Netflix’s ‘The Sea Beast’ Creators Reveal the Challenges and Inspirations Behind the Animated Adventure

Every movie has its own inspirations and challenges, and Netflix’s new animated adventure film, The Sea Beast, is no different. This movie sails onto Netflix on July 8th, and is a story that takes place during an era when terrifying beasts roamed the seas. Monster hunters dedicated their lives to stopping these creatures – and the great Jacob Holland was the most beloved of them all.  

In The Sea Beast, he crosses paths with young Maisie Brumble when she stows away on this ship, The Inevitable. Together they embark on an epic journey into uncharted waters. During the long lead press day, filmmakers spent a few hours talking about their inspirations behind The Sea Beast, bringing on the incredible voice cast, and their biggest challenges (it may surprise you to hear that ropes are at the top of that list).  

Participating Filmmakers 

  • Chris Williams (Director/Writer/Producer) 
  • Jed Schlanger (Producer) 
  • Matthias Lechner (Production Designer) 

Embarking on the Adventure: The Genesis of the Project 

the sea beast creating ropes
Courtesy of Netflix

Director, Writer, and Producer Chris Williams was encouraged by his mother to go into the animation field since she knew it was a passion of his. You might recognize his name because he worked at Disney Animation for 20 years on projects like Big Hero 6, Moana, and Bolt. While at Disney he felt like he was getting too comfortable, and decided to throw himself into something new, ultimately landing at Netflix Animation.  

Williams explains that he was heavily inspired by big, sweeping, epic adventure stories like Lawrence of Arabia and King Kong when coming up with this story. These kinds of films were his favorites growing up, so he was thrilled to bring them into this story. However, he was particularly inspired by the drawings of sea monsters that were drawn in the unexplored parts of the sea on historical maps. 

In order to pull off The Sea Beast in a way that felt believable, he did a lot of research into the tall sailing ships of the past. They are a big part of this story and it was necessary for them to be accurately portrayed in order for this movie to work. The filmmakers also researched what it was like to live on a tall ship, and how it functioned. This was key to making the story and animation work. 

He learned on Moana that “even a handful of ropes can be a challenge”, and there are literally hundreds of them in The Sea Beast. Williams adds that the team was up for the challenge, however, and having seen forty minutes of footage, we can confirm. 

Producer Jed Schlanger was very excited about the voice cast that the team landed for The Sea Beast and was happy to share why each actor fits so perfectly in their role.  

Jacob is voiced by the wonderful Karl Urban, who would always find the right timing in the recording booth. He would breathe life into Jacob, quite literally, making all the noises. He is incredibly giving to the character and was often spent at the end of each session.  

Maisie is a major part of the story as well. She is bright, determined, and strong—but still a child. In The Sea Beast, she's questioning fundamental things in her life. Zaris-Angel Hator is beyond her years and helped to layer Maisie.  

As for Captain Crow, he is on a collision course with his destiny. Schlanger wanted to make sure he comes off as a bad guy that doesn’t feel like “just” a bad guy. It was important for the audience to connect with him. Jared Harris played with these contradictions and found the depth that they were looking for. 

Sarah Sharp is the first mate of the ship. She's confident and her wisdom is unparalleled, but she is open enough to see her life through a new lens as the story goes on. Marianne Jean-Baptiste has a calming presence and helped the team to really find Sarah. She gives her a tough exterior but a compassion underneath.  

Setting Sail: Creating the World of The Sea Beast 

The Sea Beast Storyboard OwenSullivan
Courtesy of Netflix

Production Designer Matthias Lechner used his presentation time to take the press through designing the look and details of the settings in the world of The Sea Beast. The first words that came to mind when working on the project were amazing action and real peril. He needed to create something truly epic, and so he looked to painter Casper David Friedrich as inspiration. 

For something like The Sea Beast, it is important to find the right balance between realistic while still keeping the charm of animation. Of course, Lechner wanted the world to be believable and the ships to be functional. Because of this none of the shapes are exaggerated and the scale is realistic. 

He was sure to keep the animation more controlled. “The textures are not stylized in a way that wood still looks like wood and rock looks like rock. We took some liberties, for example, the human skin, we simplify that a little bit to avoid the uncanny valley that is when things become uncomfortably realistic.” 

It was important to Lechner to light the scenes with natural light and remain grounded in reality. He was sure to learn all about tall ships as well, including the lingo. “We had to learn all the lingo so we could communicate to each other about the different parts of the ship. This is part of the fun designing movie because we learn something new every time.” 

A lot of detail work went into designing the tall ship so that it would be accurate to history, and also work in the story. For example, there is a strong figurehead on the hull, and spikes on the side to prevent sea monsters from wrapping around it. 

Be sure to see the finished product when The Sea Beast swims onto Netflix on July 8th Watch the interview below: 

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Image Credit: Netflix.

Tessa Smith owns and is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic and a huge geek. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics associations including the Critics Choice Association and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association. She grew up watching movies, playing video games, and reading comic books -- and still loves all of those things. She proudly lets her geek flag fly and spreads the word that there is nothing wrong with being a geek.