Fund This Film: The Marvelous CGI Creatures of ‘The Ningyo’

Ningyo Main

If indie CGI is catching on, Tran Ma and Miguel Ortega are at the forefront of it. The pair have made creatures for The Mist, 300 and Transformers while working for some of the best visual effects companies on the planet, but they recently broke out on their own with a wondrous short film spectacle called The Green Ruby Pumpkin. It is a labor of love that they shot in their living room, and with imaginatively intricate beasts brought to life with the highest quality graphics work it’s a delightful Halloween treat that feels more than a few years ahead of its time.

Ma and Ortega are part of a movement that is changing the way we think of homemade CGI, expanding its boundaries and proving that it isn’t just the big boys who can drop jaws. Now they’ve converted their entire living space into a studio and need your help to bring an old school adventure film with cutting edge design to life.

They need your help to hunt down a mythical monster.

They’ve already raised $21K of their $50K goal for H. Prestor Sealous and The Search of The Ningyo. No doubt much of that is on the backs of audiences they’ve impressed. And that’s the real kicker — anyone who has seen their work falls into that category. What they’re doing with a green screen, a few computers and occasional help from a wolf sanctuary is nothing short of magic.


With Ningyo, they are taking a classic approach to cryptozoology, but it’s not all going to be style without substance. Ortega describes the project as “Indiana Jones with the tone of The Devil’s Backbone.”

Even while dealing with the fantastic, they’re taking the tale seriously, and what’s maybe most exciting is the marriage of the two worlds. The key to The Green Ruby Pumpkin‘s success is its blend of storybook tones with machines that literally make anything possible, so the promise of going globe-trotting through antiquity with filmmakers who can make a Japanese mermaid real is truly thrilling.

On the other hand, even with that computational power at hand, Ortega and Ma are pledging to stay as true to the story’s 1909 setting as possible with weapons and 20th century tech that is far from streamlined. They never say “steampunk,” but the implication is there as one more example where a world of polished brass collides with a world of transformable pixels. The most advanced systems building the best 100-year-old science.

They’ve got a ton of cool incentives for supporting their work (I’m gunning for the “Custom Oddity in a Jar”), but the best might be to prove what talented artists can do with a fraction of what most major studios use on effects-heavy blockbusters. In that sense, it’s fitting that they’ve chosen to tell a story about exploration and unearthing the impossible.

Check out the campaign spiel for The Ningyo:

Do you want to see this film? Enough to help fund it?

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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