ANGEL WARS: ANIMATING BIBLICAL TRUTHS IN AN EPIC STRUGGLE OF GOOD VERSUS EVIL

28th November, 2005
JOE MONTAGUE

Springing from the imagination of Sydney-born creator Chris Waters, Angel Wars Guardian Force is quickly becoming regarded as one of the best and most ambitious animation projects to ever bear a Christian message.


Although he now resides in California, Waters' ties to Australia remain strong. The 29-year-old still refers to Melbourne - where his parents live - with a certain fondness: "The most beautiful city in the world. It is the most liveable city. It is gorgeous."

Chris Waters

FIGHTING TO SAVE THE UNIVERSE: Creator Chris Waters says 'Angel Wars Guardian Force' is an allegorical tale of good versus evil.

 

"If you look at the way Jesus spoke, he spoke in parables," says Chris Waters. "He didn't do that just to be clever. He did that so they could understand. He was speaking to farmers or fishermen."

Angel Wars Guardian Force is heavily influenced by both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis - as a child Waters realised at a young age that much could be learned from these fantasy writers.

Drawing a similarity between his work and C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, he says that both have hidden Christian meanings in them yet remain “one step removed so that someone who isn't a Christian can still appreciate the struggle and not feel like they are being preached to or being smacked over their head”.

Waters thinks that the allegorical writings of Lewis and Tolkien have much in common with the way Jesus taught.

"If you look at the way Jesus spoke, he spoke in parables. He didn't do that just to be clever. He did that so they could understand. He was speaking to farmers or fishermen."

He says he’s taken the same approach with Angel Wars Guardian Force episodes.

"Our series is very much an allegorical or symbolical series. We want it to feel like an epic tale of good versus evil."

Other influences that came to bear on the creation of Angel Wars Guardian Force included Waters' childhood interest in comic book superheroes such as X-Men and Spiderman as well as the discovery of a very old copy of Milton's Paradise Lost which belonged to his parents.

"In this book - which felt like it was hundreds of years old (with) the pages fraying - there were these incredible illustrations of battles between angels and demons,” he says.

“When I read this book and saw the illustrations, it struck me that something from the Bible could be that epic, fantastic and heroic (instead of being dry). It inspired me to believe that this is like the first comic book. It was the first action hero comic book story of the Fall. I did a little more research and found out angels were not just in the story of the Fall but they are mentioned over three hundred times in the Bible.

“I started writing stories and a friend of mine started doing some drawings. My dad (Tudor Williams, credited as co-creator of the series) and I talked about this world for quite a few years. We talked about this world for quite a few years and I started thinking about doing a comic book."

As time went on, Waters developed both an interest and a talent in animation. While working on his masters degree in television production, the seed finally germinated into Angel Wars.

"I decided to do something that the kids could immerse themselves in a little bit more than a comic book,” he says. “From there the idea grew and after many meetings we got a chance to make it (the video).”

Aimed at pre-teen boys, the first two Angel Wars Guardian Force DVDs are action-packed adventures that pit Archangel Michael's group against the evil forces of Morg.

The storyline is rooted in the Biblical story of Lucifer's fall from grace and powered by Waters' belief that there is a daily struggle within all of us to choose between good and evil as we follow our conscience or turn a blind eye. In one episode, for example, McCarty, a flight instructor tempts a student with the line: "One little lie isn't going to hurt anybody and it will make everybody's life easier. What's the problem?"

"With these episodes I really wanted to explore this notion of the Fall and what led to it,” says Waters.

“On a symbolic level Morg represents Lucifer and the danger of pride. It talks about him being driven by his own needs and nothing else. Morg is a great story in relationship to Michael. He and Michael used to be really good friends. They worked together and played together and were confidants. As is often the case, Michael is promoted and Morg starts to get jealous. As he became jealous he started to resent Michael and resented God for promoting Michael. With that attitude he was recruited by the dragon which is our Lucifer character. He winds up casting his lot with the fallen angels. He is a tragic character. He had everything he ever needed. He just couldn't accept what his life was without comparing it to Michael's and how he felt second best. The tragedy is he lost everything and gained nothing only because of his pride."

"Rather than being overt with morality and Biblical teachings, Waters relies on action-packed scenes, a high tempo musical score delivered by acclaimed veteran music producer Christopher Stevens and the strength of good character development to flesh out the message."

Rather than being overt with morality and Biblical teachings, Waters relies on action-packed scenes, a high tempo musical score delivered by acclaimed veteran music producer Christopher Stevens and the strength of good character development to flesh out the message.

Waters has also created the entire living, breathing world in which his characters live.

"For something not to be just propaganda there has to be a true sense of telling a story, being interested in the characters and their world,” he says.

“You need to create a world that in and of itself is an interesting thing to explore. Anything I do in life would be shaped by my world view as a Christian. I would hope that my goal would be just to tell a good story and not to manipulate an audience and...jump ahead and prove a point without earning the right. Whether the audience is Christian or not hopefully they can enjoy the characters and appreciate the art and animation. Perhaps I will challenge them to think about things in a different way."

Waters says it’s his hope that while the excitement of the DVDs will hold the attention of children (they’ve been deliberately created using animation that resembles the computer games they commonly play), parents and pastors will later have a chance to talk to the children about the underlying Christian message.

As for what the kids think?

“Oh, that movie is so good,” says 10-year-old Slater Goodson. ”The last one was really good, but this one even better. The graphics, music, and video are awesome.”

“I can’t really describe it, but it’s so cool...the fights are pretty good and the Australian guy...the blue guy with all the swords, is awesome. The story is actually really good, too. It taught me that God's angels are all around me. I already knew that, but it was cool to see it.”

The litmus test for any author of children’s books or films, however, is in the reaction of their own children. After all, if your own children give you a thumbs down or snub their noses at dad's work, then you might as well pack it in, right?

"I wrote these for my boys so they could have something to have fun with,” says Waters who has unofficially recruited his three sons as consultants on his projects.

EPISODE THREE: The third Guardian Force DVD 'How to draw Angel Wars' is all about encouraging children to create something of their own.

 

"I say to my kids regularly why don't you sit down and draw," Waters says. "Sit down and create something. Tell me a story. Read me a story. I think it is important for kids and it is important for parents to develop that in kids. God is the ultimate creative force in the universe and I think there is something amazing that happens inside of us when we create."

“They love them. They get to see these things develop over time and get to see how things develop behind the scenes. They are therefore much more emotionally invested in these things and perhaps a bit jaded. I made them for my boys who love Pokemon and Power Rangers. (W)hat instigated this more than anything else was to be able to say here is something that I can make for my boys and present to them knowing I could be proud of it and comfortable with it.

“Once we have finished storyboarding an episode they are the first people I pitch it to. You can tell a lot from how they react. Kids are really honest. If they get excited about certain things then I know I am on the right track. If they look at me (with the attitude) what are you talking about then I know I am on the wrong track. Hopefully as we go forward we will stay on the right track."

How To Draw Angel Wars, the third and latest of DVD of the series was released in the US on 22nd November. An instructional video, it teaches children how to draw many of the characters that appear in the episodes.

It’s brave move for someone in Waters position to make - after all, isn’t letting people behind the scenes akin to a magician telling his audience the secrets behind his sleight of hand?

"There are plenty of studies that indicate that children who are involved in art and music have higher self esteem,” answers Waters.

“They are much more confident and I think we have to be careful in the high tech age that we don't forget to encourage our kids to draw and to create themselves. We have a fast food culture where we want to be entertained. I say to my kids regularly why don't you sit down and draw. Sit down and create something. Tell me a story. Read me a story.

"I think it is important for kids and it is important for parents to develop that in kids. God is the ultimate creative force in the universe and I think there is something amazing that happens inside of us when we create. We want to do our little part in (encouraging that). In a couple of weeks we are coming out with a DVD that has over two hours of content teaching kids how to draw all of our characters."

Waters says it’s important to give kids “the best possible chance to succeed” and to that end has ensured the instructions are comprehensive.

“What I would love 20 years from now is to hear a guy who is at the top of his game and hear him say hey there was this company angel wars and they got me into drawing,” he says. “That would be such a neat thing to hear in twenty years.”

The video is distributed in Christian bookstores through EMI CMG and can also be purchased at the website www.angelwars.com. If you want to take Angel Wars for a test drive you can visit the website where the page loads as a game console and features music and video samples from the episodes. There is also an ebook that provides a more abbreviated version of how to draw some of the characters.


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