Announced last Wednesday, Mike Oeming and Bryan J.L. Glass’s fan favorite “Chosen Rodent” is headed to the small screen as an animated feature film.
The Mice Templar tells of an extraordinary adventure of magic and wonder, faith and valor, and of one small mouse whose destiny might change the entire world. To date, five out of a planned 25-issue run have been published. Image plans to collect the first six issues and release a hardcover collection titled The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy in October.
We spoke with the creators about the Cartoon Network project as well as what’s coming up in the The Mice Templar comic book series.
Newsarama: So, Cartoon Network is producing feature films based on The Mice Templar and two other properties. Congratulations on the deal. For you guys, what does it feel like to eventually see Karic come to life?
Mike Oeming: Hey Benjamin, first let us thank you for the interview. But before we answer these, you should know this is still very early in the deal so we don't know the full answers to some of these questions. We'll just answer the best we can. But hell, it’s a great feeling!!!
Bryan Glass: Incredible. Words cannot truly describe it. Every creator fantasizes their creations living on in some form beyond the printed page, but the odds are so remote that it isn't something that should be taken seriously. But now that we're facing that reality of our story, my dialogue and Mike's visuals, taking on a voice and life of their own is absolutely utterly stunning. My mind races now with pondering how scenes from the comic, most especially scenes that haven't even been scripted and drawn yet, will manifest in animated form with SFX and an inspiring score?
NRAMA: How long has this animated film project been in the works?
BG: I fear such questioning is a bit premature, as our deal for Mice Templar was only just finalized the week preceding Comic-Con.
NRAMA: How did this deal come about in the first place?
MO: We first spoke with producer Gregg Goldin last August, just before issue #1 hit the stands. Greg was a reader of my work and had known about my creation of Mice Templar for years. When he first contacted us, Cartoon Network was looking for projects to connect to a younger audience, but we all felt Templar was actually a bit more mature than the age group they were shooting for at that time. Eventually, Cartoon Network started looking for more mature audiences and that's when we started talking about Mice again.
BG: It was April, 2008, with four issues on the stands, and Mike and I were just stunned to learn that Gregg was back with a revised pitch based upon an older demographic. That was enough to rekindle our interest, and soon we sent Gregg and his team the entire 25-issue synopsis of the Mice Templar saga, along with the much ballyhooed history. Before we knew it, a pitch was launched to higher executives at CN and negotiations began. The authorization from our agent and lawyer to finalize the deal literally occurred the Friday preceding Comic-Con, so there has been little time for any preproduction to materialize.
NRAMA: By the way, just how many films are we looking at?
MO: Right now, it's just the one for sure, but obviously we are hoping for more if it does well.
BG: I'm just concerned that any attempt to reduce our 25+ issue series into a single film would be a huge mistake. But as it currently stands, there will be no true ending until that 25th issue is realized. My own suggestion to the production team thus far is that a single film could be made of the first two arcs--as the first arc will not end in a cinematically satisfying manner, as we have currently laid it out--yet it would still end on a cliffhanger necessitating a second film to resolve the final arc.
Then again, there are always ways to play with the structure of a story within the confines of a new medium that might just allow the prime Mice Templar story to play out as a classic fantasy trilogy. We still have to see what decisions are ultimately made.
NRAMA: How involved will you guys be with the development of the project? Are you contributing ideas to the script, storyboards, the character designs, etc?
MO: Its great! Not only are we producers, but we'll be very involved in the project. I think that's important so that we can make sure the film remains true to the spirit of the comic.
BG: Preliminary interaction with the production team has been positive--everyone involved seems genuinely interested in bringing our vision of the comic to the screen.
NRAMA: What format are you guys developing?
MO: It's going to be CGI, I'm not sure of the running time.
NRAMA: Also, Watership Down, The Lord of the Rings and the Bible are primary influences for the book. Is the planned animated film(s) targeted at kids or will it/they have an all-ages feel?
BG: As far as the written word goes, those are my primary influences as writer. I'm sure Mike will chime in with the animated version of The Secret of Nimh, Watership Down and the Peter Jackson theatrical version of The Lord of the Rings. In our own ways, Mike and I both grew up on epic fantasy, and for me the literary works of Richard Adams were landmark. Many anthropomorphic characters have displayed heart over the years, but it was Adams that gave them a soul in such works as Watership Down, The Plague Dogs, Shardik and Traveler. The challenge for us has been to create this mouse culture that remains in touch with its rodent roots, even as its heroes reach for the sky. The works of Tolkien then set the stage for fantasy as grand opera, wherein unlikely heroes find themselves upon impossible quests, carrying great burdens, and setting themselves against ancient evils that set in motion before its heroes were born all of the doom they must now overcome. The Lord of the Rings is the bar against which all other fantasy endeavors must be measured; and only the fans can ultimately judge if any such work is revised plagiarism or a worthy successor on the field it originally plowed. And lastly, I would say it is the Judeo-Christian virtues of the Bible that give The Mice Templar its spiritual heart; there are many heroes throughout myth and literature, but few resonate with the reality of the human condition as those who struggle throughout the Old and New Testaments.
NRAMA: How are you ensuring that Mice Templar will not be just an animated version of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy? Okay, I'm not saying that it's not a good thing but surely you have a vision for the project, no? Other than the fact that it features mice as armored warriors...
BG: Overall, we are telling a vastly different story. The journey of Karic is unique. He is not Frodo, he's not Luke Skywalker; his destiny isn't going to quite fit the Joseph Campbell "Heroes Journey." From a purely visual perspective, Mice Templar will have all of the visual cues--from epic sieges and battles, to internal doubts manifesting in spectacular disaster--but in the end, it is the heart and soul of our characters revealed through the distinct choices they make that separate them from all that have come before.
NRAMA: What can you tell us about the storyline?
BG: Again, too many factors are still too premature to ponder. The 25-issue saga of The Mice Templar is definitely the story of Karic, and Cartoon Network is definitely looking to tell his story. Yet Karic's story is ultimately told in comic form through three distinctive arcs, each conveying a distinct step in his evolution as a character: “The Prophecy”; “Destiny”; and concluding with “Legend”. Our plan has always been to set up various cliche's of the fantasy genre, only to then turn them, or spin them, in a new and distinctive direction--Karic is never going to end up in the role you expect him to fulfill at any given moment of the story. For those following the first arc in comic form, they know full well now that the first three issues were about setting up a classic formula, while the subsequent three are all about twisting expectations. We can only hope at this time that our storytelling direction translates to the screen so that the audience never quite knows what to expect or how the saga of Karic will truly end.
NRAMA: When is the film scheduled to hit the TV screens?
BG: I cannot imagine anything earlier than 2010, which should allow the comic series to reach its conclusion before the animated version appears.
NRAMA: For the comic book series, what have you guys planned? What can we look forward to in the coming months?
MP: I'm wrapping up issue #6, and then taking a very short break until the next arc. We had scheduling problems last year, and then again early this year, which I want to avoid
BG: First comes the conclusion of the first arc, “The Prophecy”. At the end of issue #6, fans should have a complete reversal of their expectations on what the cliche' of the fantasy "Chosen One" actually means.
MO: The HC trade comes out in October! And we're looking to get the next arc started in early '09. I'm thinking of getting out a sketchbook between now and then to hold people over.
BG: The second arc, “Destiny”, is probably closer to what many were expecting from the series as a whole, but when all is ultimately revealed, fans will realize the absolute necessity of the tale beginning in the way in which we presented it. The second arc is where Karic learns that it isn't always a good thing to be called the "Chosen One." The action quotient is going to go through the roof, as Karic exchanges his dubious mentor Pilot for Cassius, a mouse of sheer action and attitude. Cassius is my favorite character in the series--seen only via flashback in issue #1, and then as a menacing potential antagonist in issues #2-#6--as the overall saga is revealed to be as much about his story as it is that of Karic.
NRAMA: Thank you for your time, guys. Congrats again.
MO: It was great talking with you. And remember that you can visit the official comic website at: www.HiddenRobot.com/MICETEMPLAR/. And you can get all the latest Mice Templar news, as well as everything else going on with my work by joining my mailing list; just write to me and ask to join: Oeming@aol.com