Spencer Wan assembles a new pantheon to animate a trailer for Hades

Spencer Wan is a deft hand at putting the action into the animated, with credits on Castlevania and now a breathtaking new trailer for Supergiant Games’ Hades under his belt. Fans of Hades, which could be described as a ‘roguelike hack-and-slash dungeon crawler,’ have been quick to praise the trailer’s action-packed anime treatment. With challenging combat featuring colossal characters, fire-breathing demons and lightning bolts, the trailer sets the expectation that the protagonist will be returning from the River Styx. Frequently.

Based on Greek mythology, the game sees you play Zagreus, a rebellious son of Hades who must fight his way out of the underworld with the help of a host of Olympian gods. To animate at such an epic scale, Spencer knew that he too would need to call on a pantheon of godly talents. He went about setting up a team, enlisting some of the most skilled animators from his network and bringing them under one banner: Studio Grackle.

We interviewed Spencer to hear what this process was like, and how he purpose built the team to meet Supergiant’s brief. He tells us about the storyboarding process, gives insight into how the vivid backgrounds were created, and highlighted work from some of Studio Grackle’s key personnel. Let’s meet the team which brought Hades to life.

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Director: Spencer Wan / Creative Consultant: Jen Zee / Key Animation: Chengxi Huang, Gem, Hartova Maverick, Weilin Zhang / Clean Up and Color: Robby Cook / In-Between Animation: Robby Cook / Backgrounds: Jane Bak / Compositing: Craig Nowicki / Sound Design: Lauren Crist / Score: Darren Korb

Your trailer for Hades has fans excited. What was it like putting this project together, and what were the biggest challenges you faced on it?

Somehow the whole experience was shockingly smooth. Most of us had already worked with each other for years before coming together for this, so although it was our first project, our pipeline was able to function more like that of a more seasoned studio. Working with Supergiant was also a wonderful experience. I’ve never worked with a client so trusting and accommodating, and we were really able to do our best work with the freedom they gave us. The biggest challenge was just dealing with the conditions of the time. A global pandemic really puts a damper on your motivation for artistic pursuits, and makes managing a team a little more complicated.

Can you tell us about your storyboarding process?

I storyboarded this the old fashioned way, which is to say very quickly and loosely. Most storyboards you see out of larger studios these days tend to be very clean and very posed out, since they’re sending them overseas to be animated. We were doing all our animation here, so we didn’t need tight boards. I spent about twenty minutes scribbling out some thumbnails on the subway, drew a slightly more presentable version for Supergiant that night, it got approved, and we moved on. 

I think the only thing really worth mentioning is that since I knew who I wanted my team to be, I boarded the scenes with each individual animator in mind. I gave them the option to pick which scenes they wanted, but to my surprise they each picked the exact ones I boarded for them.

Animatic clip

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