Mango Synopsis

by - 2011/12/31 46 Comments Directing & writing, Production

Let’s celebrate the end of 2011 with a synopsis!

“When Thom decides he’d rather be awesome in space than keep dating roboticist Celia, he never imagined he was planting the seeds of Earth’s destruction. Twenty years after this tumultuous romance he has to go back to the Amsterdam scene of his breakup with Celia to save the world. But are a high-powered robotic disguise and a time traveling battle fleet enough to fix a broken heart?”

So we do, in fact, already have a script! For a month or so, actually. As always, it’s impossible to know how much of it will make it through to the final film, but it’s a good start! I was looking at David’s concept art the other day thinking, “If we make a film that looks as good as this, I’ll be more than happy.” But man- after the whole team puts 6 months of work and imagination into it? This thing is going to be even more incredible. The best thing about this project is going to be all the layers of ideas; it’s already happening.

This project was interesting in that as opposed to only developing the technology to enable the story, we were also trying to draft a story that would help develop the VFX pipeline of Blender (most obvious examples: Awesome Motion Tracking! Keying! Stuff like that) And beyond that, almost everyone had lists of stuff they wanted (or expected) to see in there: giant robots, monsters, large-scale destruction, environment augmentation, space ships full of invading aliens (or Nazis?)). My personal criteria was a bit more general. Mango would have to be fun, visually impressive, meet the targets*, and have an emotional core somewhere**. I think as long as the audience is given a simple relatable plot to hold onto, they’ll be more secure going along for the ride into the crazy world we’re creating (That was also the element for me that differentiated between an actual short film, and just an awesome tech demo) .

“But! But but but!” you say, “Mango is supposed to be ‘No Story! Maximum Impact!'” Mannn, I feel you! But you can’t have maximum impact without some sort of cohesion between shots, and you can’t have cohesion between shots without incidentally creating some sort of story! But the thing we won’t do is bog the whole thing down with a convoluted plot and exposition.

Things move swiftly onward!

* Although, it’s… uh…  not gonna be 3 minutes.
** Don’t worry- Mango will not make you cry (and if it does, I am not sure how that happened?)
  1. Eduard Joaquim says:

    Synopsis sounds awesome, man =D Just one request – no more time-travelling nazi lizards, please! It´s been done to death. I cringe every time I hear the word “nazi” and sci-fi together *brrrr*

  2. J. says:

    So you’ŕe not looking forward to Iron Sky? Normally Nazis and sci-fi together sound ridiculous indeed, but these Finnish guys are making a semi-realistic saterical black comedy. It’s gonna be a film about the politics and society of 2018 colliding with Nazis who haven’t seen the world since 1945. That’s what makes it interesting to me, only just flying saucers don’t cut the cake!

    Back to Mango: Plot sounds great for a short like this! Besides all the VFX stuff, this film lends itselfs very well for great over-the-top costume design!

  3. Happy New Year 2012! The synopsis sounds great Ian. I for one fully support your notion that there must be some story to back everything up. I can’t wait to see what awesomeness you and the whole team will manage to create in the months to come. PS. Remember to leave a small window of opportunity for a future Mango 2 where you blow up even more awesome stuff. ;)

  4. looch says:

    Hey You’re totally right, story is key, no story, no worth watching, no audience, no anything.
    Even if it’s a little simple story people have to relate to it, that’s what makes an interesting film that you want to watch over and over again.

  5. Anonymous says:

    >>”“But! But but but!” you say, “Mango is supposed to be ‘No Story! Maximum Impact!’””
    LOL! Nice reminiscence :D

  6. eibriel says:

    I was just reading “The Robots of Dawn” and started “Robots and Empire” Isaac Asimov book’s.
    I’m really happy to see a bit of it on that story.

    You chosen the best path for sure!

  7. JamesNZ says:


  8. Nabil Stendardo says:

    Great plot. Just forget about the 5 minute time limit. You got a whopping quarter of an hour with Sintel (which has every single shot as CGI, while here you actually have real stuff going on – it’s much easier to take shots of Amsterdam and real actors than creating the whole enchilada using Blender).

    PS: I’m a software developer, and I think Blender is the best example of great management of a FOSS project. Structured clean code (FFMPEG is on the other end of the scale), responsive developers, bugs being looked at in days (and not months or years), real added value to the user (remember FOSS is not “Others work for free, I get”, it’s “If I pay (programming time, money, etc.), everyone gets (including me)”).

    PPS: I’m looking for a job (such as helping to develop Blender). Any tips.

    • kram1032 says:

      Well, yeah, except that Sintel probably was able to do certain realism-tradeoffs when being full CG, while when ever there is a CG effect in this movie, you gotta account for all the environmental lighting and make the thing render nicely into the scene so it doesn’t stick out too much…

  9. MadSquirrel says:

    First good surprise of the year !
    Best wishes to all of you, Mango team and Blender community !

  10. Blendiac says:

    Only 3 minutes long would make *me* cry…. so this sounds awesome! Room for an actual story along with robots and time traveling battle fleets. Bring it on!

    Let’s hope that this time us fans can resist trying to critique every shot we see to the point of destruction in our eagerness to see the final thing. It’s so easy to be a critic when you’re not the one working with deadlines, tiny budgets and early alpha software shifting under your feet.

  11. David Jordan says:

    This sounds great. I’m very glad that you guys are working so hard to make a great story. Personally I loved how Sintel made me feel,and I hope that you will pull off a story that will resonate with us just as much as Sintel, whichever emotions they may be.
    Happy New Year!

  12. MauriceRaybaud says:

    Awesome synopsis!!!!

  13. captainkirk says:

    Sounds good. Although I do think time-travel is a bit over done. And Star Trek Enterprise already had time-travelling alien Nazis so I hope that part was a joke.

  14. Seb says:

    can’t wait to see more developpment. As David Jordan said, i’ll be waiting for awesome emotions, whatever they are.

  15. Jan the Freeze says:

    Please don’t Godwin your own project! The rest sounds great!

    Amsterdam really suffered in WW2, if you think Nazis are a cool concept then walk 300 meters from the mango office to the waterlooplein synagogue and read the book with all the names of people who never returned.

    I am buying a DVD!

    • Agreed. It’s one thing to riff on a historic context Basterds-style, but using nazis as mere stooges (robots, zombies, aliens, vampires, orcs, nazis…) in an European production is at least problematic. Ian’s post doesn’t sound as if this was a narrative cornerstone of the story, though ;)

      • ian says:

        Nazi’s have absolutely nothing to do with Mango :D. Just referencing Iron Sky, which is a totally great project!

  16. Cody says:

    This sounds great! I’m wondering if a film grain node or even a node for matching grain to existing footage wouldn’t be an item on the tools list for this one. :)

    • David Jordan says:

      Actually I figured out a simple way to composite film grain exactly like whatever you’re recording from in blender already. Simply record some footage without lots of change between frames, then subtract an adjacent frame from the current frame. This will make any actual image you recorded disappear and leave you with only the noise. Then add the result to anything you render. I used this to match CGI gore to the rest of some noisy shots in my series.

  17. Hubberthus says:

    Wow, will this whole story fit in?
    I have a strong feeling that this will also end up being longer than planned. :D

    Time travelling is good! (especially in a blue box ;))
    If you plan on travelling to the present, you could put there the blender institute. :)
    Main character running.. passing by the building.. bumping into Ton, saying “Oops, sorry!”.. :D

  18. Geordi says:

    Happy 2012!
    Looks Interesting! It would be defiantly cool to do a longer movie in Mango…can’t wait!
    The one question I have is what would its rating be. Since you are doing the whole dating relationship, there is a whole lot of room for over-the-top kissing, dirty jokes, and sex scenes. THAT IS ALL BAD!!!! I will not stand watching that. What I’m trying to say is make sure the movie doesn’t go that way. I don’t want to have to flip it off whenever a kid walks by. Make it Safe For Work.
    Thank You for Listening to my rant! I do look forward to the movie!

  19. Kristopher says:

    I couldn’t care less about “over-the-top kissing”, since when has kissing EVER been considered obscene? And I doubt there’s going to be any gratuitous sex scenes, so why I even bring that up? Seriously, why is everyone so concerned about the fact that the story has a dating through-line? Not the biggest story priority right now, seriously.

    My biggest concerns are that of the Science Fiction element. Awesome special effects do not a good movie make, nor a good science fiction story. One of the biggest challenges to sci-fi is good exposition. For science fiction, you have to establish the rules of the world you’re creating. If it’s set in our world, it’s bound by our laws of physics. But if there is technology that allows us to circumvent those laws (i.e. time travel), that technology needs to be established and explained sufficiently in the exposition in a way that allows us to suspend our disbelief. No, you don’t have to give us a whole thesis about the laws of time travel, but if you don’t establish that time travel is possible in this world, then the audience will reject it as a contrived plot device that seems all too convenient.

    Secondly, I’m curious how the plot device you’re using works. Somehow, the destruction of the world is connected to your protagonist re-establishing his relationship with this woman. To me, that seems far fetched. You will have to establish the stakes and the necessity of your plot device beyond a shadow of a doubt. We get tons of scripts in with interesting plot devices, but the device isn’t justifiable.

    In my opinion, those are your two biggest challenges to crafting a strong story. Yes, the VFX could look awesome, but if the story isn’t strong enough, you’ll still get a bad film.

    • Hubberthus says:

      “F.A.Q. about time travel” is a good starting point in building up the rules :)

      BTW, I agree, even if many things are missed out of the film and only some rules are explained, with a nicely built up background it will “feel good”.

    • MxD says:

      Hmm – in my opinion – when the story takes place IN THE FUTURE, it’s not necessary to explain something commonly known as “time travel”. Everyone knows the concept, it doesn’t need a lot of explanation in a science fiction film. If the story would take place in Paris in the Middle Ages, then it should be tricky, I agree.
      Although,… remember “Back to the future” part I,II,III,… was that a believable story ? Probably not, but it was succesful, funny, and good entertainment :-)

      • Kristopher says:

        I think you misunderstood. I’m not saying you have to explain how time travel works, but you do have to establish that in this futuristic version of our universe, time travel is possible. You have to establish whether it’s an every day, common occurrence or whether it’s a singular event with a great deal of stakes. You have to remember, the audience isn’t an audience that exists in this supposed future but the audience of today. You have to make the science fiction elements believable to the contemporary audience. And for us, as far as we know, time travel is NOT possible. It’s the job of a good story teller to make the audience believe that it IS possible in the story he or she is telling.

        • David Jordan says:

          While you do need to do a little bit of world-building, this really doesn’t require a lot in terms of screen time or explicit explanation. It could be as simple as showing a person walking into one of the blue boxes labeled “Energon’s Time Travel Booth” after waiting in line if it were a common thing, or if it’s uncommon, there might be a short montage showing the time machine being built followed by a strained look from the protagonist as he decides whether or not to take the plunge. Granted the reasoning on why the world is the way it is is something the team will have to consider in order to make a coherent and consistent story, but I have faith that the Mango crew has thought this out.

  20. Colin Levy says:

    Sounds fantastic, Ian! Haha, I can picture the kinds of discussions you guys are having. But it seems like you’re approaching things the right way. Super excited to see where it goes! The synopsis sounds like tons of fun. :D


  21. Phil2.0 says:

    Nice theme!
    Good luck with it.

    @Ian: Are you going to use digital character? or it is a live action?

    • Ian says:

      Right now it’s looking like both, though at this point we’re not going to try doing full res realistic humans.

  22. Greg Zaal says:

    This will be good! :)

  23. Alex Delderfield (ADEdge) says:

    *Don’t worry- Mango will not make you cry (and if it does, I am not sure how that happened?)*

    Good to hear!
    …Although if the CGI is that superb….

  24. Jacob S. says:

    This project already looks awesome! My real hope now is for a better system for good keying in Blender to come about through this. I’m sure you guys would love to stay under a 100 count node setup for greenscreening. :)
    Not really too far into it yet, and I’m already *seeing* good stuff!


  25. Christoph says:

    “But! But but but!” I say, “Mango is supposed to have a good story!”.

    Please don’t take the story as nothing but a vehicle to stuff as many different effects into the movie as possible. If it takes place in a sci-fi world there will be enough opportunities for effects anyway. Still effects are but sound and smoke. They make watching the short enjoyable, but they are not very catchy.

    On the other hand a simple and surprising plot makes a short very memorable. This was the strength of Sintel and I bet that it contributed to its success a lot. Only few people would recommend a short, if the story is uncomprehensible or unnecessarily complex.

    So please, take your plot, reduce it to its essence and realize the result clearly and straight-forward. For this purpose it might be good to collaborate with a professional writer again. Esther Wouda did good work for Sintel.

  26. ViktorRabe says:

    Somehow this whole robotic stuff in the synopsis gives off a vibe of “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”. As in: roboticist Celia can’t cope, builds a robot army for seemingly right intentions, which then tramples through Amsterdam and wants to destroy the world. Okay, so Dr. Totenkopf was sick of a rotten world, Celia is lovesick. Not that big a difference.

    I’m not really keen on the space element in the story. Seems unnecessary if one wants do demonstrate Blender’s live action compositing abilities.

    Since it’s a live action movie, will we see virtual set extension? Or completely virtual buildings composited into live action? If Blender’s up to it I’d also like to see the movie shot entirely with hand-held camera.

  27. Light says:

    Let’s not make it sounded cliche now (as Sci-fi always does). Keep up the good work!!! XD

  28. meltingman says:

    miam :-).
    i So exited by this new :Love:.
    courage :P

  29. Extensor says:

    Would def like to see a cameo by Ton in the same way that Marvel puts Stan Lee into roles as minor characters. :)

  30. anmisto says:

    Cant wait the story sounds epic.


  31. Manuel L says:

    I think just as an idea it would be awesome to this time not have Characters from the other open movies in the background, but the actual core team behind mango.
    Like hubberthus said, at some point the main character could accidently run into Ton or ian for example :D

  32. pinky power-ranger says:

    To the question: ” will it fix a broken heart?”
    just go back a little bit further in time? ;)

  33. anarchymedes says:

    If it’s going to be only 3 minutes long, why not simply turn it into a music video? Just select the proper song, and there you go: minimal story, short length, emotions and FX galore! :-)

  34. Mango project will be worth watching as all of the projects have been blender is stamping itself onthe 3D Digital world and I am more than happy to see it grow. Love all the good work….!:)

  35. Ahmed degui says:

    se brocram et bo