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Elephants Dream (code-named Project Orange and originally titled Machina) is a 2006 English-language and Dutch-produced 3D computer animated science fiction short film (9 minutes) produced almost completely using the free software 3D suite Blender (except for the modular sound studio Reaktor and the cluster that rendered the final production, which ran Mac OS X). It premiered on 24 March 2006,[1] after about 8 months of development.

Elephants Dream
Elephants Dream s5 both.jpg
Emo, left, and Proog are the two main characters.
Directed byBassam Kurdali
Produced byTon Roosendaal
Written byPepijn Zwanenberg
StarringCas Jansen
Tygo Gernandt
Music byJan Morgenstern
Blender Foundation
Netherlands Institute for Media Art / Montevideo TBA
The Orange Open Movie Project
Distributed byBlender Foundation
Release date
24 March 2006[1]
Running time
9 minutes

Beginning in September 2005, the film was developed under the code-name Orange by a team of seven artists and animators from around the world. It was later named Machina, and then finally renamed to Elephants Dream in reference to a Dutch tradition whereby parents might abruptly end children's bedtime stories with the introduction of a sneezing elephant.[2]


Plot summaryEdit

The two main characters, the younger Emo (voiced by Cas Jansen) and balding Proog (Tygo Gernandt), are on a journey inside the folds of a giant machine. They inquisitively explore the twisted and dark complex of wires, gears, cogs, and more, until conflict suddenly arises between them. Proog is often portrayed bullying Emo around. The machine is a metaphor, it was created by Proog, and when Emo starts to reject it, Proog physically strikes him unconscious.

It features two men: Proog, who is older and more experienced, and Emo, who is young and nervous. The characters interact with a miraculous construction referred to only as The Machine as they travel through a series of rooms. Proog tries to convince Emo of The Machine's nature, but Emo is reluctant to accept Proog's explanation and he stands against Proog at the end.

Bassam Kurdali, the director of Elephants Dream, explained the plot of the movie:

"The story is very simple—I'm not sure you can call it a complete story even—It is about how people create ideas/stories/fictions/social realities and communicate them or impose them on others. Thus Proog has created (in his head) the concept of a special place/machine, that he tries to "show" to Emo. When Emo doesn't accept his story, Proog becomes desperate and hits him. It's a parable of human relationships really—You can substitute many ideas (money, religion, social institutions, property) instead of Proog's machine—the story doesn't say that creating ideas is bad, just hints that it is better to share ideas than force them on others. There are lots of little clues/hints about this in the movie—many little things have a meaning—but we're not very "tight" with it, because we are hoping people will have their own ideas about the story, and make a new version of the movie. In this way (and others) we tie the story of the movie with the "open movie" idea."[3]


Emo creating the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon" in one of the ending frames of the film

The film project was first announced in May 2005 by Ton Roosendaal, the chairman of the Blender Foundation and the lead developer of the foundation's namesake program Blender. The film was released for download directly and via BitTorrent on the Official Orange Project website on May 18, 2006, along with all production files.

A 3D computer modelling, animating and rendering application, Blender was the primary piece of software used in the creation of the film. The film's content was released under the Creative Commons license known as CC BY, so that viewers may learn from it and use it however they please provided attribution is given.[4] The film's primary purpose was to field test, develop and showcase the capabilities of open source software for 3D animation, demonstrating what can be done with such tools in organizing and producing quality content for films.

The bulk of computer processing power for rendering the film was donated by the BSU Xseed, a 2.1 TFLOPS Apple Xserve G5-based supercomputing cluster at Bowie State University. It reportedly took 125 days to render (roughly four months), consuming up to 2.8GB of memory for each frame.[5] The completed film is 10 minutes and 54 seconds long, but that includes 1 minute and 28 seconds of credits, making the actual feature 9 minutes and 26 seconds long.

The project was jointly funded by the Blender Foundation and the Netherlands Media Art Institute. The Foundation raised much of the funding for the project by selling pre-orders of the DVD. Everyone who pre-ordered before September 1 had their name listed in the film's credits. The DVD set includes NTSC and PAL versions of the film on separate discs, a computer file of a high-definition video version, and all the production files.

During the film's development, several new features (such as an integrated node-based compositor, hair and fur rendering, rewritten animation system and render pipeline, and many workflow tweaks and upgrades) were added to Blender specifically for the project.[6]

Elephants Dream was made mostly as an experiment, rather than to focus on telling a specific story, and thus the final film has a strong arbitrary and surreal atmosphere. The creators originally intended for the movie to show an abstraction of a computer.

The original title, Machina, was dropped because of pronunciation issues.


Elephants Dream received the award for "Best Short Film" at the first European 3D Film Festival in 2010.[7]

Stereoscopic releaseEdit

In 2010, four years after the original release, Elephants Dream was entirely re-rendered in stereoscopic 3D by Wolfgang Draxinger. The project was announced to the public in mid-September on BlenderNation,[8] and premiered at the 2010 Blender Conference.[9]

Unlike the original version which was in full HD resolution (1920×1080), the stereoscopic version was rendered in Digital Cinema Package (DCP) 2K flat resolution (1998×1080), a slightly wider aspect format which required adjustment of the camera lens parameter in every shot. Many scenes in the original production files used flat 2D matte paintings which were integrated into the rendered images during the compositing phase. For the 3D production each matte painting had to be manipulated or entirely recreated into versions for each eye.

Wolfgang Draxinger implemented a number of stereoscopic features in Blender to aid in the stereoscopic production process. However, these features were never merged into the Blender project.



Software usedEdit

Blender was the main program used to create the 3D animation in the film. Some other programs were used for pre- and post-production, file management, collaboration, and scripting. Linux Ubuntu with KDE and GNOME desktop environments was used on the workstations. All of the software, except Reaktor, was licensed under free and/or open-source licenses.

Full filmEdit

Elephants Dream


  1. ^ a b "Elephants Dream Premiere: March 24".
  2. ^ Tom Roosendaal (producer); Lee Cocks (lead artist); Matt Ebb (lead artist); Bassam Kurdali (animation director); Andy Goralczyk; (technical director). Making of Elephants Dream (ogv) (Motion picture). Netherlands: Blender Foundation / Netherlands Media Art Institute / Event occurs at 11 minutes 50 seconds until 13 minutes 10 seconds. link to precise clip
  3. ^ "marhaban ya shabab (wa shabbat ) min bassam - المنابر". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  4. ^ "Elephants Dream » Archive » Creative Commons license". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  5. ^ "CGSociety - Elephants Dream". 2006-05-19. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  6. ^ "Elephants Dream » Archive » Hairy Issues // updated!". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  7. ^ "The First European 3D Film Festival - Awards". 2010-12-10. Archived from the original on 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
  8. ^ "Rendering Elephants Dream in Stereoscopic 3D". 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
  9. ^ "Blender Conference 2010 schedule". 2010-10-28. Archived from the original on 2010-11-26. Retrieved 2010-12-16.

External linksEdit