The two main characters, Emo (Cas Jansen) and Proog (Tygo Gernandt), are on a journey in the folds of a giant Machine, exploring the twisted and dark complex of wires, gears and cogs. Until one moment a conflict arises that throws out all their assumptions. This movie short couples lively fun with passionate characters in an epic story line.
The film was first announced in May 2005 by Ton Roosendaal, the chairman of the Blender Foundation and the lead developer of the foundation's program Blender. A 3D modelling, animating and rendering application, Blender was the primary piece of software used in the creation of the film. The project was joint funded by the Blender Foundation and the Netherlands Media Art Institute. The Foundation raised much of their funds by selling pre-orders of the DVD. Everyone who preordered before September 1 has his or her name listed in the film's credits. The bulk of processing for rendering the film was donated by the BSU Xseed, a 2.1 TFLOPS Apple Xserve G5-based supercomputing cluster at Bowie State University. It reportedly took 125 days to render, consuming up to 2.8GB of memory for each frame. The completed film is 10 minutes 54 seconds long including 1 minute and 28 seconds of credits.
The film's purpose was primarily to field test, develop and showcase the capabilities of open source software, demonstrating what can be done with such tools in the field of organizing and producing quality content for films.
During the film's development, several new features such as an integrated node-based compositor, hair and fur rendering, rewritten animation system and render pipeline and many workflow tweaks and upgrades were added into Blender especially for the project.
The film's content was released under the Creative Commons license CC BY, so that viewers may learn from it and use it however they please (provided attribution is given). The DVD set includes NTSC and PAL versions of the film on separate discs, a high-definition video version as a computer file and all the production files.
The film was released for download directly and via BitTorrent on the Official Orange Project website on May 18, 2006 along with all production files.
The movie was made mostly as an experiment, rather than to tell a certain story and therefore has a strong arbitrary and surreal atmosphere. It features two men, Proog, who is older and more experienced and Emo, who is young and nervous, living in a miraculous construction referred to only as "The Machine". Proog tries to introduce Emo to The Machine's nature but Emo is reluctant and argues about The Machine's purpose. The creators originally intended for the movie to show the abstraction of a computer.
Bassam Kurdali, Director of Elephants Dream, explained the plot of the movie by saying:
"The story is very simple—I'm not sure you can call it a complete story even—It is about how people create ideas/stories/fictions/social realities and communicate them or impose them on others. Thus Proog has created (in his head) the concept of a special place/machine, that he tries to "show" to Emo. When Emo doesn't accept his story, Proog becomes desperate and hits him. It's a parable of human relationships really—You can substitute many ideas (money, religion, social institutions, property) instead of Proog's machine—the story doesn't say that creating ideas is bad, just hints that it is better to share ideas than force them on others. There are lots of little clues/hints about this in the movie—many little things have a meaning—but we're not very "tight" with it, because we are hoping people will have their own ideas about the story, and make a new version of the movie. In this way (and others) we tie the story of the movie with the "open movie" idea."
The original title was to be Machina but was dropped due to pronunciation issues.
In 2010, Elephants Dream was entirely re-rendered in stereoscopic 3D by Wolfgang Draxinger. The project was announced to the public in mid September on BlenderNation and premiered on the 2010 Blender Conference.
Unlike the original version which was in full HD resolution (1920×1080), the stereoscopic version was rendered in Digital Cinema Package (DCP) 2K flat resolution (1998×1080), a slightly wider aspect format which required adjustment of the camera lens parameter in every shot. Many scenes in the original production files used flat 2D matte paintings which were integrated into the rendered images during the compositing phase. For the 3D production each matte painting had to be manipulated or entirely recreated into versions for each eye.
Wolfgang Draxinger implemented a number of stereoscopic features in Blender to aid in the stereoscopic production process. However, these features were never merged into the Blender project.
Elephants Dream received the award for Best Short Film at the first European 3D Film Festival.Tygo Gernandt - Proog
Cas Jansen - Emo
Ton Roosendaal - Producer
Bassam Kurdali - Director
Pepijn Zwanenberg - Writer
Andy Goralczyk - Art director
Matt Ebb - Artist
Bastian Salmela - Artist
Lee Salvemini - Artist
Toni Alatalo - Technical director
Jan Morgenstern - Composer
Blender was the main program used to create the 3D animation of the film. The other programs were used for pre and post-production, file management, collaboration and scripting. Ubuntu with KDE and GNOME desktop environments was used on the workstations.