In a noir world exploding with colour, we follow the story of NATE and KING WRAY – a notorious cult musician who lived on the edge and concealed his face with a mask. After an intense debut and a drug-induced suicide attempt, KING WRAY confined himself to a wheelchair for life. Covering it up, he disappeared into oblivion and became a legend. Twenty years later KING WRAY resurfaces and contacts NATE – his illegitimate son – with a proposition. To wear his mask and imitate him onstage, while he sings from behind the scenes – together creating a KING WRAY comeback. NATE agrees, and they set off on a nationwide tour. It begins well as NATE relishes the limelight, but as KING WRAY mentors his son he becomes jealous and obsessed with controlling him. Their relationship deteriorates as NATE shines in his new role, while KING WRAY descends into drug fuelled hedonism. As their identities begin to combine, NATE finally stands up to his broken father with tragic consequences.

King Wray
Directors: Anton Groves and Damian Groves
Producer: Ana Maria Parvan
Production company: Studioset
Format: 120 minutes
Target audience: Young adults + (R rated)
Technique: 2D digital / 3D digital / Live Action

King Wray is a project that we found the most attractive among the feature film projects pitched at CEE Animation Forum 2020. The film is an interesting story of a son and his father, a cult musician resurfacing and trying to transfer his identity to his star-struck son in a bid to stage an epic comeback, with tragic consequences.

The film tells the story with impressive visuals, as seen in the trailer. We heard from the directing brothers of the film Anton Groves and Damian Groves on the story behind the film project.

Interview with Anton Groves and Damian Groves

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let us know the key points of your animated feature film project that you would like to appeal to the prospective audience?

Anton & Damian Groves: The fact that it is a story set in the dynamic world of music and entertainment is an element of attraction for our young adult audience, and as being a story about parental struggle, we hope to hit a chord among them and those who are preparing to break away from their parents and become independent adults in their own right. Having said that, we also want an older adult audience to relate as well, and by telling both sides of the story we can encourage an evaluation of parent–child relationships across-the-board.

HN: How did the project start? Where did the initial idea of the story come from?

Anton Groves: The project was initially a result of our desire to make a film about a difficult father–son relationship and set it in the exciting and catchy world of live music. I am a drummer in a garage punk band, and my passion for music and the insight gained across the years has made me want to set a story in this dynamic setting. Damian was enthusiastic about the idea, so we began to develop it.

HN: What kind of message or experience do you want to deliver to audience through the story?

Anton & Damian Groves: We want to explore the perils of identification between generations, and imagine the challenges one would face if they were asked to effectively ‘become’ their parent and play an imitation game, as does our main character Nate. Especially considering the unstable and hedonistic context of the live music world, we want this film to be an intense rollercoaster ride that entertains and warns of the sometimes destructive allure of fame and success, and what this can do to an already strained familial relationship.

HN: Could you please let us know the most important characteristic of the visual design of characters and the universe for the story, and why?

Anton & Damian Groves: The most important aspect of our visual approach is that it doesn’t take its place among the conventional ‘animation’ or ‘live action’ categories. Instead, we wish to employ a one-of-a-kind hybrid technique that combines the two and brings originality to the story we are telling. We hope this will make it relevant and edgy for our intended young adult audience. We describe our look as a ‘noir aesthetic exploding with colour’, much like a colourful Sin City.

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