Games Workshop hires Astartes fan movie creator for its animation empire

A screenshot from the Astartes animated Warhammer 40,000 short film featuring a retributor space marine in a cloak

Syama Pedersen, creator of the popular, unofficial Warhammer 40K animated short film series Astartes, has been hired by Games Workshop to make an official, branded sequel, the firm announced in a Warhammer Community post yesterday. It also made the original episodes of Astartes available on its own site as a single, 13-minute, dialogue-free CGI movie.

The post revealed GW had commissioned at least three other third parties to work with its in-house animation team on new projects, too – including the T’au-focused The Exodite, from Lost Legion Studios, Black Templar Space Marine series Primaris: The Last Templar, from PaxelArt, and Iron Within, a tale of the Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines, from Codex Film.

It added at least five other animated series were on the go: the already-announced Hammer and Bolter, Angels of Death and Interrogator, plus two more that have been “scripted and sent into production” – and hinted at more movie ideas at earlier planning stages. Characteristically, GW gives no further details or timescales for any of these projects – nor do we know anything about how the final movies might be monetised, or how much we’ll need to pay to watch the goods.

But there is a pretty spangly new trailer for The Exodite – featuring T’au ships and hardware – which you can watch below.

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GW quotes Astartes creator Pedersen as saying:

“I never would have thought this would be happening, and I can’t thank the amazing fans enough for their encouragement. It’s been my dream to animate Warhammer 40,000 ever since playing Space Crusade as a kid, and I’m pumped to work with the real deal Warhammer guys at Games Workshop to bring the fans the best Astartes action possible”.

Pedersen, a professional 3D artist and animator from Auckland, New Zealand, started releasing snippet episodes of his Space Marine-themed magnum opus – featuring his self-invented Retributors Chapter – in March 2018. The videos have since become riotously popular among the 40K community, with Warhammer subreddits and other online communities clamouring for each new episode. Hype reached a particular crescendo for the concluding part, which arrived in April 2020, just as much of the world was adapting to sudden Coronavirus lockdown conditions.

So popular is the series that there’s even been a collaboration between Pedersen and seasoned miniatures-maker Kromlech to create custom, resin Retributors shoulder pads, so you can model your own Space Marines after Astartes’ animated heroes.

Released over five episodes of two to three minutes, the original Astartes tells the story of a small strike team of Retributor Space Marines storming a hostile spacecraft, teeming with enemies, to find and destroy a mysterious alien artifact.

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Without wishing to spoil it (seriously, it’s 12 minutes and 45 seconds long, just give it a watch now) – the squad leader ends up in an unexpected pickle, setting up the follow-up which Pedersen will now be creating with GW support (and cash).

Less is known about The Exodite, Primaris: The Last Templar and Iron Within – and still less about the eventual business model that will accompany GW’s drive into funding and shaping Warhammer 40K’s fast-growing fan animation scene.

Most of these projects appear in their infancy, so expect further details about GW’s investment and expansion into CGI movies over the coming months. Don’t worry, we’ll keep you posted.

As we mentioned, you can now watch Astartes in full on the Warhammer Community site, here.

Or, if you’re new to Games Workshop’s sci-fi, try starting with our no-nonsense guide to the Imperium of Man.

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