Despite having a background in architecture, director Shane Acker somehow knew he was bound for bigger and more creative outlets than building design.
Little did he know when he made the switch from studying architecture to animation that his career would include working on one of the biggest film franchises in history (Lord of the Rings) and that one day he’d call Tim Burton a mentor on his first feature length film.
“I have always loved stop-motion films so Tim was part of the inspiration for me for the 9 short film,” explained Acker. “When we were putting together the feature, I would take a cut of the film to him and he always gave me this feedback that really helped me in terms of story and content. Tim’s such a great resource to anyone because with his kind of vision, he can always see the forest through the trees.”
The short film Acker is referring to his the 2004 Academy Award nominated piece that he created over 3 ½ years. Featuring no voices and only two characters, his work was strong enough to garner immediate attention around Hollywood.
Acker said, “I always thought I was done with the world of 9 because I didn’t know it was ever going to be a feature. I honestly thought it was something that would get me other work. Then I was approached to develop it into a feature and I was a little apprehensive at first to do what seemed like stepping backwards.”
“I began to realize that this was that I was being given a chance to explore the other characters and explore the desolate place around them. These were things I couldn’t do in the short so when I thought about that, I became invigorated by the idea of creating a feature film of 9. My imagination was fueled just by the possibilities,” Acker added.
While Acker notes that some might foolishly dismiss 9 as simply a “cartoon,” the director definitely gave his canvas far more depth than just some creatures running through some animated cells on a screen. In fact, a lot of 9’s deeper messages date back to almost 2400 years ago.
“I didn’t study philosophy but I am a huge fan of Plato and his theories on class structure within society,” explained Acker. “Some of my ideas in 9 came from reading “The Republic.” The creatures created by the scientist are different facets of just one soul so to me, each of them loosely represent parts of different classes. They all have strengths and they have weaknesses and its not until they all come together that they can be ultimately successful.”
So now that audiences will be given a glimpse into the world of 9 in just a few days, is there a possibility that Acker would like to return to the world himself for a follow-up project?
The director said most definitely he would and he’s already got some ideas in developing in his mind.
Acker said, “We left the creatures as eternal shepherds for the world in this film. There is hope that the human spirit does prevail in the end. We know that life doesn’t exist on the planet at that moment but we’ve left it open that life could return and it would be interesting to see what that means for them.”
“If we continue, there are so many themes I’d love to explore in this world if we bring back humans: Do the creatures intervene with humanity or do they step back? Should they try to keep going as machines that possess human souls or should they accept that they are themselves machines? And if they ever decide to evolve themselves mechanically, does that lead them down the same path of the evil machines then too,” Acker added. “There are infinite possibilities in the world of 9.”
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