We've been excited about the animated film 9 since we saw the trailer, and we got a chance to see some footage and hear from animation director Joe Ksander and star Elijah Wood. Spoilers!
Writer/director Shane Acker made the post-apocalyptic ragdoll odyssey 9 as a short film while he was a student at UCLA, adn he won a student academy award for it, says Ksander. That plaudit brought the film to the attention of Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, who agreed to help produce it as a full-length feature film. Unlike the voiceless short film, the 90-minute feature stars voice actors - including the main character 9, voiced by Wood.
(I apologize that I'm getting this up so late - I saw the 9 panel at Wondercon, but forgot to write up my notes until just now.)
Ksander and Wood showed the trailer, plus a really cool scene from the film where 9 has met the other mechanical rag dolls, numbered 1 through 8. He's getting them to question their beliefs about the post-apocalyptic world, but he's also made some mistakes, including attracting cyborg winged beast, which comes and attacks them.
The winged beast has four bright lights for eyes, and #1 (who wears a bishop's hat) cowers. Everyone runs from the winged beast and swings down ropes, winding up in a bucket. The winged beast cuts the rope holding the bucket, and they all fall through some stained glass. Only 9 is left facing the winged beast on the roof of the cathedral. He tells the others to keep going, and he'll find his own way down. But the other dolls help 9 to stop the winged beast, one of them throwing his knife at just the right moment to stop the winged beast's propeller. 9 shines the sun in the winged beast's eyes, and then they try to cut the tether holding the winged beast. Someone else attacks the winged beast with a spear, to no avail. Finally, they manage to knock the winged beast into a giant fan, and it explodes.
They explained a bit more of the backstory: 1, the rag doll in the bishop's hat, has put himself in charge of the other rag dolls, and their means of defending themselves against the machines. And 9 comes along without any knowledge of their world, or the machines, and so he asks lots of questions. The other rag dolls have long since stopped asking questions.
Wood said he got involved with the project after he saw the stills and "loved the look" of the short film and the fact that it was Acker's senior thesis at UCLA. And he said the film is "a very difficult thing to describe. [It's] these mechanized ragdolls living in a post-apocalyptic world, but that doesn't quite tell it."
Ksander said the "dark" look of the film really attracted people. "People were coming from other big studios to work on our film, and people were getting excited." And Danny "Oingo Boingo" Elfman is scoring the film with Acker right now. He added, "he feature film feels like the same world as the short."
In the end, said Ksander, the film is about "these little rag dolls with nothing going for them, each sort of first find their own identity, and then build a little community that lasts in this terrible dark world."