To those intimately familiar with the Watchmen graphic novel, the significance of the Tales of the Black Freighter are up front and obvious. This comic within a comic tells the tale of a man lost at sea who must, at all costs, return home ahead of the murderous Black Freighter to warn the port city where his wife awaits him, a city he believes to be next on the list of cities ravaged by the dreaded pirates. Without spoiling newcomers to the story, or those who mistakenly decided to skip over these pages, believing them extraneous, the tale within the comic mirrors one of the major characters of Watchmen, providing increased insight into how Alan Moore viewed the actions of his creation.
For Snyder, finding a way to first film Tales of the Black Freighter and then work it into the story has always been a task on his checklist of creating the ultimate Watchmen film. Initially, the 300 helmer flirted with creating a live-action addendum for the scenes, though a $20 million price tag wasn’t an easy sell to Warner Bros. In fact, it was an impossible sell, so the team turned to animation. To ensure a faithful adaptation that fit within his vision, Snyder made sure to stay involved with the production of The Black Freighter, which meant steering the project away from 3D animation. Snyder felt that approach wouldn’t have have fit, it wouldn’t have made sense; the film takes place decades ago, before the advent of computer technology. To capture the gaudy horror of it, cell animation was outsourced to Korea, where traditional animation is still commonly created.
Also on the DVD/Blu-ray release of Tales of the Black Freighter, and presumably special edition Watchmen releases later in the year, is the documentary style program Under the Hood, based on the tell-all autobiography of Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl. This featurette is presented like a 60-minutes style newscast and came about when Eric Matthies (director, producer of the short) had access to the cast while filming. Much of the project relied on the improvisation of the cast, which includes Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian, Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason, and Matt Frewer as Moloch the Mystic. Snyder chalked up their improv abilities to “character research [paying] off.”
Tales of the Black Freighter is available on DVD and Blu-ray on March 24th and will include a story-within-a story featurette, Watchmen Motion Comic: Chapter 1, and a first look at the Green Lantern animated DVD. The Black Freighter animation will also be inserted back into the film on a special edition release in the last quarter of 2009 and Under the Hood will presumably be included as a special feature.
Watchmen comes to theaters on March 6, 2009.
Are you excited for the Watchmen peripheral releases?