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Elephants Dream (code-named Orange and originally titled Machina) is a 2006 English-language and Dutch-produced 3D CGI animated science fiction 9-minute short film that was 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 work. Beginning in September 2005, it was developed under the name Orange by a team of seven artists and animators from around the world. It was later renamed Machina and then to Elephants Dream, referring to a Dutch tradition used by parents to abruptly end children's bedtime stories with the introduction of a sneezing elephant.[2]

Elephants Dream
Elephants Dream s5 both.jpg
The two characters in the film, Emo and Proog
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



Elephants Dream (full film)

The two main characters, Emo (Cas Jansen) and Proog (Tygo Gernandt), are on a journey in the folds of a giant Machine, exploring the twisted and dark complex of wires, gears and cogs, until one moment a conflict arises that throws out all their assumptions.

Production historyEdit

The film was first announced in May 2005 by Ton Roosendaal, the chairman of the Blender Foundation and the lead developer of the foundation's program Blender. A 3D modelling, animating and rendering application, Blender was the primary piece of software used in the creation of the film. The project was joint funded by the Blender Foundation and the Netherlands Media Art Institute. The Foundation raised much of their funds by selling pre-orders of the DVD. Everyone who preordered before September 1 has his or her name listed in the film's credits. The bulk of processing 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, consuming up to 2.8GB of memory for each frame.[3] The completed film is 10 minutes 54 seconds long including 1 minute and 28 seconds of credits.

The film's purpose was primarily to field test, develop and showcase the capabilities of open source software, demonstrating what can be done with such tools in the field of organizing and producing quality content for films.

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 into Blender especially for the project.[4]

The film's content was released under the Creative Commons license CC BY, so that viewers may learn from it and use it however they please (provided attribution is given).[5] The DVD set includes NTSC and PAL versions of the film on separate discs, a high-definition video version as a computer file and all the production files.

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.

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

The movie was made mostly as an experiment, rather than to tell a certain story and therefore has a strong arbitrary and surreal atmosphere. It features two men, Proog, who is older and more experienced and Emo, who is young and nervous, living in a miraculous construction referred to only as "The Machine". Proog tries to introduce Emo to The Machine's nature but Emo is reluctant and argues about The Machine's purpose. The creators originally intended for the movie to show the abstraction of a computer.

Bassam Kurdali, Director of Elephants Dream, explained the plot of the movie by saying:

"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."[6]

The original title was to be Machina but was dropped due to pronunciation issues.


In 2010, Elephants Dream was entirely re-rendered in stereoscopic 3D by Wolfgang Draxinger. The project was announced to the public in mid September on BlenderNation[7] and premiered on the 2010 Blender Conference.[8]

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.


Elephants Dream received the award for Best Short Film at the first European 3D Film Festival.[9]



Software and tools usedEdit

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


  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. ^ "CGSociety - Elephants Dream". 2006-05-19. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  4. ^ "Elephants Dream » Archive » Hairy Issues // updated!". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  5. ^ "Elephants Dream » Archive » Creative Commons license". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  6. ^ "marhaban ya shabab (wa shabbat ) min bassam - المنابر". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  7. ^ "Rendering Elephants Dream in Stereoscopic 3D". 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
  8. ^ "Blender Conference 2010 schedule". 2010-10-28. Archived from the original on 2010-11-26. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
  9. ^ "The First European 3D Film Festival - Awards". 2010-12-10. Archived from the original on 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2010-12-16.

External linksEdit