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Angel Wars Guardian Force
Let's play a little word association game. If I say to you "Angel," you might think of some winged creature. You may entertain thoughts of God and you may even associate the qualities of good with them. Some might even venture to say angels are there to protect us. If I throw out the word "Wars" you will talk of struggles and battles. If any of those thoughts entered your mind then you will be right on track with the central theme in the animated DVD series Angel Wars Guardian Force developed by creators Chris Waters and his father Tudor Williams.
Angel Wars Guardian Force is heavily influenced by J R Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) and C S Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia). As a child, Waters realized at a young age (he still is in his late twenties) that much could be learned from these fantasy writers. He said, "If I may be so bold as to compare it to C S Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, which have these hidden Christian meanings in them but it is one step removed so that someone who isn't a Christian can still appreciate the struggle and not feel like they are being preached to or being smacked over their head." Waters thinks that the allegorical writings of Lewis and Tolkien have much in common with the way Jesus taught. "If you look at the way Jesus spoke, he spoke in parables. He didn't do that just to be clever. He did that so they could understand. He was speaking to farmers or fishermen." He said it was something also incorporated in the Angel Wars Guardian Force episodes, " Our series is very much an allegorical or symbolical series. We want it to feel like an epic tale of good versus evil."
Other influences that came to bear on the creation of Angel Wars were Waters' childhood interest in comic book characters such as X Men and Spiderman. His discovery of a very old copy of Milton's Paradise Lost, which belonged to his parents, opened up a whole new world. Waters said, "In this book, which felt like it was hundreds of years old, the pages were fraying, there were these incredible illustrations of battles between angels and demons. When I read this book and saw the illustrations, it struck me that something from the Bible could be that epic, fantastic and heroic (instead of being dry). It inspired me to believe that this is like the first comic book. It was the first action hero comic book story of the fall. I did a little more research and found out angels were not just in the story of the fall but they are mentioned over three hundred times in the Bible. I started writing stories and a friend of mine started doing some drawings. My dad (Tudor Williams) and I talked about this world for quite a few years. We talked about this world for quite a few years and I started thinking about doing a comic book."
As time went on, Waters developed both an interest and talent in animation. While working on his masters degree in television production the seed germinated for Angel Wars. "I decided to do something that the kids could immerse themselves in a little bit more than a comic book. From there the idea grew and after many meetings we got a chance to make it (the video), " he said.
Angel Wars Guardian Force now has three DVDs that target the pre-teen boy market. The first two videos are action packed adventures that pit arch angel Michael's group against the evil dastardly foes of the dark side led by Morg. Angel Wars Guardian Force is rooted in the Biblical story of Lucifer's fall from grace and powered by Waters' belief that there is a daily struggle within all of us to choose between good and evil, following our conscience or turning a blind eye and knowing the difference between right and wrong. For instance in one episode, McCarty, who is a flight instructor tempts a student, "One little lie isn't going to hurt anybody and it will make everybody's life easier. What's the problem?"
"With these episodes I really wanted to explore this notion of the fall and what led to it. On a symbolic level Morg represents Lucifer and the danger of pride. It talks about him being driven by his own needs and nothing else. Morg is a great story in relationship to Michael. He and Michael used to be really good friends. They worked together and played together and were confidants. As is often the case Michael is promoted and Morgan starts to get jealous. As he became jealous he started to resent Michael and resented God for promoting Michael. With that attitude he was recruited by the dragon which is our Lucifer character. He winds up casting his lot with the fallen angels. He is a tragic character. He had everything he ever needed. He just couldn't accept what his life was without comparing it to Michael's and how he felt second best. The tragedy is he lost everything and gained nothing only because of his pride."
The third DVD of the ongoing series is an instructional video that teaches children how to draw many of the characters that appear in the episodes.
Rather than having overt morality and biblical teachings, Waters relies on action packed scenes, a high tempo musical score delivered by acclaimed music producer Christopher Stevens and the strength of good character development to flesh out the message. Stevens is a veteran of the computer and video game arena delivering music scores to Sony, Sega, Microsoft and Vivendi Universal among others. He has also worked with TobyMac and Audio Adrenaline.
Like most good story tellers, Waters has not settled for the role of narrator but literally created a world in which his characters live. This is a living, breathing and, if you will excuse the oxymoron, real world. "For something not to be just propaganda there has to be a true sense of telling a story, being interested in the characters and their world. You need to create a world that in and of itself is an interesting thing to explore. Anything I do in life would be shaped by my world view as a Christian. I would hope that my goal would be just to tell a good story and not to manipulate an audience and not to jump ahead and prove a point without earning the right. Whether the audience is Christian or not hopefully they can enjoy the characters and appreciate the art and animation. Perhaps I will challenge them to think about things in a different way."
As the opening scenes of Angel Wars Guardian Force unfolded, my first impressions were of a computer or video game. The stylized animation will instantly capture the attention of children who have either dabbled with or are hardcore fans of these games. The rapid fire animation was far from accidental. Waters explained, "If you want to engage children then you want to tell stories that are going to engage them and excite them. Then you hold their attention and hopefully a parent or somebody that is concerned about their moral development will take the time to do that." He said the intent is to have people watch the videos, get them interested in the subtle message and have parents and pastors come alongside to witness through that."
Not having any children of my own at home, I wondered how the series was going over with that special group of people who the DVDs were designed for. I turned first to a friend of mine and asked if it would be okay to solicit a quote from her son. Ten year old Slater Goodson had this to say, ďOh, that movie is so good. The last one was really good, but this one even better. The graphics, music, and video are awesome. Itís cool....I canít really describe it, but itís so cool...the fights are pretty good and the Australian guy...the blue guy with all the swords, is awesome. The story is actually really good, too. It taught me that God's angels are all around me. I already knew that, but it was cool to see it.Ē
Next I turned to my friend, Geoff Moore's road manager and fellow musician, Dana Weaver, "My kids just love them!" he enthused.
The litmus test, however,
comes when you ask creator Chris Waters about the reaction from his own
children. After all, if your own children give you a thumbs down or snub
their noses at Dad's work then you might as well pack it in, right? Waters
unofficially has recruited his three children as consultants for his projects.
"I wrote these for my boys so they could have something to have fun with.
They love them. They get to see these things develop over time and get
to see how things develop behind the scenes. They are therefore much more
emotionally invested in these things and perhaps a bit jaded. I made them
for my boys who love Pokemon and Power Rangers. That is what instigated
this more than anything else was to be able to say here is something that
I can make for my boys and present to them knowing I could be proud of
it and comfortable with it. Once we have finished storyboarding an episode,
they are the first people I pitch it to. You can tell a lot from how they
react. Kids are really honest. If they get excited about certain things
then I know I am on the right track. If they look at me (with the attitude)
what are you talking about then I know I am on the wrong track. Hopefully
as we go forward we will stay on the right track."
"One of the things that we did was create a special grid with an x and y axis. It has all kinds of cool shapes in it. We wanted to give kids the best possible chance to succeed and draw these things so that they look like we draw them. I've gone through all this with my kids and there were a couple of weeks when they got home from school that is what they wanted to do. What I would love twenty years from now is to hear a guy who is at the top of his game and hear him say hey there was this company Angel Wars and they got me into drawing. That would be such a neat thing to hear in twenty years," he said.
The DVD is distributed in Christian bookstores through EMI CMG and can also be purchased at the website www.angelwars.com. The plan is to eventually make the video available through larger mainstream mass market retailers as well.
How has the movie buying public received this great animation series? "We really feel as though we are starting to hit our stride. Our development process is much more than we have released into the market. We are really excited about where we see ourselves taking the series in terms of character development. We are crossing our fingers and trusting that the first three videos will do really well. "
Angel Wars Guardian Force rocketed to success this fall as children in more than 2,000 American churches buckled up and strapped in to the high powered adventures of Michael, Swift, Kira and Ariana.
If you want to take Angel
Wars for a test drive, visit the website www.angelwars.com.
Fair warning if you aren't a mom or dad of the tech age you might want
to have your son or daughter sitting beside you. The page loads as a game
console and features music and video samples from the episodes. In addition,
there is an e book that provides a more abbreviated version of how to draw
some of the characters.
By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.