Welcome to the world of Tower 8, a comic book rock opera set in a post-apocalyptic world where music is a supernatural force. The band uses its musical heroics to battle the mysterious forces that haunt their desolate world.
Tower 8 was created in spring of 2006 by Daniel Cannizzaro, Gavin Brown, and Michael Ashton, studying at Brown University.
http://www.myspace.com/towereight: tower 8's myspace page and only current public work.
http://thecreatorsblog.com: the production journal and musings of the creators.
Below are two stills from Tower 8's first video, tentatively titled "The Faceoff." It is planned for release in early August, which is when the entire project goes live. Following the stills is a paper written for an independent study the creators completed with Professor Mark Tribe while at Brown. All three graduated in May of '06.
Welcome to the world of Tower 8, a comic book rock opera set in a post-apocalyptic world where music is a supernatural force. The Tower 8 web site will allow visitors a window into this alternate reality. Their guides through this world are a band named "Tower 8." Tower 8 seeks new electronic means of telling stories, which will form the basis for a new but familiar mythology.
In this world music is more than entertainment or artistic expression; it is embodied in a physical force that makes musicians into comic book super-heroes. The band uses its powers to defend their city and fight villains (some of whom use sound as a force themselves) with over-the-top musical sorcery. Because the band is entirely animated, they can fit comfortably into this universe where the ordinary rules of physics and force are bent and broken. Tower 8's drums and bass can unleash acoustic shockwaves that batter their enemies and bright bands of musical force that strike with more finesse. The 3-d and 2-d animation process allows special effects like these to be drawn artistically, rather than having to be laboriously programmed into live footage.
The Band's online presence permits the present day web surfer to peer into this bizarre future vision. Through this website, a variety of storytelling media will be available. The web denizen will find four main elements:
Videos: Music videos featuring the band in action. These will show vividly how sound and creativity in this world function as a force. The videos will also serve to reveal the characters as individuals and to further the plot.
Interactive Graphic Novels: Chronicling the band's adventures and back stories, these comics will be a blend of animation, still images, text, and user controlled content. The traditional structure of frames will remain as the backbone of these novels with the reader going from page to page and controlling the tempo at which the story unfolds. Inside these frames however, text captions and bubbles will give way to sound clips, and still images will at times swap or be full motion video. The flash format also allows for the branching of storylines so that depending on the way in which the piece is read ( the order that frames are clicked, the pace at which the piece is read, questions answered, etc.) a slightly varying narrative will emerge.
Animations: Created in flash, these animations will show the band in their Tower or outside in lighter moments. As well as standing on their own, they will give the characters more depth, which will help to define them for the videos. Keeping the process cartoon-based and simple as well as reusing visual elements from this and other parts and will allow for the easy creation of character and plot-illuminating shorts.
Music: The band's music will be available for listening online, and will also be posted for download as MP3 files.
The website will allow the visitor to freely explore a faux-thee dimensional environment while accessing the media. "Easter eggs" such as hidden images, sounds, or silly animations will be continuously inserted in the website to encourage repeat visits and exploration.
The band will also have web presences on major social websites, such as Myspace, Livejournal etc. Band members will interact with other users by leaving messages on their personal web pages and comments on their blogs. Videos will be posted on Google Video and YouTube in order to virally promote the band.
More on the world of Tower 8
How did the world get to be like this?
Every generation enjoys an illusion of stability. 100 years before Tower 8, the world was sleepwalking through everyday lives, blissfully expecting that next year would be only one degree of separation different from their present. But the historical record shows that change is inevitable, and every great civilization falls - some with shocking speed. Since then, human carelessness, greed, and devastating lack of foresight has dramatically transformed the globe. After environmental and military disasters, the oceans of the earth receded and former lowlands became mountains. What were once tall mountains become inaccessible peaks. Moving into the dry sea-beds to follow the water, humanity's numbers have dwindled, but some society lives on.
The changes have not been purely environmental. Subtle changes in the interaction of physics and the mental realm have begun altering formerly accepted reality. Strange spirits haunt the earth. Ship's hulls, left behind by the retreating sea, have gained a second life, spidery legs, and are animated with dangerous intent. In addition, the passions behind artistic activities have become embodied in physical forces, giving humans a means to defend themselves.
Who is Tower 8? What do they do?
Tower 8 is a band. Tower 8 is also a military unit, charged with defending its city. The members of the band are not typical soldiers, but talented musicians instead. This leads to some friction with the more traditional leaders and military personnel of the city. When they play, their music manifests itself as a visible physical force that fights their enemies. The name "Tower 8" is simply their address. They are garrisoned in tower number eight.
How do people live?
While earth in 2100 may be desolate and damaged, it is not entirely barbaric. The inhabitants of Tower 8's world are by and large similar to us. The live in cities and towns centered around sources of water and food. They have all the same desires, motivations and conflicts that we do. The vast majority of them do not wield powers like those of Tower 8. Only the skilled artists, musicians, and engineers have found that their crafts channel special energies. The cities of earth are filled with stores and factories, and surrounded by farms. While the population is much lower, humans have adapted to the new conditions.
Having to adapt to the changing world, some technologies have progressed beyond those of the 21st century. Many other technology's growth has been stunted or regressed. The harsh environment precludes manufacture of computers and entertainment equipment; most technology is efficient and focused on basic needs. Factories make the essentials and drills make wells to pump water from the underground reserves. Still, some exotic artifacts from "the before" (our present and future) are still functioning.
What does it mean?
Tower 8 is very much a product of the media used to tell it. We desire to combine the freedom of hypertext fiction with the accessibility of the animated short and the emotional power of music, and in doing so create a new narrative experience. Everything from the collaged visual aesthetic, to the way in which the music is incorporated follows this goal of pushing the mediums we're working in.
The visuals of tower 8 are a complete mix of the digital and traditional, maximizing the advantages offered by each one. Ink drawings done by hand are near seamlessly mixed with their computer counterpart of tablet drawn strokes. Digital photos are overlapped with paintings. And claymation and pencil toons interact with computer generated characters. The hand drawings often retain a more raw emotional power, that can be much more compelling than a fully animated digital scene. If there were too many of them, however, their impact would be diminished, and what was once a fast moving piece would become a slideshow. The computer, on the other hand, is great at creating large scale set pieces and masses of characters that just wouldn't be possible with out its use. It's about finding the right mix, realizing that neither type of media is inherently better than the other.
In most modern music videos, at least those that are story-driven, the music at best tells the tale. Often the band will be juxtaposed with the action of the story, playing out the emotions of the characters, and no matter how strong the songwriting or storytelling, in the end they are still a soundtrack. Tower 8 fades out this juxtaposition, making the music the action of the story, giving it a new physical reality. In the first video the power of the spidery ships is projected as the sonic keening of vocal feedback, and which causes which is not entirely clear. The lead singer's vocals serves at first as narration, but as the battle commences it is embodied in bright bands of color that envelope the enemy. Some of the ambiguity of the old genre remains, but by the end Tower 8 puts the music all the way into the "Music Video." In the website and other animations, sounds can be cued to or triggered by how the visitor navigates the story. This allows some control over how the music is played, which in more advanced parts can let the user interact with the website almost as a musician.
In the world of Tower 8, artists and creative people have supernatural powers that they lack in the real world. In the real world Artists can and do effect important changes and move the masses, but do so only indirectly. As artists, the creators of Tower 8 are almost playing a make-believe game that art is more powerful than it really is, in some cases as a tongue-in-cheek rebuke to those who think artists should have special influence and exemptions purely based on talent. The exaggeration of the power of art helps to isolate the issues more starkly than they could be in the real world. Tower 8 replaces the traditional military with the juvenile and undisciplined environment of the rock band. Whether this makes them more humane and flexible than a military operation or less consistent and prone to heat of the moment wrongdoing. The tension between the staid government of the city and the reckless rockers who are suddenly the only ones capable of protecting it will be a deeper issue to explore.
Message from the Creators
With Tower 8 we have attempted to create a fantastic world that doesn't steal wholesale from the standard genres defined by J. R. R. Tolkien, George Lucas, and the other prophets of imaginary worlds. We want magic that doesn't require a pointy hat with stars, seances and weegie boards, or plugging into the Matrix. This doesn't prevent us from plundering from the past, but the goal is to create something strikingly different. The space in which the characters move does not attempt to model an actual space, but instead fools the eye into believing it might. In the music, a robotic drummer is played by programmed electronic drums, and the male singer is voiced by a girl whose voice is digitally transposed to sound like a supernatural tenor. Unlike other animation projects where the sound is utterly traditional, the band that creates the music has only a virtual existence.
Despite artistic ambitions, in the final analysis what really moves the viewer must be the characters and drama. Splashy effects and dazzling art are worthwhile, they are empty without the texture of identifiable human emotions, conflicts, and a sense of story. Our characters have identities, weaknesses, desires, and purpose, which we will reveal through the window of the Internet. The lead singer Jaff represents idealism and human naïveté. Trevor, the bassist has a darker, more skeptical and sarcastic outlook on life, though he seems to always end up doing the right thing. Roger the drummer, is a robot whose personality anything but robotic. He has a childish zest for live, as well as a petulant spoiled side. The guitarist Katie is just plain crazy. Seriously, she's nuts. But undeniably cute.
In Tower 8 we will create a story-centered world with both depth of character and of artistic meaning. Ideally anyone will be able explore at their own pace, and through exploring and even interacting, make it their own.