Welcome Aboard the Hallucination Engine

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by Mat Hayward

posted on 05-04-2020

In the great Hallucination wars, an evil rogue scientist and his robot army battle against his prodigal son and a carnival world full of clowns and other strange creatures for intergalactic dominance. Welcome to the Hallucination Engine. In June 2020 the world will be introduced to the first series which features 11 episodes that run like a video and read like a comic with the look and sound of a movie. Viewers will be immersed in a detailed multi-verse featuring beautiful (yet often gory) illustrations created completely in Adobe Photoshop with individual layers animated using the Photoshop timeline. The story is complex and entertaining with enough humor and horror to keep bingers hooked as they watch the series unfold online in this virtual experience.

Working professionally as an Entertainment Illustrator for more than 20 years on projects such as Masters of Horror Season II, The Flash and more, artist John Gallagher does not intimidate easily, or at all for that matter. Until he met entertainment master-mind Floyd McFeely that is. Gallagher has been actively drawing since he was old enough to hold a pencil and has a diverse resume featuring an impressive body of work. The Hallucination Engine project is the first time in all those years as a creative that he admitted to being unable to see the bottom of the pool. When Gallagher first felt that unfamiliar sense of intimidation, he knew then and there he had to be a part of the project. When asked to describe the Hallucination Engine, Gallagher says “it’s as though Sid and Marty Krofft had an incredible love child with Alejandro Judarowski with some circus on top of it. It’s madness.”

For more than a decade, Floyd McFeely has been the visionary behind the interactive action adventure musical circus show Super Geek League. The band motto is “live big, dream bigger” and they have always lived up to that standard. As an entertainment photographer who has covered thousands of shows over the years, I can say with 100% confidence there is nobody else on the planet doing what Super Geek League does. With up to 60 people and “others” performing on and around the stage at any given time you can see and hear punk, funk, a full horn section, circus acts, dancers, danger and much more. It’s “Super Epic SciFidelic Action Adventure Rock” at its finest.

Super Geek League photo by Mat Hayward.

In 2017, in an effort to begin a national tour, McFeely brought Super Geek League from Seattle to New York City to showcase the experience for a major tour promotion company. After that show, Mcfeely started to rethink his plan. What he took away from the experience was that he wanted to tell the story in a different way. “No one really knew of the narrative. It was just complete mayhem and chaos which we are really good at.” He went on to say that he always wanted to put the Super Geek League story together in a more comprehensive narrative such as a comic or graphic novel. This revelation re-sparked an idea that had been festering in the back of his complex mind for years that was the Hallucination Engine.

After an extended period as an art-stalker, McFeely worked hard to gain the attention of artist John Gallagher to work with him on the Hallucination Engine. Gallagher became intrigued with the idea and put his pen to work on his Wacom tablet. He opened Photoshop and started to bring McFeely’s creative vision to life. The project was tabled for a few years but after the NYC Super Geek League show, McFeely revisited the project with Gallagher at just the right time in both their lives. “It was serendipity” he says as both were in a good place ready to take on this epic endeavor.

In the past 18 months since then, over 500 original pieces of art have been created, some of which have more than 200 layers per PSD file. While there are moments Gallagher asks himself “What am I doing with this madman?” he is finding the intense challenge to be feeding his creative needs in his day to day work that had admittedly become a bit mundane.

McFeely regularly sends a lineup of 7-8 image requests to Gallagher to bring his creative vision to life in a collaborative partnership that often doesn’t require verbal or written communication. “We don’t have to even discuss things. The project has its own momentum. I hate the word synergy, but that’s what this is.” Says McFeely. There are times that McFeely sees something in his mind’s eye, sends the idea to Gallagher who comes back with something totally different (and often hilarious) than what he had initially envisioned, and they go with that. Speaking about their partnership Gallagher said, “This is the first time I’ve worked with someone not intimidated by collaboration.” Both creatives grew up punk rock with a love for comics. As a kid, they could tell when an artist was taking the easy way out and mailing it in. That isn’t happening with the Hallucination Engine. On the contrary they say they more-often-than-not opt for “the crazy way out” which is exceptionally exciting. “Our enthusiasm for the content and our gleeful joy for being mischievous and awful and punk rock and diy, I think can engage people because it doesn’t look like anything else.”

When asked about the specific workflow that goes into creating the art, Gallagher says “it’s a bit of a witches brew.” Not standing on any method or process, he does whatever it takes to get the job done. “This isn’t fine art that will end up on a gallery wall” according to Gallagher (though some may disagree). “It’s smash-mouth, punk-rock artwork.” He uses the extensive tools available in Adobe Photoshop to push through any challenge that comes up and uses whatever tool is necessary to get the job done. There are times when he questions whether a unique challenge can be conquered. To overcome these obstacles, he takes a walk to a coffee shop or watches something on Netflix. When he gets back to his computer, he finds the solution often has presented itself. “All the heavy lifting is done in Photoshop. The breakneck speed of the project leaves Adobe as the only option. Photoshop is without a doubt the most powerful and versatile option available. Front to back, it’s the powerhouse. I’ve been using it for years and it’s never let me down.” While no work is ever completely done, Gallagher says you just need to abandon it at some point and move on to the next thing. They inevitably end up circling back with new ideas. “There is always another well spring which is rare because most projects are a creative desert. The Hallucination Engine is an embarrassment of riches” creatively speaking.

According to McFeely, the animatic Hallucination Engine combines a full-blown soundtrack leveraging the Super Geek League catalog along with voice overs and the narrative to coincide with Gallagher’s artwork. Using Photoshop to add animation has added another layer (pun intended) to bring the viewer in.

“We are selling a universe and feel this is the best way into the world.” Says McFeely. “I always aspired to put on a Cirque De Soleil type event, but resources were limited. This is a much easier medium to do some crazy stuff. Our imagination is free to run wild and expand upon that where you are limited in what you can do with a live production.”

Run wild with imagination they have. The Hallucination Engine multiverse is so extensive McFeely has created a unique Wikipedia for the Hallucination Engine called “Bonkapedia.” This brings in a comprehensive world bible allowing people to explore the universe and take back the layers of the onion keeping the experience immersive. It’s a useful feature when trying to figure out the answer to questions such as who/what are Pandorgs and EvoMimes?

Join the Hallucination Engine here. You can view the first episode for free starting in June. Additional episodes can be purchased individually, or you can binge the entire season and stock up on Bonk Points.

Topics: Creativity, Creative Inspiration & Trends, Design

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