Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Dessins du Studio Ghibli" Exhibition in Paris


After my signing session at the "Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse" on Sunday I had the chance to visit the "Dessins du Studio Ghibli" exhibition at the Art Ludique museum in Paris. This visit was the absolute highlight of my trip to France. The exhibition features about 1300 original layout drawings of all Studio Ghibli films, many of them drawn by Miyazaki himself. These artworks are exhibited in Europe for the very first time.

The exhibition was an absolute eye-opener for me as I finally understood what the purpose of a layout drawing actually is. In the layout drawing the director, or one of his team members, draws every element that will be seen in a scene or cut. Every character and even most of the background details are drawn in their final form and for the production the different elements are directly traced from the layout by the animators and background painters. Therefore the layout is drawn in the actual size in which the animation and the backgrounds are also drawn (in most cases 35cm wide and 24 cm high for feature film).

One wasn't allowed to take photos at the exhibition but I've purchased the catalogue which features almost all exhibited artwork and here's some pictures for you:

The catalogue, available at the exhibition, costs 36€. The Jiji plush was a must have, too! :)

Layouts from "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind". Note the animation phases in the upper left corner! 
Layouts from "My Neighbour Totoro". For panning shots, several sheets of layout paper are put together with scotch tape like on the left.

Layouts from "Princess Mononoke"

Layouts from "Princess Mononoke"

Layouts from "Spirited Away"

Layouts from "Spirited Away"

In the following two images we can compare two layout drawings from "Spirited Away" with the respective background paintings (photos from the book "Making of Spirited Away"). It's fascinating to see how the drawing part of the background creation is practically fully accomplished in the layout phase so that the background painter "only" needs to take care of the lighting and colors. I would never have guessed that the work on the backgrounds is divided in such a way.

Comparison between layout and final background painting. They match exactly.



To see that the film in it's entirety is envisioned beforehand and that every little detail of a shot is defined by a single person is dazzling to me. And to see 1300 original drawings done by my personal heroes, for my most favorite films of all time, in one place, only added to my amazement.

A small personal highlight of the exhibition for me was that among the layout drawings there were some refined background drawings (done to add more precise detail to the layout) by Kazuo Oga and there even were some original background paintings from the end credits of "Ponyo". Kazuo Oga and the traditionally painted backgrounds of Anime films in general are among my biggest inspirations. Even to see only a handful of the originals, painted in mundane poster color (!), made my heart jump.

At the end of the exhibition you are able to take a photo of yourself and become part of a layout drawing. It's an amazing souvenir for this unforgettable exhibition.


The exhibition is open until 1st March 2015 at the Art Ludique museum in Paris.

Signing in France

I've just returned from a trip to France to which I was invited by my French publisher Dupuis. The central event of the trip was the "Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse" in Montreuil, a children's book fair in a Paris suburb. It was a big event and I signed many Wormworld Saga books at the Dupuis booth on Saturday and Sunday. I also met two fellow comic artists, Christian Darasse and José Luis Manuera and I had a wonderful time discussing with those comic veterans the future of comic book authors, editors and publishers.

From left to right: Christian Darasse, José Luis Manuera and me

A drawing I did for the Dupuis team

Before I signed in Montreuil at the weekend, on Friday, I traveled to Lyon where I was invited to sign at the comic book shop "La Bande Dessinée". It was a very interesting experience to see a French comic book shop from the inside and to talk to the people. Comic book shops in France seem to be quite different from those in Germany. There's no card playing stuff there and all in all it feels more like a normal book shop. All sorts of people come visiting it and you could clearly see that comics have a very different status in France compared to Germany.

"La Bande Dessinée" comic book shop in Lyon


Every artist who's signing at "La BD" is asked to contribute a drawing for the "wall of fame" of the shop. The following drawing will from now on be on permanent display among amazing artwork from many other comic book artists:


This was my first time signing in France and it was a wonderful journey. The city of Paris alone was absolutely inspiring and it is actually great timing that I visited it right before starting my work in Chapter 7. I'll be able to use a lot of things that I've seen and experienced in the upcoming chapter.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Kickstarter Bottom Line


Two days after the recent kickstarter campaign had closed we started into a three week vacation in Spain. My wife has family there and we were looking forward to show them the new baby that was born in January. We had a great time and just returned yesterday.

I desperately needed this off-time after the exhausting months that were preceding it. The home stretch to finish Chapter 6 had been a lot of work and the four weeks of the kickstarter campaign really had given me the rest. The campaign was an overwhelming experience. The final number of backers - just over 1000 - and the result of the funding - $44K - totally blew me away. The last 48 hours of the campaign, in which over $9000 were pledged, were absolutely mind-blowing. The final minutes of the campaign have been broadcasted as a live event on Google Hangouts. A recording of the event is available and you might be interested in the answers I gave to the participating people and there's a small studio tour at the end of the video, too.


Even with three weeks distance now it's hard for me to comprehend what happened during this kickstarter campaign. What I know is, that the success of the first English Wormworld Saga book will have a very positive effect on the whole project. I finally see a chance to bring continuity to the production and to work on new chapters without interruptions. That would be a wonderful achievement and more than I could ever have dreamed of.

You know that a vacation has been effective when at the end of it you become eager to return home and start working again. The kickstarter campaign has created a LOT of work for me and the production of Chapter 7 is also bound to start soon. I'm really looking forward to the English books and especially the clothbound Deluxe Edition that we've achieved to unlock. It will be a great feeling to send out the books to over 1000 backers and to know that those books will help to further spread the word about the Wormworld Saga.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

72 Hours Left on Kickstarter!


We're closing in on the end of the English Wormworld Saga book kickstarter campaign. There's a final stretch goal to reach which will add a free poster of a brand new Wormworld Map to all packages. The reward you will receive as a backer already is impressive:


You'll get the book with a ton of freebies for $25 worldwide shipping included. And we've successfully unlocked the Deluxe Edition upgrade option. For an additional $15 dollar your book will be clothbound, gold embossed, limited & numbered. It's a once in a lifetime edition!

You definitely won't regret it to become a backer. But you might regret it not to become one! ;)


Monday, September 8, 2014

Your Fanart for the English Wormworld Saga Book


I just realized that I didn't post this info on the blog yet. I seriously need a checklist to keep track of all the channels I'm posting to!

So, we've managed to fund the printing of the English Wormworld Saga book on kickstarter and the book is based on the German edition - which includes fan artwork from German artists only - I'd like to call for your submissions for international fan artwork. You'll find some more info in the video above and for ALL the details just visit fanart.wormworldsaga.com.

There's one week left for your submission. I'm really sorry that I missed posting this info here ealier but maybe you'll be able to come up with a fan artwork until then.

Meanwhile, things are running well on kickstarter. Over the weekend we've reached the penultimate stretch goal that added some more freebies to the standard book reward - a sword-shaped signed bookmark and a free 1-year-membership for The Attic - and we're now shooting towards the ultimate stretch goal: the Deluxe Edition! Together with the standard hardcover book I'd love to publish a limited clothbound and gold embossed edition:


We're already pretty close to the goal but any help is appreciated to push us over the line! All rewards offer great value for your money and worldwide shipping is already included. Have a look and maybe become a backer here: http://kck.st/1ApeCdm 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Half-Time on Kickstarter


We're well into the second half of our kickstarter campaign and just today we've reached the 150% mark, where another freebie has been unlocked for all backers with the $25 reward and above. The book already has become a real bargain, especially if you consider that worldwide shipping is included in the price:


We're now trying to add a signed bookmark and a free 1-year-membership for The Attic as additional freebies to the package, and the ultimate goal of the campaign has also been announced:


If we reach the 200% mark at $24K you'll be able to upgrade your book to a limited Deluxe Edition which will be clothbound and gold embossed, signed and numbered.

We've got 13 days left and are $6K away from this goal. I think we can do it but it might become a close one. Any help with pushing towards this goal is greatly appreciated!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Attic comes with New Features!


The new chapter of course has also been published in The Attic but before we talk about the new content that came with that, I'd like to introduce you to a complete new feature that I'm starting to roll out: HD chapters!


In The Attic, Chapter 6 not only comes in the standard, artwork, and prelim version but all three languages also come in a new HD version which is double the size of the standard version. The HD version is 2048 pixels wide which is larger than Full HD (1920 pixels wide) and fits exactly the retina displays of current iPads. It's hard to convey the difference without showing it directly to you but here's a photo that might give you an idea:


The HD version effectively fills my 27'' screen without being scaled. The plan is to publish all other chapters in HD, too. I just need a little bit more time for that.

Ok, and with the new chapter, two new items were added to the 'Art of the Wormworld Saga' section in The Attic:


As always, there's a 'Making Of' artice about the latest chapter. The highlights of this one are infos on my digital model of Kingspeak and the workflow I used on designing and "shooting" the throneroom scenes:



The new sketchbook gallery features scrat and goblin sketches that I made over the years and also some new sketches that were made for Chapter 6:


I'm constantly trying to improve the experience of The Attic for the members and if you like to learn more about the inner workings of the Wormworld Saga and want to make a small contribution to the project, please consider to become a member for only 9€/year. Now that I had to retire the Wormworld Saga App, The Attic is the only place where you can find these features. You'll get more information about the other features and the membership on The Attic Info Page.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Wormworld Saga App is Out Of Service

I'm finally able to share detailed information about the status of the Wormworld Saga App with you. I wasn't able to do so earlier because I tried up until the very last minute before the launch of the latest chapter to solve at least some of the issues. It turns out that currently there simply is no chance for me to solve the problems that have hindered the proper maintenance of the app for several months now.

So, let's get the most important - and painful - information out to you first: 

Chapter 6 will not be published in the Wormworld Saga App and there will be no update to the iOS-version of the app to fix the severe problems the app has under iOS7. Actually, the app is going to be pulled from the app stores today. The reason for this situation is pretty easy to sum up: the app does not generate as much money as is needed to maintain it. 

But I want to go into a little bit more detail because the way things developed over time include some interesting insights for anyone who's trying to make money with a custom app. 

As many of you might remember, the development of the Wormworld Saga App was financed through my first kickstarter campaign in early 2011. I gave 8000€ from the campaigns profit to the Spanish app developer/digital publisher Robot Media to create the app. We knew right from the beginning that this initial budget would only pay for the very first version of the app. All updates and chapter releases were expected to cause further costs and in order to cover those I entered a revenue share agreement with Robot Media. 

The app turned out very nicely, even received a reward at an international digital publishing expo, and through the advertising on the Wormworld Saga website we were able to attract a steady stream of new users. However, I had to realize pretty early that my initial expectation about the amount of money the app would generate was completely unrealistic. The app made only a few hundred euros in the first three months and while there was some growth over time this trend generally continued. The app made a significant jump when it was featured on Google Play and attracted over 150 thousand new users over the course of one week. During that week, the app generated over 3000€ of revenue and I thought that this had to be the breakthrough. However, revenue plummeted directly after the feature and although the huge number of new users raised the revenue that came with each chapter release, the total amount was still below what I had hoped for when I based the project on the expected income from the app and quit my job. Over it's total runtime of 3 years, the app earned me about 7000€.

Now, I don't want to sound as if this is nothing. In fact it's good money. It means that I got nearly all the money back that I originally invested, which is cool. And today I would be totally happy with an app making a few thousand euros every year. Unfortunately, the app didn't only start to bring in money but it also started to cost more and more money.

The costs of the app - bandwidth costs, bug fixes, updates, chapter releases - are carried by Robot Media. For them, making the deal with me was a risky investment and while I was happy with a few thousand euros from the app every year, their much smaller share of the revenue put them in a tight spot. Actually I really have to be thankful that they kept the app going for as long as it went. The situation began to become a real problem when Apple released iOS7 which called for a lot of changes in the code of the app. And not only that. In order to submit an update for an iPad app now you have to provide retina quality graphic assets. All in all the new iOS would have forced Robot Media to invest several thousand euros worth of man hours to update the app. They don't have that money and neither do I.

I already can hear someone saying "why not ask the fans for help?" but I don't think that this would be a solution. As I wrote above, the general problem is that the app costs more money than it generates. In a combined effort we might be able to lift it over the current hurdle but operation systems are updated every few months and the effort to keep an app updated will only increase in the future. There's a saying about riding a dead horse...

What is the bottom line of all this?

I still love the app and it hurts me to not being able to maintain it. I think it's still the perfect way to experience the Wormworld Saga. I pretty early had to realize that the app wouldn't be able to carry my project and since then I've switched over to books and merchandize to keep the Wormworld Saga running. I would never have pulled the plug on the app if it hadn't been absolutely inevitable. I would happily keep it running even if it wouldn't bring in any money at all, but I can't run it when it actually costs me money to do so. My budget for the Wormworld Saga is tight. If there should come a time in the future when the Wormworld Saga actually earns me more money than my family needs for living, I will totally consider to revive the app.

Let's close this with some direct words to the customers of the Wormworld Saga App:

I really thank you for your contribution. By buying the collector's editions of the chapters inside the Wormworld Saga App, you supported the project and helped a big deal. I'm really sorry that the app doesn't work on more recent devices that run the latest version of iOS. The app will keep on running on older iOS versions though and you won't loose your in-app purchases. If you are interested in the special content of future chapters, I will continue to publish it in The Attic, the subscription based member's area on wormworldsaga.com.

I'm happy to answer any questions anyone might have in the comments here on the blog.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chapter 6 - The Smoldering Doom


I proudly present Chapter 6 of the Wormworld Saga Digital Graphic Novel!

Go read it on wormworldsaga.com!

I can't tell you how happy I am about this release. This is mainly for two reasons. First, it was a LOT of work and seeing it come to fruition, now that it is online and can be experienced be the readers, totally makes up for the long hours of work. The other thing is that I'm plainly happy to have reached so far. There's now 6 chapters of the Wormworld Saga and when I lauched the first chapter in 2011, I would never have imagined to reach this point in a foreseeable number of years. 

Chapter 6 is a very important chapter in my opinion because the story comes to a point where the scope of the narration broadens significantly. We learn about the different forces involved in the story, their contrasting views of the world and the dangers that emanate from them. And another thing finally happens: Jonas is put on his own path. In the last three chapters he took the comfortable role of the child that is clinging to the hand of a mother. He effectively declined the role of the hero and it was Raya who carried the narration. The Wormworld Saga is a 'coming of age'-story and the point where Jonas has to learn to stand on his own feet has finally arrived. This is a very satisfying situation from the author's standpoint because things get broken up and I now have much more room to play with the characters.

I really hope that you all enjoy the new chapter and I would really love to read your feedback about it here on the blog.

The other big thing, that has finally been launched, is the kickstarter campaign for the first English book edition of the Wormworld Saga:


Here's a direct link to the kickstarter page:

The Wormworld Saga Book Edition - Volume 1

I'm extremely excited about this because an English book has been the single most requested thing among the fans of the Wormworld Saga in the past years. You'll get all needed info through the video and  here I just want to point out that this is going to be a very nice book if we should make it happen and that your support would be greatly appreciated. I wanted to make this kickstarter campaign a great deal for everyone and so the price of $25 for the book already includes worldwide shipping and every single book will be signed and stamped. 

Ok, that's it for now. I've got some more info upcoming soon. There's exciting news about The Attic and we also had a wonderful launch event on Google Hangouts which I will publish on YouTube soon. But for now I just hope you enjoy reading Chapter 6. Please remember to spread the word about the Wormworld Saga. it would help a great deal!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chapter 6 Release on Sunday, August 17th


Finally I can announce to you the launch date of Chapter 6 of the Wormworld Saga:

Sunday, August 17th, 10pm German time

I've installed a countdown on the website again to make it more easy for you to find out when exactly the launch will happen in your timezone.

I'm pretty excited about the launch already but I've also got some stuff to do before I'm actually ready for it. The translations aren't finalized yet and I've got to layout them as soon as they are finished. I've also got to create the special content and there're also some final adjustments to do on the kickstarter campaign. But I'm completely confident that I'm able to tackle those tasks before the launch and that we finally will have Chapter 6 on Sunday.

I'm also going to do a little experiment on this launch. I've setup a live video-broadcast on Google Hangouts which will start 30 minutes before the launch. The idea is to give everyone, who wants to follow the launch live, a place to hang out while waiting and I will keep the broadcast live for 1,5 hours after the launch so that you will be able to give me some feedback right after reading the new chapter. Have a look at the link! You can sign up for participation and you can already start to post questions there.

And then there's also some less enjoyable news to share:

It currently looks like I won't be able to publish the new chapter in the Wormworld Saga App. The issue is a little too complicated to explain it here right away and I will make a proper blog post about the matter after the launch. I just want to let you know that if you are eager to see the special content that comes with Chapter 6, the only way to access it in foreseeable time is to join The Attic. I'm really sorry about that and I promise to give you more information about it soon!

That's it for now. I'm going to be busy with wrapping everything up and on Sunday we'll all be able to sit back, relax a little bit and have a nice read!