An Idea: Animating the Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

You're all, I hope, familiar with the Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant - easily the best modern fable about the scientific quest to build rejuvenation biotechnology and thereby defeat age-related frailty, suffering and death. If you have not yet read it, shame on you. Go and read it:

Once upon a time, the planet was tyrannized by a giant dragon. The dragon stood taller than the largest cathedral, and it was covered with thick black scales. Its red eyes glowed with hate, and from its terrible jaws flowed an incessant stream of evil-smelling yellowish-green slime. It demanded from humankind a blood-curdling tribute: to satisfy its enormous appetite, ten thousand men and women had to be delivered every evening at the onset of dark to the foot of the mountain where the dragon-tyrant lived. Sometimes the dragon would devour these unfortunate souls upon arrival; sometimes again it would lock them up in the mountain where they would wither away for months or years before eventually being consumed...

I see that some folk across the way a little in the longevity science community have the great idea that a web animation of the fable should be produced - something that could be dropped into many, many websites and seen by a large audience.

My friend Kent Kemmish, at Halcyon Molecular, has offered to put up $50 for someone who does the best animated flash version of Nick Bostrom's classic essay "The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant" ... Let's say that the challenge stands for one month, until August 7th. My other friend Kevin Fischer is also putting in $50 for a total of $100. Would anyone else be interested in adding to that purse?

I think that this is a good idea with a great deal of merit, but that these folk are not going about it in quite the right way. From my point of view, producing a fair animation - let's say something that looks like the silhouette stop-motion techniques used in some older Eastern European animations of folktales - is going to take a little organization, a few months in total elapsed time from start to finish, and at minimum a few thousand dollars. If you expect to pull in donations through word of mouth and in $50 increments, then this is exactly the sort of project you'd want to run via a tool like Kickstarter. You need some form of way to track and communicate with donors, a way to accept donations, and a web page to showcase your idea and progress to date - why build all that yourself, when you could use Kickstarter?

So the folk who are pushing this should pick a leader, have him set up and manage a Kickstarter project, produce a few specification documents and showy sample pictures, and then reel in enough in the way of funds to get started with a developer who has a good portfolio, found via a contract marketplace like oDesk or 99designs. That's the way this is done. A wide range of indie developers in the writing world use Kickstarter to crowdsource funding for their work using ransom models and other fundraising methods. An alternate approach to the one above is if someone with deeper pockets were to simply commission the work on the simple animated version of the fable, they could then place it in escrow until the costs were recouped through donations, and finally release it online.

Step one would be to validate the cost - and that's as simple as finding someone who builds animations for websites (in Flash, Canvas, or whatever the cool kids are using nowadays) and then asking.


The 'Deathly Hallows' animation in the last Harry Potter movie had a lovely, haunting, Tim Burton feel. Perhaps a similar style for the Dragon Fable?

Posted by: Laura Deming at July 10th, 2011 6:47 PM

The animation company that I manage did indeed create the Fable of the Dragon Tyrant animation. Nick Bostrom played a major role it the artistic direction and the narrative reconstruction.

Here is a link to view the animation

Posted by: Roz Francis at March 18th, 2013 6:22 PM
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