Twenty years ago, Abe’s Oddysee launched on PlayStation and, since its release, its creator Lorne Lanning has always dreamt of bringing the Oddworld universe to the big screen. Despite having quit the games industry in 2005 to focus on film development, an Oddworld movie never came to pass. However, now Oddworld Inhabitants is hard at work on Oddworld: Soulstorm Lanning has a renewed plan to take Abe to studio heads.
Except, in typical form for Lanning, his response to my question at EGX 2017 is anything but straightforward.
“Do you fly fish?”, he asks me in, what seems like, a sure-fire way to dodge my question about bringing Oddworld to the big screen. “The reason why people tie their own flies is that it has to be very specific to what [the fish] are eating. You’ve got to figure out what they’re eating and present it just perfectly so they’ll bite.
“Almost everything in life is that way.”
From there, Lanning reveals that Oddworld Inhabitants is building a rich asset library for Soulstorm. The assets the team has currently revealed show renders and designs that far exceed anything that the team would need for the likes of Soulstorm, but the intention is to make them truly scalable, and therefore viable for new mediums.
“We wanted to take the opportunity to upscale those databases so, when the linear trans-media companies look at it, [studio heads] go ‘wait a minute, a successful IP, a decades-old franchise with a loyal fan following that sells millions of units, why isn’t this a movie?’”
That’s Lanning’s fly. “We’re lining the dominoes up so they go ‘oh, what a brilliant idea!’”
An Oddworld movie has always been on the cards for the franchise, something that’s been at the back of Lanning’s mind for years. If you’re wondering why a film didn’t happen sooner, it’s not for lack of interest. In fact, Lanning blames himself for missing out on the opportunity.
“Back when we were working on Munch’s Oddysee a young producer called Ryan had a partner who was a director that nobody had heard of – J.J. Abrams”, he explains in hushed tones. “This was before he’d done Felicity, and I was too busy and wrapped up in development to read the treatment.
“That was part of a legacy of missed opportunities due to game development.”
But now, Lanning is focused on the task at hand and, thanks to the changing nature of how we consume media, he’s warming to the idea of creating a TV series instead.
“The idea of doing a prolonged series is way more engaging than doing a 90-minute movie that goes out in one and maybe gets a sequel,” he explains. “It takes so much money to get a film off the ground, but we’re building frugally. Although we’re still spending millions of dollars when you see something on-screen and think ‘that must have cost $US50 million!’ we’re aiming for it to only have cost around $US10 million.”
It’s that cost-effectiveness that should stack up well for any studio interested in working with the IP. With a database of high-resolution, almost hyper-realistic, renders available to work with – alongside the rich Oddworld lore to build a story upon, Lanning’s plan is to make it an irresistible prospect.
“We’re trying to preload the desk so that it’s obvious a movie or TV series should complement [the franchise].”
Hopefully, if the opportunity comes knocking again, Lanning won’t turn it down because he’s busy working on Soulstorm or whatever comes next in the Oddworld franchise.
You can read our full interview with Lorne Lanning on Soulstorm, Oddworld Inhabitants and what comes next, soon.