Project Menagerie: Season One

This is a replacement / continuation of my other thread. If you want to see my progress from the very beginning starting in 2016, check it out here! Blender Feature Film: The Story of Ven

Join the discord for all the updates! https://discord.gg/C29tepa

Hey everyone! This is the replacement and continuation of an idea I had of creating a full film in Blender centered around animal characters. The original idea was called, The Story of Ven. It was a fan fiction of the film, G-Force. Had a full novel written for it and everything. Still here on BA if you check out the link above.

How this started:
Well, in June of 19’, while on TDY for the Air Force, I was told by many that a project like The Story of Ven was too big to be considered a fan fiction. After some pondering, I decided to make an original series based off of the lore I had already given. Instead of a full film, it would be broken down into ‘episodes’. This would reduce production time greatly and help me focus on one thing at a time.

Why change it?
I normally don’t change stuff this big. It gives me the, “You never finish what you started” vibe. But I figured the project will be better off in an original state, instead of fan fiction.

Ok then! What’s Project Menagerie about?
Project Menagerie is a series made in Blender about the long term use of animals as spies and weapons for the governments of the world. With it’s history dating back into the 50’s, our story takes place in modern day Alaska.

Full Lore: (You don't have to read this part as it is explained in the first episode, but feel free!)

It’s 1957, the space race had just started. Russia sent it’s first man into space. First satellite. Surrounding countries wanted a glimpse on how they did it, sending hundreds of birds, animals with cameras strapped onto them, listening devices.

After just a few months, the Soviets grew tired of other countries spying on them, having to send groups of men just to hunt down these animals, wasting time and resources.

Mikhail Lebedev, a nuero scientist, and veterinarian, offered a solution. What if there was a way to modify an animal to identify the difference between friend and foe? To be able to release this animal and hunt down foreign spies on its own.

The concept was wild, and some laughed at Mikhail. But he insisted that this was the future of animal technology, and continued his research.

Five years later, in 1962, Lebedev developed a genetic modification, capable of enhancing the animals focus, and mindset.

The Soviet Union’s Committee for State Security, or KGB, recognized Lebedev’s work and offered an official role in the organization, calling the program “S.O.A.D”. Special Operations Animal Division.
A program designed to weaponize animals in a way that has never been done before. Smarter than a trained K9, and can follow specific orders from over a radio, these animals were lethal.

20 years later in 1985, Lebedev designed a new neural enhancement for his animals. Code named “Gen 2 SOAD”, this modification allowed the animal to have an understanding similar to a human 10 year old, can read and count, and have self recognition.

But this was just a stepping stone to what Lebedev envisioned. After the Cold War in 1991, The Russian Federation was born, with the KGB being replaced with the Foreign Intelligence Service, or the SVR.

This new organization questioned Lebedev’s program, failing to see the purpose of using spy animals on the field. Threatened to be shutdown, Lebedev and his scientists were forced to demo their latest project, the Gen 3 SOAD.

Gen 3’s are a new breed of weapon, giving the animal a human adult level of intelligence, as well as having the ability to use tools such as weapons and equipment. The success of the Gen 3 modification gave the SVR a good reason to continue funding SOAD, proclaiming it as the future in spy technology.

But as successful as SOAD got, it didn’t take long for problems to arise. Living conditions for the agents got poor within a few months, and food was getting rather scarce, due to the recent population growth of the program.

Agent 811, Aleksei Boroskov, a guinea pig; had saw enough and managed to escape SOAD’s clutches, fleeing towards America’s CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, planning to defect.

Boroskov explained his situation, but the CIA directors couldn’t understand his language believing he was a messenger from Russia, stating propaganda and rigged to explode.

One person, Brennen Wyatt, a director for the Science and Technology Department, defends Boroskov, hopping between him and the others. Wyatt noticed the guinea pigs amazing ability to walk and react to the environment like a human. He explains that maybe the guinea pig was here for other reasons and that they should listen to what he has to say.

After a Russian translator came in, the directors were mind-boggled, shocked by the fact that Russia had been using animals in this extent for 40 years, unknown to the world.

Curious to know more, Wyatt was granted funding to study the agent, calling it Operation Rogue Rodent. Aleksei willingly contributed to the research, and in 1993, the first iteration of the genetic modification was built. Called a failure, the animal couldn’t reason as well as Aleksei, and research pushed on.

In 1995, the Mk.2 modification was introduced. Injected into three seperate guinea pigs, results almost perfectly replicated Boroskov’s DNA and physical capabilities.

Now it came time for field testing. After a successful mission in Iraq to find evidence of biological weapons, the Director of the CIA requested for Rogue Rodent to be transferred into the Intelligence branch.

Wyatt accepted, and on August 11, 1995, a new agency of animals was born, code named “Project Menagerie”. With similar intentions to SOAD, PM was to equip animals for various types of uses within the CIA’s interests. A ranking system was put into place, with the agents being lead by their own species. Over the next decade, PM conducted over 500 missions throughout the world, have over 1000 agents at 12 different locations in the US and overseas.

Project Menagerie will feature a ton of things!

  • Animal Characters!
    Includes Opossums, Hamsters, Ferrets, Raccoons, Guinea Pigs, Prairie Dogs, Rabbits, Porcupine, Squirrels, Platypus, Beavers, Skunks, Rats, Mice, Badgers, Woodchucks, Anteaters, Otters, Chipmunks, Hedgehogs, Mongoose, Lemurs, etc.

  • Weapons and Gear!
    These animals are going into war! They’re going to need gear. This includes full plate carriers, vests, backpacks, helmets, hearing protection, guns, etc. Everything built by the humans, specially fitted for them!

  • Environments!
    Episode One takes place in the beautiful land known as Alaska! It includes a massive underground base located on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. This is the Alaska branch headquarters of PM. It’s Area of Operation covers most of the pacific, as well as the artic!

  • Much more!
    We have vehicles, boats, tools, auditoriums, explosions, blood, language, fur!.. Hey, I never said this was kid friendly… It’s made by a military guy.

And finally, I encourage all feedback, and if you ever want to contribute to this project, click on the discord above and message me!

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Phew, that took a moment to type!

Alright, first up is the current progress of the project:

I finished sculpting every character to show in the first episode. A total of 7 new characters. A detailed description will come with each character of course.
Being only sculpts, they don’t have texture, or fur. And they’re also subject to change.
Here’s our characters:

Eleana - Female Guinea Pig
Charlie - Male Opossum
Caliber - Male River Otter
Toby - European Badger
Eli - Male Guinea Pig
Eli’s executive assistant (Unnamed) - Female Common Mouse
And finally some Prairie Dogs who are our antagonists for this episode!

I will post photo’s of these character sculpts as these next days pass, as well as a basic description of each!

Can’t wait

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Nice! Cannot wait either. It’ll be a blast for sure! Good luck, my friend!

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Alright, first character up! Sorta…

Introducing Charlie!

He is a Virginia Opossum (Didelphis Virginiana). One of our main characters.

Although this is just a sculpt, I used the masking tools to ‘fake’ a texture. Useful to test out the appeal of the character w/o retopologizing the whole model. The only thing that bugs me with this character, is the eyes. But those are placeholder, at least until I move on past retopo, and into texturing.

Of course, more details will come to him on final render!


Why not use vertex colors for this?

I just googled vertex colors, and uh… yeah I could’ve done that. oops.

I’m gonna retopologize the model and add a real texture anyway, so I’m not gonna sweat about it. But seriously, thanks! No idea that was a use for vertex colors.

Yeah, vertex colors are mainly just used either when you don’t want to UV unwrap a sculpt, or to act as a mask for shaders. They don’t give you good results when there aren’t a lot of vertices in a mesh, so they are rarely used for an animation ready mesh, but are perfect for when you just want to colorize a high poly sculpt.

Next character!

Here is Caliber!

Caliber is a North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis). He’s one of the members of Charlie Squad from Episode 1.

Again, a quick paintover to show a texture, but will be refined once the retopology process is complete.

Will there be a possible trailer before you finish the episode? I’m interested in what it looks like before the episode arrives. Just a 1.30 minute long trailer viewing the scenes and characters would be nice if possible.

If it’s not much work for you to do.

Not currently. I’m gonna push with doing the whole episode, and if I get to a point where I think there’s enough footage to make a trailer then for sure!

Happy Tuesday, I hope everyone had a great Veteran’s Day Weekend!

Moving on with character sculpts, here is character #3.

Introducing, Toby!

Toby is a European Badger (Meles Meles). One of Charlie Squad’s newest troops. He’s a very sweet and gentle badger, contrary to belief with his species.