LONDON — July 23, 2009 — A renowned set of storytellers from some of the world’s leading anime studios in Japan are about to take one of the most iconic franchises in science fiction and video games to a new level. Microsoft Corp., in collaboration with some of the most acclaimed anime creators, today unveiled a new project called “Halo Legends,” which will bring the “Halo” franchise and its sweeping sci-fi saga to an entirely new medium, in the form of several original anime short films.
“Halo Legends,” which will officially debut at a panel presentation today at Comic-Con International in San Diego, is being produced by Microsoft’s 343 Industries and features creative direction from anime pioneer Shinji Aramaki, director of the critically acclaimed “Appleseed” and “Appleseed EX Machina” anime features, and Mamoru Oshii, director of the landmark “Ghost in the Shell” movies, with additional production from Joseph Chou of J-Spec Pictures. The compilation will include a series of short stories that explore different times, themes and characters from the “Halo” universe and will be distributed globally by Warner Home Video, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. company. Influential studios that are part of the project include the creators behind some of the most popular and celebrated anime to come from Japan, such as “The Animatrix,” “Cowboy Bebop,” “Fullmetal Alchemist,” “Ghost in the Shell,” “Dragon Ball” and more.
“The opportunity to work with talents such as Shinji Aramaki, Mamoru Oshii and others from some of the greatest anime studios is a very rare opportunity for Microsoft,” said Frank O’Connor, “Halo” franchise development director and provider of story and creative direction for 343 Industries. “We’ve seen the world through Master Chief’s eyes, and we’ve experienced facets of the universe through a variety of literary prisms, but now we get to watch new tales unfold in really rich, visually dynamic ways. I think anime fans and ‘Halo’ fans alike are in for a real treat.”
Set hundreds of years in the future, the “Halo” series of games and novels chronicle mankind’s struggles against an alien collective known as the Covenant. The Covenant is scouring the universe for relics it believes will lead it to a new life and is destroying civilizations and planets that stand in its way. The most prolific hero from the fiction is a super soldier or Spartan known as Master Chief, who is the main protagonist in the original trilogy of Xbox and Xbox 360 “Halo” titles. In the trilogy, Master Chief discovers that the Covenant is intent on activating a series of mysterious ring worlds known as “Halos,” which would ultimately exterminate life throughout the universe. He becomes mankind’s champion in a race against an unrelenting enemy in its most desperate hour. Through The New York Times best-selling novels, comics and additional Xbox 360 games such as “Halo Wars” and the upcoming “Halo 3: ODST,” the universe has grown and tales of other heroes have emerged.
“‘Halo’ and its characters are a very natural fit for anime,” said Aramaki, creative director for the “Halo Legends” project. “As a fan of the ‘Halo’ universe, it is an honor to work with Microsoft and my very talented peers from other studios to create this collection.”
Studios involved in the “Halo Legends” project include Bones Inc., Casio Entertainment Inc., Production I.G, STUDIO4˚C and Toei Animation.
• Bones. Founded in 1998, Bones has become one of the top animation studios in Japan in less than a decade. The studio is best known for its incredible body of work on mega-hit franchises such as “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie,” “Fullmetal Alchemist,” “Sword of the Stranger” and “Eureka Seven.”
• Casio Entertainment. Casio Entertainment was founded in 2004 and is renowned for its visual effects work on the movie “Dai Nipponjin” (“Big Man of Japan”), which was officially invited to the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 2008 Asian Film Awards. Casio Entertainment is also known for its computer-generated animation support work on several top Japanese video games.
• Production I.G. Production I.G has produced a number of acclaimed feature films, original video animation, TV shows and video games. For their storytelling and quality of animation, “Ghost in the Shell,” “Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade” and “Blood: The Last Vampire” have earned critical accolades in Japan and all around the world. “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence,” directed by Mamoru Oshii in 2004, was the first Japanese animation feature ever to compete for the Palme d’Or at the Festival de Cannes.
• STUDIO4˚C. STUDIO4˚C is one of the top animation studios in Japan. Founded by the industry veteran Eiko Tanaka and acclaimed animation artist Koji Morimoto, it has become globally known for its uncanny ability to marry the spirit of high art with mainstream anime aesthetic. STUDIO4˚C is known for works including “The Animatrix,” “Tekkonkinkreet” and “Batman: Gotham Knight.”
• Toei Animation. Toei Animation, established in 1956, is the oldest animation studio in Japan. Toei has produced the largest number of global hit TV anime series for kids, such as “Dragon Ball,” “Digimon,” “Sailor Moon,” “One Piece” and many more.
The complete “Halo Legends” collection will be distributed by Microsoft partner Warner Home Video, which will have more to announce on its release and distribution plans soon.
“As a leading entertainment distributor and a company identified with premier anime content, we’re very pleased to be working with Microsoft on ‘Halo Legends,’” said Amit Desai, vice president, Family, Animation and Partner Brands Marketing, Warner Home Video. “The combination of the talent involved and the ‘Halo’ brand ensure the collection is something consumers are really going to enjoy.”
A preview of select “Halo Legends” episodes will first debut on Xbox LIVE, the largest gaming and entertainment network in the world, starting this fall through a new experience called Halo Waypoint. Launching in fall, Halo Waypoint will be a new destination for “Halo” fans on Xbox LIVE around the world. It will inform fans of the latest “Halo” news and activities, and grant access to content ranging from podcasts, trailers and screenshots, to exclusive video footage you won’t find anywhere else. It also will provide a new challenge for “Halo” gamers with a career system and player rankings tied to both in-game and out-of-game accomplishments related to “Halo.” In addition to the limited, early episode premieres, Halo Waypoint will debut several behind-the-scenes videos that chronicle the making of “Halo Legends.”
More information will be shared about “Halo Legends” today at a panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The “Halo” franchise panel will be hosted by O’Connor, moderated by Chou, and will feature guests Aramaki; Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, president of Production I.G; and Tanaka, president of STUDIO4˚C. The panel takes place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. PDT in Room 6BCF of the San Diego Convention Center. “Halo Legends” panelists will sign autographs at the Microsoft Xbox 360 booth in Hall G #5225 from 6 to 7 p.m. There also will be a signing at the Warner Bros. booth Hall F #4329 on Friday, July 24, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., with O’Connor and 343 Industries’ managing editor Kevin Grace on hand to answer questions about the project. In addition, the first trailer for “Halo Legends” will debut exclusively tonight on “GameTrailers TV with Geoff Keighley,” airing at 12:30 a.m. ET/PT on Spike TV.