How Animation Brings Critical Role’s ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ to Life

Vax, Scanland, Percival, Vex, Grog, Pyke, and Keyleth in “The Legend of Vox Machina,” a new animated series based on “Critical Role.”

Amazon Studios

In the first minute of Critical Role’s new animated series “The Legend of Vox Machina”, a rock smashes an adventurer into a pile of blood, a sorcerer gets cut into pieces, eyeballs fly by screen and a sword-wielding warrior electrified into a burning chaff.

“We knew, especially with that first and second episode, that we had to do a good job telling the world and the audience,” said Marisha Ray, creative director of Critical Roles and Voices. our vision of what this show is going to be like,” said Marisha Ray, the creative director of Critical Role and the voice of Keyleth drugs on the series.

The series is based on Critical Role’s first streamed Dungeons & Dragons campaign and follows the adventures of Vox Machina, a group of disabled mercenaries.

This is the latest adult animated series to appear on Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service, suitable for “Invincible”, violent “Fairfax” and dark “Undo”.

“The Legend of Vox Machina” premiered its first three episodes on Friday and will continue to release three new episodes each week for the next three weeks. The planned season two release date has yet to be announced.

“We’ve seen a lot of critical and audience success with our animation medium,” said Melissa Wolfe, head of animation and family programming at Prime Video. “‘Vox’ feels like a natural fit with the animated medium we’re building here… animation provides a unique and unexpected way to tell stories and this is really just the starts for us at Prime Video.”

For Prime Video, “The Legend of Vox Machina” is a safe bet. With a relatively low upfront cost, compared to many of Amazon’s other streaming projects, the series has an enthusiastic built-in audience and will add value to its platform.

Already fans and critics have raved about the show. It currently holds a 100% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 17 official reviews.

Visualize Vox Machina

While there have been movies and TV shows inspired by tabletop role-playing games in the past, “The Legend of Vox Machina” was the first to use the entire Dungeons & Dragons campaign as source material. .

With over 400 hours of live streaming content to choose from, the Critical Roles team, along with Executive Producer Brandon Auman (“Star Wars Resistance,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”), chose to focus on two points. main plot of the show’s first season. One show featured events that happened before Critical Role began streaming its tabletop sessions in 2015, while others focused on the fan-favorite Briarwood Season, showing Vox Machina to against Sylas and the villainous Delilah Briarwood.

Travis Willingham, CEO of Critical Role, said: “We had intense oil sessions in the middle of the night with chalkboards and red rope deciphering stories and piecing them together to not only our existing fans that newcomers to Vox Machina will be intrigued and hooked on” and Grog’s voice in the series. “We want them to follow along and see where these crazy adventurers go.”

While the series removes some game mechanics, like dice rolling and turn-based combat, it is still recognizable in the story. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice that there are in- and out-of-battle consequences that mimic what might happen if a player throws “Heavenly Defense” or misses a skill test.

“Accepting defeat is part of the fun of the story,” said Matt Mercer, Critical Role’s main dungeon master and creator of the world Exandria, where “The Legend of Vox Machina” is set.

Taliesin Jaffe, the voice of Percival de Rolo in the film, said: “It’s remarkable that when you remove all the mechanics of the show, you’re left with this truly remarkable story designed by group storytelling without an actual plan. “And it’s there and it’s fascinating, it’s a roller coaster. I’m constantly in awe of it.”

Travis Willingham voices Grog in “The Legend of Vox Machina” on Amazon Prime Video.

Amazon Studios

The half-hour episodes are a distilled version of Important Role sessions, often filled with jokes, interjected teasing, rule discussions, and occasional bathroom breaks. However, the humor and motivation of the group is not lost in the animation. The characters are still playful and raw, flawed and endearing.

“We wanted it to be like our story,” said Laura Bailey, who voices Vex’ahlia in the series. “It would be very easy to take this kind of story and turn it into a dramatic action without any humorous rhythms that I think really make Vox Machina who they are and do the important role they are. its.”

Through animation, Critical Role fans can see these characters come to life in new ways. For multiplayer or viewing Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, much of the action and interaction is “the theater of the mind,” meaning you’re visualizing it all in your head.

There are some cases where dioramas and mini figures are used in battle moments to locate all the characters, but for the most part, it’s up to the imagination.

“It’s one thing you’ll see in your mind, especially when we’re around the dining table, but to really see it on a screen with audio and to get the whole experience,” says Willingham. That experience makes no difference,” said Willingham.

Humble beginnings

The project originally started as a Kickstarter to fund a 22-minute animated special as a “love letter” to the group’s fan base, known as Critters. In 2019, Critical Roles raised $750,000, but by the end of the six-week campaign, it had generated then more than 11.3 million dollars from 88,000 backers, becoming the most successful film or television project in Kickstarter history.

While fans pay for a 10-episode series, a deal with Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service means Critical Roles will produce 24 episodes spanning two seasons.

Mercer explained that the team initially introduced an animated version of the Dungeons & Dragons campaign to the studios, but the concept was not well understood by those executives.

Mercer says Kickstarter and the support of the Critical Roles community “changed that perspective in the industry, and people started to take notice.”

“Amazon is the only company that has come to us and it means, ‘We want to help you do more of this, make it better, and allow you to see your creative vision through,” he said. partnership”.

The “Critical Role” cast will reprise their role of Vox Machina in Amazon Prime Video’s “The Legend of Vox Machina”.

Amazon Studios

In recent years, Amazon’s streaming service has focused on stuff like Critical Role’s “The Legend of Vox Machina” – shows based on entertainment properties popular with fan bases ages, said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush. Amazon has released a series based on the comic book “The Boys” and the book “Wheel of Time”. It is also being produced on the extended “Lord of the Rings” show.

“I followed [the Kickstarter campaign] closely and see incredible responses in real time,” said Amazon’s Wolfe. After getting to know the Roles team and seeing how their passion and commitment would increase in growth, it all became unquestionably what we wanted to work with. them to make this an official Video series. “

In partnership with Prime Video, Critical Role’s animated series will be released in over 200 countries. Previously, the company’s streaming content was restricted to predominantly English-speaking regions.

Willingham said it was a “step of exposure” for the brand.

“If this show launches as we expected and people really like what we’ve done, we hope to be able to bring more stories to them,” Riegel said. “We have a lot of great big ideas.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.

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