D, but as planes on to which the hand-drawn elements are mapped. At other times I use a more involved 3D process, but I always like to hide the technicality of the modelling with hand-drawn textures and artwork,” he explains.
As well as conveying the dark, Gothic nature of the show, Wootsch says he was keen to reflect its high production value. “It was important that the animation was well made and used 3D where possible, to bring a higher level of sophistication to the hand-drawn artwork,” he explains.
“The show makes use of a lot of shadow and stylisation, so I did too. But these films are more about the origins of the books, rather than the characters in them, so I did have a liberty to veer away from the show and into a world I could make up from scratch,” he says. “I’ve found the third film, Dorian Gray, the hardest to visualise, simply because it’s easier to plug in to imagery about Dracula and Frankenstein,” he adds.
Wootsch may be best known for his eerie black and white style, but says it was not a conscious decision to pursue this aesthetic. “It’s just come along through a seies of projects. Believe it or not, I’ve designed for colourful, kid-friendly projects as well,” he says. “The uniting factor [in all of the work] is this mix of 2D and 3D – I think people who see it often don’t know how each shot was made.”
Penny Dreadful also features props and signage designed by Annie Atkins, the lead graphic designer on Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. You can read more about Atkins’ work for the show in our May issue – or read our blog post on her designs for the film here.