RTX Animation Festival Premieres Powerhouse's Castlevania

Rooster Teeth's Gray G. Haddock on the "new golden age of animation"

The internet is filled with animated shorts, but they rarely find screen time away from phones, tablets, or TVs. That's why Gray G. Haddock, head of animation at Austin's Rooster Teeth studio, has been shepherding the Rooster Teeth Animation Festival, the festival-within-a-festival at the annual RTX gathering. For the first time, the best of those shorts will be projected in front of theatre audiences. Haddock said, "I do think we're entering a new golden age of animation."

Haddock described RTX (taking place at the Austin Convention Center July 7-9) as a core part of the studio's legendary commitment to community engagement. While there are now expansions in Australia and the UK, Haddock called the Austin convention "the granddaddy" of its in-house events, with over 60,000 fans in attendance last year. He said, "We want to say 'thank you' to them for watching all of our stuff and supporting us."

RTX still concentrates on Rooster Teeth's own properties, like animated comedy Camp Camp, anime RWBY, live-action epidemic drama Day 5, the burgeoning Lazer Team film franchise, and of course beloved machinima Red vs. Blue. They have previously hosted one-off panels for outside individuals and shows that they loved, but last year saw the first full-fledged animation track. With the RTX stable expanding, Haddock and his team saw this as the ideal opportunity to lend their platform to other creatives. He said, "A rising tide lifts all ships, so we wanted to connect the Rooster Teeth community with cool animators out there who otherwise might not have an opportunity to meet their fans in person."

In part, Haddock was inspired by touring animated festivals that used to visit Austin, like Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation, and Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt's The Animation Show. In that vein, the Rooster Teeth Animation Festival will put every form of 2-D and 3-D cartoonist face-to-face with their audience: from DIY Minecraft machinima project Black Plasma Studios, to movie mockers How It Should Have Ended, and Adult Swim's new fantasy spoof Apollo Gauntlet, as well as the Cartoon Hangover hangout. Haddock said, "We quite literally sit there in our PJs with big boxes of sugar cereal and try to re-create the myth that Saturday morning cartoons have taken on." There will also be panels, including a Q&A with Fred Seibert, founder of the beloved and ubiquitous Frederator Studios (responsible for The Fairly OddParents, Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, cult favorite Adventure Time, and more). However, that's not the only reason for his attendance, as Austin's Powerhouse Animation unleashes their animated adaptation of the groundbreaking horror game franchise Castlevania.

It's a massive breakthrough for Powerhouse, which made its reputation as a service animator, providing gaming cut-scenes, animation for commercials, and VFX for films and TV. Not only is Castlevania its first full series, and a collaboration with Frederator, but it's also a Netflix exclusive, and will debut on the same day as their big-screen showing. Plus, for director Sam Deats, it's a chance to bite into the vampire-hunting classic. He said, "I'm one of those ridiculous hardcore fans that's been keeping up with the series since the beginning."

Out of the dozens of Castlevania titles released since the 1986 NES original, it's 1997's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night that remains dearest to Deats' heart. The first title directed by franchise regular Koji Igarashi, and resplendent in the romantic Gothic style of artist Ayami Kojima, Deats called it "that classic game that a lot of people, especially my age, grew up on and loved as kids. It really redefined and created a genre."

Living up to the Castlevania legacy was not Deats' only nerve-racking challenge: The show's script is by iconic comic writer Warren Ellis, famous for dystopian epic Transmetropolitan, and runs on Marvel's Wolverine and Iron Man. Deats called his initial communications with the notoriously forthright Ellis "terrifying" but, he said, "after working together for about a year and a half, we joke with each other: He posts on Twitter silly GIFs about me."

Five Unmissable RTX Austin 2017 Events

1) RWBY: Behind-the-scenes and potential season 5 hints on Rooster Teeth's anime smash. Friday, 2pm, ACC Hall 1.

2) Castlevania: Powerhouse Animation screens their new Netflix exclusive. Friday, 4:30pm, Paramount Theatre.

3) Andy Serkis: The king of motion-capture performances spills the beans on being King Kong, Gollum, and more, before a special preview screening of War for the Planet of the Apes. Keynote: Friday, 4:30pm, Center Stage. Screening: Friday, 7pm, Paramount Theatre.

4) Phantogram: Get high with the New York electro-pop stars. Saturday, 8pm, Stubb's.

5) Lazer Team 2: Exclusive first word (and maybe a sneak peek) of Rooster Teeth's second feature film. Saturday, 1:30pm, ACC Hall 1.

The RTX Festival and RTX Animation Festival run July 7-9 at the Austin Convention Center. Passes and info at www.rtxaustin.com.

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