Developed by Supergiant Games and released on the Nintendo Switch in September, the roguelike RPG Hades has solidified itself as an excellent video game with an immersive storyline. Players assume the role of Zagreus, the moody son of Hades as he escapes the Underworld on a quest to reach Mount Olympus. Though players were enraptured by the games addictive mechanics and ancient Greek-inspired mythos, what truly catapulted people's interest in playing Hades initially was its viral trailer animated by the "accidentally" formed Studio Grackle.
Studio Grackle was founded by animator Spencer Wan. If that name sounds familiar, it's because he has drawn fantastic cuts on shows like Castlevania, Boruto and The Owl House. His skill is well-known and respected, hence why Supergiant's Art Director, Jen Zee, contacted Spencer Wan via Twitter to create the trailer for Hades. However, due to the California Assembly Bill 5, Supergiant wouldn't be able to hire Spencer unless he formed a business entity. So, Spencer hired a team and created quickly created a studio to accomplish the project -- largely through Twitter DMs.
To create the trailer, Spencer needed to assemble his A-team of creators, all of whom are people he either worked with before or greatly admired. Spencer has animated on Japanese and American productions so he borrowed talents from both spheres onto this project. The first person he knew he needed was Craig Nowicki, a master compositor who worked with him on Castlevania. This trailer features a large Hydra monster moving across space, so it needed proper depth of field effects to not look flat on the screen. According to Spencer, each render to tune the Hydra took five hours to accomplish. The task is a lot more difficult than it may seem!
Next, he brought on animators he could trust such as Robby Cook, Chengxi Huang, Weilin Zhang, Gem and Hartova Maverick to nail all the wild action that occurs in Zagreus' battle against the Hydra. Lastly, for the gorgeous background art, Spencer enlisted The Owl House background artist Jane Bak, and she nailed the Underworld scenery spectacularly.
Overall, Studio Grackle and Spencer Wan hit it out of the park with their first project, combining a well-rounded team of talented creators whose work makes just about every animation fan giddy with excitement. However, what makes Studio Grackle truly special isn't how talented its artists are, but the studio's drive to respect creators and pay animators properly.
In an interview with Sakuga Blog, Spencer Wan was asked about his bold position regarding how the studio will be run. Though it was too early for him to comment about specific company policy, he made sure to state he was committed to fully compensating artists and that on Hades, every animator was paid American Union rates despite Studio Grackle not even being a union studio yet. Those rates are significantly higher than Japanese production rates, and some of the animators on the project had never been paid them before. It's great to hear Studio Grackle gave those creators the money they deserve. Following this, Spencer also commented that no discrimination or harassment will ever be tolerated at his studio, further proving his drive and passion to make sure every artist is properly respected at his business.
Due to Studio Grackle being a newly formed studio, it'll be taking on boutique work for a while before tackling original projects. Here is hoping all of its future work is as successful and gorgeously animated as the Hades trailer.