Notes from Director Paul Bolger:
EYEBALLED is a comedy fantasy feature loosely based on characters and settings from Irish mythology, mainly taken from The Book Of Invasions. Think Monsters Inc. meets Asterix, set in a mythic Irish Bronze Age.
Balor Of The Evil Eye is the terrifying ruler of the brutish but smart Fomorians who live under a huge glass tower with tunnels that house dark steampunk labs full of inventors and tinkering scientists who use luges to travel their netherworld.
The human and aristocratic - but not all that sensible - Tua De Dannan (Tua for short) live in creaky thatch-roofed river houses and ride ponies so small their spurred shoes scrape the ground as they gallop out to face the Fomorians in open battle.
The Fomorians rely on science and brute force to get their way while the Tua rely on magic and mystery to get theirs.
The Tua flying ships are powered by what looks like a wish to stay airborne: even the Fomorian scientists - who use smelly methane in their blimps - are unable to work out how the silver ships stay up in the air.
There are opportunities too humorous to mention in this film to poke fun at some of our national legends while gleefully celebrating the wealth and prestige of the source material.
In the Fomorian monster world it’s the women who drive progress and education while their husbands, brothers and fathers live up to the stereotypes of brutish warrior-dom. The Fomorian girls - in their sleek Bond villainesque robes - look nothing like the Fomorian men who ham up the berserker look in their seaweed loincloths and cetacean skull helmets. Their world makes no sense until it does - when we see their scientific advances in action.
On the other hand the very human and rather stoic Tua are closer to what we expect of our distant Celtic ancestors - if they were all prudish mystics who not only thought the sun revolved around the earth but that the earth revolved around them.
The comic spirit of this world is clear from the opening scenes as two very different cultures clash on just about every level.
And while some things may remain mysterious, one thing is clear: the colliding characters of Eyeballed will continue to have it out with each other until the cops are called. They arrive in the unlikely guise of six year old twins, Ifa and Shifra, two little forces of nature who stop the madness by simply helping Balor - an essentially gentle person with a power he doesn’t want - to overcome his disability.
Eyeballed is a redemption story, like Beauty And The Beast, about how a beautiful soul can be released from an ugly body.
To help reinforce this, the approach I’ll take in telling the story - beyond what our script delivers - is a visual menagerie.
I plan to have not one but two production designers work with me. One will be focussed on the Fomorian world while the other designs the human world. I have already secured the talents of none other than Deane Taylor (Art Director of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas) for the Fomorian world and its monster caves.
I will design the characters myself as a bridge between these two design approaches.
I have also tentatively secured - schedules permitting - Spanish wunderkind Almu Redondo (Wolfwalkers) to design the human world. Other major animation talents and friends of mine are also getting in line to help us realise this movie: the ramp up gets more exciting every day.
Once the shape of the world is designed the plan is for both Deane and Almu to work with me on the colour and light of Eyeballed and for us all to figure out how to tell this story in a way that is both fresh and dynamic.
Between the visual contrast of the Fomorian “steampunk” underground and the Celtic hill forts and Crannógs of the Tua, the scene is set for a world where attention to detail will riff on existing archaeology for what we can base our designs on and imagination for what we cannot.
In summary, Eyeballed is an entertaining take on Irish folklore that doesn't take itself too seriously.
It is a spoof of sorts but a spoof with a big heart.
Themes of friendship, of belonging and of not being cast out from the world because one is different, drive its every beat. There are laughs, tears, thrills and a rollercoaster ride with characters many of us remember from childhood tales.
We think it’s time to bring these characters and their often madcap deeds back to audiences.
If they know who Balor is they will get a kick out of this new version of the old cyclops and his world.
If they don't, they will be introduced to a wealth of characters and actions that have been tested in the fire of repeated storytelling in sagas like The Book of Invasions .
And to voice these mythic characters? Our ambition is to have a cast of A list Irish actors like Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Saoirse Ronan and Ruth Negga handle our main characters with a host of Irish comedians bringing up the rear to voice the rest of the monsters, men and women that make up Eyeballed.