Arcana is an animation studio and entertainment company that was founded in 2004 by Sean Patrick O’Reilly, a writer, producer, and college professor whose young son, Kiefer, is already a well-known actor. Arcana is very much a family business with a mission to produce compelling storiesand top-rate art and they have produced both television shows (like “Kagagi”) and films (such as “Pixies).” The company also publishes graphic novels with over 300 titles to date.
Arcana has received numerous accolades including the Shuster Award for Top Publisher, Foreward Magazine’s Top Graphic Novel at Book Expo America, CME’s Top Export Award, the Moonbeam Award for Top Children’s Graphic Novel, and BIV’s Top Fastest Growing Companies Award.
Sean recently discussed his experiences working with Arcana, his plans for the future, and more via an exclusive interview.
Animation, comics, and films
Meagan Meehan (MM): What inspired you to start Arcana and how did you choose that name?
Sean O’Reilly (SO): To make it in the entertainment industry requires tremendous work, a resilient attitude, persistence, patience…and magic. The word “Arcana” inspired me to take the leap and to keep pushing even when things were tough. I started Arcana with a single comic book in 2003 and now we’ve published over 300 intellectual properties across millions of #Comics in dozens of languages. More recently, we opened up an #Animation Studio and have been a ‘true studio’ green-lighting projects that we know will do well in the marketplace, as we’ve already seen the response through publishing.
MM: What kind of animation styles does Arcana work in?
SO: We are a 3D Maya studio and each of our projects have a different creative style to them. “The Howard Lovecraft Trilogy” is a grounded animation style that has gravity and realism to it while “Pixies” used a lot of classic squash and stretch animation to bolster the physical comedy. Each project is unique and with it, we adapt our animation style.
MM: What genres and lengths of films do you produce?
SO: Arcana publishing focuses on genre from science fiction to fantasy, and from that library the animated features are ones that have been well reviewed with strong characters, big worlds and fall under “family friendly’. Every film is ‘full length’ and comes in at 77+ minutes and the genres are pretty open. Like Brad Bird says, “animation is not a genre”. “Pixies” is a fantastical romantic comedy, while “Howard Lovecraft” is a spooky adventure and “Steam Engines” is steampunk action.
MM: How many animations has Arcana made thus far and what were they about?
SO: We have done a thirteen-episode series called “Kagagi: The Raven.” Kagagi is essentially Canada’s first Aboriginal Super Hero! “Pixies” was our first animated feature film, and we were super lucky to have the late Bill Paxton as one of our voices on it.
And, of course, the Howard Lovecraft Trilogy. “Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom” came out last year and the “Undersea Kingdom” will be out this winter. Mark Hamill, Ron Perlman and Christopher Plummer are all in this one! The third Howard Lovecraft film “Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness” will be out end of 2018.
I don’t have favorites, I love them all in unique ways! I’m very proud of “Pixies” as it felt impossible to finish at one point but now to see the response the world has had is truly remarkable. The Howard Lovecraftseries stars my son Kiefer O’Reilly so I will always be a little biased when it comes to that trilogy. Picking a favorite would be like picking a favorite son or daughter…and I won’t put that into print.
Movies, apps, and the future
MM: How do you get your animated projects seen; for example, are they on TV or in festivals?
SO: Our films have a limited theatrical release and each one has a unique distribution strategy by the partner that owns the license for their territory. For example, Corus licensed “Pixies” for Canada playing it on Movie Central and now has it available as pay-per-view (PPV) and streaming-video-on-demand (SVOD) while United Front Entertainment releasing it on DVD. For the U.S. Vertical Entertainment released it into theaters, produced the DVD’s selling them through Walmart and better retailers everywhere, and it currently resides on Netflix for SVOD. Each project has a unique release strategy and it’s up to the licensee for the marketing and how they distribute.
MM: How do you find the scripts for your projects; for instance, can screenwriters send them directly to you?
SO: All of our scripts have been based of our graphic novels and to date have all been written by me. Arcana started as a graphic novel publishing house and we are now converting our best books into animated versions. To be honest, we aren’t looking at any ‘outside’ animated projects.
MM: You’re now diving into apps, so can you tell us a bit about the Arcana Comics App?
SO: Some of Arcana’s passion for storytelling poured into producing apps. The production of animation is very similar to producing apps and even programming component can be compared to the very technical process of post-production. Apps are an extremely competitive space, in my opinion even more than comics and #Movies, and really does require laser focused demographic efforts along with bigger budgets for marketing. It is fantastic when our IP’s take steps in other mediums and compliment the books and movies.
MM: You have an app called “A Cat Named Haiku” so what is that about and how did you come up with the idea for it?
SO: Mark Poulton actually wrote “A Cat Named Haiku” and this is a unique property that started as a single comic, then became an award winning graphic novel, an app and most recently an animated short with TopBuzz. Haiku is now being developed for an animated feature film and I’m writing the screenplay. When publishing our stories, we really are medium-agnostic and look for the best fit on the story we are wanting to tell.
MM: From a creative standpoint, what projects and events are coming up next for you?
SO: “Panda vs Aliens” is currently in production and has Stan Lee as our producing partner. There’s a couple more on the horizon but not yet announced. Fans should feel free to chat with us on our Facebook or Twitter–we love hearing from them! Also, check our website, Arcanamation, for updates about current and future happenings.