What do you get if you combine kung fu, Hitler, time travel, vikings gods, anthropomorphic arcade cabinets – a tiny dash of David Hasselhoff – and then cover it in lashings of retro neon? You get Kung Fury, which promises to be one of the most talked-about movies of the year.
Inspired by the glorious action movies of the VHS heydey, but with the zaniness and visual flair cranked up to 11 (and then some), the film stars the titular Kung Fury: a renegade Miami cop, part Jean Claude Van Damme and part Dolph Lundgren, with a penchant for lightning kicks and a rampant dislike of crime.
Now he's got to take down the 'worst criminal of all time' – Adolf Hitler – in a time-travelling flurry of fists.
How it was made
You won't be too surprised to learn that it was a Kickstarter campaign that raised the $630,000 needed to turn the original trailer (which you can watch at the bottom of this page) into a 30-minute film.
It was that funding that allowed Kung Fury director David Sandberg and his company Laser Unicorns to enlist the talents of Swedish VFX and animation studio Fido (opens in new tab).
With a far-ranging remit, involving the creation of the aforementioned vikings, dinosaurs and arcade cabinets, Fido was brought on to the Kung Fury project shortly after the crowdfunding effort concluded in early 2014.
Sandberg's plan was specific and precise, and demanded expertly crafted VFX.
The film is loaded with hundreds of 80s-tinged shots, comprising everything from green screen compositing to characters riding atop a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Then, of course, there were the explosions. Lots of explosions.
Sandberg, a veteran music video and commercial director, had shot the scenes for the initial trailer and executed the effects himself. And the look for the film – sending up yesteryear's technology, fashion and filmmaking techniques – was exactly what drew backers to the project.
That meant it was crucial for Fido to recreate the psychedelic neo-noir style with absolute faithfulness.
Trailer to full movie
"For the trailer, Sandberg had done more or less all of the VFX by himself," says Nils Lagergren, executive producer at Fido. "Those scenes were included in the film, but most of the new VFX shots were produced by Fido.
"In all, Fido produced about 90% of all VFX in the film – that was in over 400 effects shots, which included the eight shots created for the David Hasselhoff 'True Survivor' accompanying music video."
A total of 46 people worked on Kung Fury during the seven-month production process, which concluded in April 2015. The final result is an over-the-top "30-minute roller-coaster filled with action, humour and VFX" – a blend of VHS visuals and pounding Eighties synths.
"It was great to do this project with David – especially given that VFX plays such a crucial part throughout," says Lagergren. "David is the kind of director who has a very strong creative vision, but also a deep understanding of the work process.
"This meant we could discuss the VFX shots from both a creative and technical angle with him. We spoke the same language, so to say."
During post-production, Sandberg and his team moved into the studio to help guide the project to its final mind-blowing state.
"This arrangement helped us to work very closely with David, for example when finding the proper 'VHS-style color aberration kind of look' he envisioned for the film," says Lagergren.
"Having him 'in-house' also made sure that no time was wasted on waiting for feedback, which helped the production to keep its forward momentum."
For production software to keep things on track, Fido didn't have to look far. That's because project management and team collaboration tool ftrack (opens in new tab) actually started its life at Fido as an internal tool, later evolving into a fully fledged commercial product available to other studios.
"Thanks to ftrack, we can handle projects of all sizes using the same production management and workflow structure, regardless of whether it's just one shot in a commercial or a 400-shot project like Kung Fury," says Lagergren.
"This solid structure also helps us to allow a certain degree of inspired improvisation – that was an absolute necessity."
In addition to scaling between creations large and small, ftrack also lets you see individual projects from macro and micro levels alike. On Kung Fury, which features effects ranging from gargantuan Thor-like giants to the accentuated muzzle flash blasting from a Uzi MP-2 submachine gun, these features came in particularly useful indeed.
"ftrack is great because it helps us to see a project on any desired level," says Lagergren. "In a way, it's a bit like being an eagle: you can fly high above the project and keep track of the general progress of it," he adds, noting the benefit of the Status and Time Reports features.
"Then, whenever you need to, you can dive down into the smallest details of the project to look at it up-close on a shot or task level, and find any answer you're looking for – in Notes, for example."
Time saving feature
Indeed, Lagergren identifies Notes as Fido's favourite ftrack feature, as it allows the studio to use multiple artists without wasting large amounts of time. "It's an extremely practical way to keep everyone updated on feedback and instructions for each task and shot," he explains.
"Thanks to Notes, we could juggle artists between shots without losing time on getting them up to speed on each new assignment, since they could find all info they needed themselves, stored in Notes."
"Sometimes we had over 100 submits in our dailies sessions," he adds. "Notes was obviously a very fast and practical way to distribute feedback and instructions. In short: this production would never have been possible without ftrack."
Now watch the trailer!
Like this? Read these!
- Go behind the scenes of Hollywood blockbuster Ender's Game (opens in new tab)
- How to build an app (opens in new tab): try these great tutorials
- Useful and inspiring flyer templates