Work in progress. 


A girl. Marlene. A post grad student struggling to graduate, finish her thesis, find a job and maintain a relationship...

An amulet. A enchanted item that opens a portal to a parallel dimension of magic...

A prophecy. A dark, ancient power, long thought destroyed, will return to Thera and threaten both worlds. But a hero will also emerge...

The fate Earth and Thera are now intertwined. Science and magic are on a collision course. Only Marlene can navigate both worlds using the amulet. But she quickly learns that her actions in one world have consequences which ripple into the other in unforeseen and often undesirable ways. Can she save Thera and Earth as the prophecy foretells? And can she do it while passing her final exams, graduating college and saving her rocky relationship? (The prophecy is ominously silent on the latter.)

Thera will be a Sci-Fi/Fantasy animated series, with half hour episodes. Each season would run approximately 8 episodes. It will follow a similar structure as the X-Files series: some episodes will be more of a procedural (quests for items, slaying beasts, etc.) while some will be more serial in nature, focusing on the larger story line and diving deeper into the prophecy. 

Instead of using traditional off line rendering, this will be created with the Unreal game engine. It has always been my dream to produce and/or direct my own projects. However, with render times of a single frame easily hitting 20 hours, it is too resource intensive and cost prohibitive for all but the major studios to produce long form animated content. Unreal changes this. Not only does Unreal offer far more reasonable render times (often reaching real time), it also offers a better way to work.

After working on over a dozen animated feature films for two major studios, I've seen first hand the short comings of the traditional animation pipeline. While there have been great strides in the complexity and quality of the images produced in 3D animated films, the underlying pipeline hasn't changed much at all. The current pipeline is set up very much like an assembly line. It is very linear in style, with one department working in near isolation on their own little piece before handing it off to the next department, who then completes their bit and hands it off, and so on. An assembly line system is a horrible way to produce media. Assembly lines are set up to enable efficiency and mass production. They do not foster creativity or collaboration. Real time capabilities of Unreal allow for  a more organic, collaborative and creative approach. 

Earth characters (concept. iray render)

Thera characters (concept. iray render)

The main characters in the story will each have 2 versions: A Theran version and an Earthen version. The two versions will be similar in many ways, but also different in many ways; as each has experienced a different life in a different kind of world. For instance, James in a struggling musician on Earth, with dreams of playing in a band; while the Theran James has dreams of knighthood. The only character that will not have a Theran counterpart is Marlene. Her singular presence on Earth, and the lack of a Theran twin is somewhat of a mystery that will be woven into the story.

A short description of the supporting characters:

Marlene

Marlene is a college student (possibly grad student). She is in her last year of school and the pressures of graduation and finals, and entering the real world are starting to build. To make things worse, her long time boyfriend, James, doesn't want decides to proclaim his unwavering love for her and shocks her with a surprise marriage proposal. This is simply too much for her, and her reaction is not at all what James was expecting. He is hurt and walks away, leaving their relationship in doubt. This is added stress Marlene doesn't need. She's never been one to handle pressure very well, and tends to run from her problems both literally and figuratively. One of her coping mechanisms to go on long runs through the woods. The isolation and being in nature away from the problems of the world calms her. Her favorite spot is a hidden lookout off of a running trail that overlooks the city where she goes to school.  After the fight with James, she decides she needs to decompress and goes on a run to her favorite spot. It is here that she finds the amulet which transports her to Thera.

Of course, once in Thera a whole new set of problems are thrust upon Marlene. She finds herself in a completely new world, not knowing how  she got there or how to get back. And she learns she is part of some prophecy, and the fate of this strange new world rests in her hands. Completely unable to cope (and playing the roll of the reluctant hero) she wants no part of any of this. But, these problems are here to stay. She will have to overcome her fear and inability to confront her issues if she is to complete her research project, pass her exams, graduate, find a job, save her relationship ... and save Thera and Earth from the evil wizard overlords of the Anlu Nari!

Marlene is the main character. She is the protagonist of the story; the reluctant hero.

Professor Lyons (Earth)

A physics professor at Marlene's university. He is studying fusion and stelleraters. His stated research is fusion and stelleraters, but secretly he believes that by focusing enough energy onto a point in space, he can open a portal to other worlds or dimensions.

Leo of the Theran Order (Thera)

A wizard who believes he can unlock the secret of the prophecy and save Thera from the Anlu Narians. He is working on a controversial device: an amulet enchanted with a spell to summon a great warrior or weapon to save them and defeat the Anlu Nari when they return.

Lyons/Leo is the mentor character. He will explain to Marlene and the audience the rules of the story.

James (Earth)

A struggling musician, with dreams of playing for packed stadiums in a rock band. Marlene's long-time boyfriend.

James (Thera)

A peasant with dreams of becoming a Knight of the Theran Order. 

James is the love interest of Marlene. Her relationship with Earth James will be rocky. Theran James won't even know who she is. He is passionate and pursues his goals with complete, blind devotion.

Rex Ransford (Earth)

A talented football player, captain of the team. But an unmotivated student. Needs to keep his grades up to stay on the team, one class he is struggling with is taught by Professor Lyons.

Rex R. Ranslaughter (Thera)

A well-respected captain in the Knights of the Theran Order. Has teamed up with Leo.

Rex is a warrior, both in the literary and literal sense. He is strong and confident, with a bit of an ego.

Emma (Earth)

Marlene's roommate. The two do not get along very well. Marlene feels as though Emma doesn't pull her weight.

Emmaria (Thera)

Teams up with Rex Ranslaughter and Leo. She feels as though Marlene is weak and can't possibly be the hero of the prophecy. She looks at Marlene as a burden to the team who doesn't pull her own weight.

Emma/Emmaria is the rebel character archetype.

  Marlene (concept)

  Theran James (concept. iray render)

  Theran Emmaria (concept. iray render)

  Theran Rex (concept. iray render)

  Earth James (concept. iray render)

  Earth Emma (concept. iray render)

  Earth Rex(concept. iray render)

Unreal real time ray tracing lighting and environment tests

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Iray renders of character concept designs

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Dive into the history and lore of Thera. Read on to learn the inner workings of this magical world. Currently a work in progress (and far from complete) this is the structural foundation upon which the series will be built, and upon which the Theran storyline will evolve. This is more of the world-building end of things.

The Amulet was created by Leo, based on his studies probing the depths of the prophecy. Leo unlocked an enchantment, which he cast upon the amulet giving it the ability to travel between worlds. On Earth, Professor Lyons was working on stellerator-based technology. His research was intended to produce a machine that could focus and produce huge amounts of energy. It was though that much energy might warp space time, possibly puncturing it. The Amulet and Professor Lyons' stellerator both provide the means to open a portal between worlds. They are both required for the portal to work.

  The Amulet on the forest floor (concept. Unreal screen capture)

Azura is power source behind all magic in Thera. Magic is the study of runes. Runes can be likened to the mathematical equations that scientists use to derive the laws of physics. Correctly piecing together these runes is like solving equations. But both runes and equations are nothing but scribbles on paper without an energy source. All of our technology depends on an energy source to power it, and all magic in Thera also requires an energy source. Azura is that energy. It is much like the fossil fuels found on earth. It is the remnant life force of previous creatures.

Earth equivalent: Think of Azura as the magic version of oil or fossil fuels. It is something found in abundance, and powers all the magic-based technology just as electricity powers all technology on Earth.

Azura is found in both solid and liquid form. It also manifests itself in a very unique way: in the form of Azura trees. These trees are thousands of years old, and have grown so large and their roots so deep, that they have tapped into vast reserves of Azura deep under the surface. The trunk and bark glow blue as the Azura pulses through it's pulp. They grow taller than any other tree, towering over the forest canopy. They can be seen for miles. Their glowing branches resemble lighting bolts streaking to the sky rather than from the sky down to the ground. These trees yield a very condensed and powerful form of Azura. But extracting Azura from these trees is all but forbidden. Thousands of years ago, the Anlu Narians destroyed many of these trees in their quest for power. Now few are left, and are guarded by the Knights of Azura. 

Earth equivalent: Think of Azura trees as the rain forests of earth. They  hold vast resources, are somewhat mysterious, and are prone to abuse and over harvesting.

  Azura tree (concept. Unreal screen capture)

  Azura tree (concept. Unreal screen capture)

Dwarfs are shorter than average bearded beings who dwell beneath the ground. They were one of the early victims of the Anlu Nari. They were skilled miners and the Anlu Nari forced them to mine Azura. The dwarfs escaped enslavement by sealing themselves underground. They escaped the Dark War by remaining underground, and keep to their subterranean cities to this day. They are secretive and distrustful of topsiders, but they continue to mine and trade Azura to the Theran Order. 

They maintain one of the largest Azura mines in existence, and only they possess the technology and skill to extract it from the depths of Thera. Therefor, the Theran Order considers them a critical ally.

  Knight of Azura  (concept. iray render)

After many of the Azura trees were destroyed by the Anlu Nari, a group of warriors was formed and sworn to protect and defend the remaining trees. They are a fierce group of female elves, and their skills in the woods are unmatched. They move silently and with great speed. They can track a lady bug a mile away. None enter their forests without their knowledge and few will leave unless they so allow it.

Shape Shifters practice changeling magic. Almost 600 years ago, the practice of transmutation was banned. The existing Shifters refused to give up their animal alter ego, and so they all agreed to sever themselves from Theran society. Now, they live in hiding among the wild animals, taking on the form of their familiar. Some of the more common forms are: bear, wolf, eagle, owl and cat. They exist in modern Thera, but they choose to live in exile, in the wild, and are rarely seen in their human form.

When a Shape Shifter changes form, they are said to momentarily escape the barriers of physical reality. In other words, they are thought to be able to transcend the physical reality of their dimension and briefly visit or see into other dimensions as they phase shift.

  Dragon  (concept. iray render)

Dragons are creatures of Azura. They are ancient beings, older than Azura Trees.​ They are incredibly rare, and only one exists for each of the branches of magic: Fire Dragon, Water Dragon, Rock Dragon, Wind Dragon, Healing Dragon, and the head of the dragon order, The Dragon of Enlightenment.

Dragons are considered invincible, as they are creatures of magic, and more magic would be required to kill one as is known to exist in all of Thera. They are as mysterious as they are rare. Seeing one and surviving is considered good luck. Although many have claimed to see Dragons, few actually have. 

The Theran Order is the oldest, and was the first (a claim that it is often disputed by some) official group of magic users to form an alliance. ​Minerva was said to have been the first to read the title of OverMage (an ability ranking) and was then granted title of the Head of the Order.

The purpose of the Theran Order was to bring order to the Theran world of magic. As it's proliferation grew, and the power of those practicing grew, a wise group of wizards decided magic was a force that needed to be tamed. Rather than destroy themselves, these wizards decided to establish a council which would make policy and control the use of magic to ensure it always served the greater good.

 

For thousands of years they guided and advanced the magics towards a peaceful and prosperous society. Until the rise of the Anlu Nar. The Anlu Nari was a sub sect that rose from the Theran Order. It's leader, Razuse, tempted magic users into the practice of magic for their own betterment. This eventually let to the Anlu Narians pursuing the dark arts and forbidden ways.

 

Eventually, war brok out between the Theran Order and the Anlu Nari. The Theran Order defeated the Anlu Nari, though just barely, and banished them to a far away universe of no magic. A universe that is home to a small planet called, Earth.
 

The Anlu Nari was an order of sorcerers committed to the practice of dark magic, known individually as Anlu Narians. They were power hungry and sought immortality, believing that the secrets to everlasting life could be found in Azura. They soon discovered that Azura could be extracted directly from living things--while they were still alive. This raw, crude form of Azura was incredibly potent. It granted them unimaginable power, increased physical health, and longevity. This great power eventually gave them a near god-like status. They became virtually immortal, an indeed began to view themselves as gods, demanding the submission and worship of others. Their Azura-enhanced bodies grew mighty and strong. Their physiques were lean, muscular, and perfect. They vainly displayed their chiseled perfection by wearing scant garments. The need for armor or protective coverings was also gone due to their growing power and invulnerability.

Razuse was the self-proclaimed king of the Anlu Nari, and was the most powerful of them all. He had absorbed such large amounts of Azura that he was believed to be invincible. His body was so saturated with Azura that his skin was tinted blue, and like armor. It resembled metal more than flesh.

Earth equivalent: The Anlu Nari are based on the Anunnaki of ancient Sumerian history. Myths and legends surround the origins and nature of the Anunnaki, but hard facts are elusive. They remain mysterious figures. They were said to be very powerful and manipulated or ruled over early human civilization. In this story, the Anunnaki are the Anlu Nari from Thera. They were viewed as gods when they arrived, and they enslaved the local population. They commanded them to build huge structures to help in amplifying their magic and in a failed attempt to reopen the portal to return home. As their power faded over time, they had to find other ways to manipulate mankind.  

  Razuse. King of the Anlu Nari (concept. iray render)

  Anlu Narian sorceress (concept. iray render)

Nar-Wraiths are created after the Anlu Nari drain a victim of their life force. Draining the life force directly from a living thing provides incredibly potent Azura, and the byproduct is a wraith. Wraiths serve no master, but the Anlu Nari devised a way to control them. Usually, they are given an enchanted helmet or piece of armor. So long as the wraith wears it, it is under the command of the Anlu Nari. 

Nar-Wraiths are a terrifying sight, but relatively weak. A competent knight could dispatch half a dozen with relative ease. They are incredibly dangerous in large hordes though. The sheer number can overwhelm the unprepared. The Anlu Nari used armies of these Nar-Wraiths in the Dark War.

 

  Nar-Wraith warriors (concept. iray render)