Gaming TV & Movies

Arcane animation charms viewers with its unique hand-drawn visual effects and backgrounds

“Suddenly you had to not make two or three minutes, but six hours," said Arcane showrunner Christian Linke

Arcane has recently become a hit on Netflix receiving 9.3/10 from IMDB and a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, impressing audiences with its unique mix of 2D and 3D effects and a compelling story. 

Under development for over 6 years, Arcane, is the first show based on the world of popular video game series League of Legends. The shows unique animation style charms viewers as they explore the depths of Piltover and its undercity Zaun. The collaboration between Riot Games and French Studio Fortiche debuted to universal acclaim on Netflix. 

Before Arcane, League of Legends lore consisted only of animated shorts, small comics, and short stories. Arcane is the first League of Legends show to dive deep.  

“Suddenly you had to not make two or three minutes, but six hours,” said Christian Linke, Arcane’s showrunner and creative director at Riot Games.  

Christian describes Arcane as “our love letter to you, the players and fans who over the years have been with us to help make League of Legends.” 

The series is set in the fictional location of Piltover and Zaun. Piltover, the upper city of the rich where the innovative Hextech technology was first founded. Zaun, the poor underground filled with pollution and crime, being dragged behind as Piltover prospers. Both sides fighting with advanced technology. Piltover’s Hextech, harnessing the power of magic and Zaun’s Shimmer, a drug giving the user superhuman strength.  

“When we set out to make Arcane, we knew we wanted to create something that feels like an authentic representation of your favourite champions,” Linke says. 

Arcane focuses on the origin story of two sisters, Vi and Jinx. You will get to experience their past and present.   

“So you’ll get to see some of their origin stories, but you’ll also get to see them in the present day as they push the world forward,” said Linke on a dev diary on the League of Legends YouTube channel.  

Fortiche, the studio that produced Arcane animations, is a French animation studio that worked on previous works with Riot, such as music videos for Imagine Dragons and K/DA. They have also produced cinematics for Riot’s popular esports event, “Worlds.” 

Fortiche’s director of animation for Arcane, Barthelemy Maunoury explained to Mashable Arcane’s unique style of animation using a blend of 3D and 2D elements. “In a typical 3D production, every element from the characters to the background is modelled in three dimensions.” But, she continued, “On Arcane, it’s slightly different. The backgrounds are digitally hand-painted and the texture on the characters is crafted to get that graphical look that fits with the environment. We also mainly use 2D animation for the FXs to reinforce the painted look.”  

Fortiche can achieve this unique art style by rendering the area and characters in 3D then putting on the hand drawn backgrounds mixed with lighting to give it depth. “In the details it’s slightly more complicated but it’s more or less how you end up with something that looks like an illustration,” Maunoury said. All the backgrounds in Arcane are hand-drawn with the models being added in to create a splash art look. 

Image Credit: Twitch League of Legends

“We worked really closely with Riot to make sure the lore and the IP were respected.” said  Maunoury. Looking at the clothes in Arcane can tell you a lot about the characters’ origins and living environments. In Piltover, officials wear gold around their clothing including the enforcers who have gold in their masks. Citizens have clean suits and dresses while the citizens of Zaun wear any jacket they find. If we look at Claggor, we can see a small jacket being forced onto his bigger body along with a white and yellow shirt. 

Image on left enforcer, Image on right Claggor 


Another unique aspect of Arcane are the neon scribbles and distortion on screen representing Jinx’s insanity. “It’s like the scene you’re looking at is the movie of her life that Jinx is editing herself with rage, scribbling directly on the film,” It’s a unique effect that pushes Jinx insanity onto the viewer. “The idea was to use 2D animation and film scratches to make you enter Jinx’s mind.” said Maunoury. 

The Arcane team wanted to show how the world isn’t black and white and how there always a reason why something is happening. “We were really interested in the two perspectives between Piltover and Zaun.”  

The Arcane team described how they wanted to show how easy it is to be persuaded into having a biased perspective that the other side is fully evil, when in reality, both sides are going through their own struggles and problems.  

This is shown through the show in the second act of Arcane where Caitlyn releases prisoner Vi and to help her in an investigation. Hard to each other at first because of their bias view of where they came from, the duo soon start to bond together and become good friends.  

Due to positive reception, Arcane has been confirmed for a season 2. 

Image Credit: Netflix 

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