While Alice Asylum (as said in the review of Madness Returns) is now officially in the pre-production stage of development, the path to this potential third game in the series hasn’t been a walk in the park for anyone involved, and it was bound to be full of bumps and by-products because a third game was never certain, so it makes sense that American Mc Gee tried to bring closure to his series back in 2015, with the project known as “Alice Otherlands”, made of artworks and two short animated films produced by Spicy Horse, funded via Kickstarter, as the owner of the Mc Gee’sAlice IP itself, EA, wasn’t interested in funding a third game, at all, so they had to pivot the project.
Fuck EA, btw. Just in case you needed more incentives to do so. You didn’t.
What came out of it where – mostly – the two aforementioned short films, Leviathan – A Journey Through Jules Verne’s Mind and A Night At The Opera.
Yes, i’m reviewing both of them in the same breath, which is really standard and “boring” but there’s absolutely no point in giving them individual pieces, no sense as they’re pretty dang short as well.
And while the two short films themselves share no continuity, even have different animation styles, there is a general premise that ties the two together.
This being a 20 years old Alice Lindlell having basically united material and psychological worlds in one, and so being able to freely visit the “mind worlds” (the titular “Otherlands”) of people surrounding her in London, exploring the horrors of the human mind and the subsconcious of famous figure from history, and using her power to help people overcome their traumas.
Sadly you kinda need this preface as the short themselves (which can be found on Youtube now) don’t have any preamble themselves and feel like distinct vignettes that throw you into things without explaining anything, assuming you already know who Alice Lindell is, what she did, as you’re given no context.
And i have to point out the situation is such because… the Otherlands project is also comprised of a 50 pages artbook called The Art Of Alice: Otherlands, handed out as a physical reward for backers and made available as a PDF later (free to download, so help yourself), which explains the concept of “Otherlands” and the basic premise for the two short films, also discussed in the artbook itself.
The first short it’s Leviathan – A Journey Through Jules Verne’s Mind… and yes, i’m sorry but it looks like shit. It’s done in what it’s basically “early anime 3D CG”, and it looks worse than early RWBY, with even more flat colors, robotic animation when there’s any, and characters models that are ok only in a relative sense, as in when they don’t move much, or at all.
I’m sorry because even knowing that the budget for producing the two shorts was fairly tight…. it just look like a joke, like something a fan of American Mc Gee’s Alice would make as a tribute on his spare time over a year, but then again it would probably look better, in no small part since it would have not required to meet deadlines or such on a skinflint budget, let’s be reasonable.
Still, it just so “CG anime amateur hour” looking it’s embarassing, kinda pitiable, and it’s plain very cheap looking, regardless of what you think of “3D CG animes” and whatnot. At times it looks like a shitpost, but clearly not done on purpose at all.
According to the Alice wikia it was made by “Ace Film Studios”, which it’s hard to even find info about, i was only able to gather the company did specialized in animated shorts… and was dissolved back at the end of June 2019, so it’s just a miserable situation for everyone regardless.
Ironically it’s made worse by the fact the voice acting is actually very professional… half of it, with Susie Brann reprising the role of Alice Liddell she had before, and Verne is voiced by Jean-Philipe Maurier, which i have nothing against and don’t wanna single out, but there are only 2 characters in the short, and his performance as Verne has a distracting and offuscating thick french accent that makes hard to even hear what he says, to be blunt it’s telling the version on Vimeo has subtitles.
The short itself it’s just Alice and Jules Verne discussing of their fears, humanity’s nature and such philosophy while traversing various setpieces and scenes referencing Verne’ novels, which it’s not a bad idea, but the cheapness of the animation just undermines the stylistical uninterrupted “mind dive”. Not that’s there much to the dialogues themselves anyway, so even if did have some good animation it would still feel like a pile of waffling about philosophical platitudes and nothing else, very very short (8 minutes plus 2 of credits) but also lacking any real substance to it.
So i’m not angry, and it’s so short to the point that would be harsh to call it “a waste of time” (even more when the two shorts combined don’t reach 13 minutes of actual footage), but also so empty and badly animated that i see no point to seeing it either.
A Night At The Opera thankfully is MUCH better, immediatly, with a combination of really creepy stop motion puppets, paper cutouts and handmade sets as Alice enters a series of vignettes based around Richard Wagner’s operas, at least that’s the start, as it turns into a more straightforward plot and quest as well, as Alice’s horseshoe pendant is stolen and she’s tasked by Wotan himself to retrieve it for him, donning Alice with a valkyrie’ wings and attire to slay the dragon Alberich.
Seriously, this short it’s so good it makes up for the Leviathan one, honestly it’s kinda impressive they pulled this off with the aforementioned strict budget and limited workforce, sure it’s even shorter than Leviathan, but it’s still better every way you slice it, and honestly the choice to go stopmotion really benefits the tone of the Alice series, just a perfect match. Good stuff this one.
I have to mention that at the time backers on Kickstarter were kinda displeased as they thought the Otherlands project would have made of at least 10 short films like these, as in people did what they usually do when backing Kickstarter project, as in don’t fuckin reading the actual pitchs and promises and just go off on tangents. In this case they actually promised at least one animated short film if the campaign was successful.. it was, and they delivered, i feel that’s fair enough to say.
But yes, they showed a lot of concept art that led people to think a lot more was coming.
It wasn’t. Guess reading fine prints never was (and never will be, as we keep having to re-learn things over and over) a thing in these projects.
Honestly i wouldn’t be too unhappy as an American Mc Gee’s Alice fan, you definitely got way more than King of Bandit Jing fans (all 10 of us) ever got in almost 2 decades, for some very easy prospective on old fan favourite series.
That’s really all for the retrospective, unless you wanna consider the Alice Madness Returns artbook… which it has never been reprinted and commands insane prices for a physical copy. So for now this is the end.