Its Wikipedia page starts with the simple statement: "The Movies is a business simulation game created by Lionhead Studios ... released in 2005." The business simulation part was something of a surprise to me. Particularly being a user of the game platform. You'll notice I said user… not player. That is because I'm not sure if I ever really played the game, but I did use it, tweak it and mod it for creating animated short movies.
Along the way I met some incredibly talented and amazing storytellers, modders, voice actors and animators that sprang from an international group of users… and it was an extremely diverse group too. To this day some of my most cherished contacts and Facebook friends come from this group. More so than the professional studios and workgroups that made up my freelance career.
As a commercial endeavor, the game itself ran its course but… to this day… legend has it… the game lives on.
So, what was it about this game that brought together so many people from all over the world to do just about everything with it… except play the damn thing?
Empowerment... of a kind that allowed frustrated storytellers and animators to do their thing.
The Movies also knows as TM, at the time, was an incredible piece of software for storytelling and an equally incredible pain in the ass. Modding that sucker was like hitting your finger with a hammer. It felt great when you stopped.
I would go so far as to say that the original modder is only a shell of their former self because of the demands of modding this puppy. Some could breeze right through but just about everyone I knew fought with it... to the point of just hoping for a draw.
At least that was progress.
Keep in mind that back then free game engines weren't on every corner. Programs like iClone and Moviestorm were taking shape but were not ready for primetime. Autodesk was doing what Autodesk does, gobbling up every decent piece of 3D software to incorporate it or kill it.
The average home animator (for lack of a better term) couldn't get a break when it came to animation tools that either didn't cost a fortune or take forever and a day to learn... until The Movies came on the scene.
Screenshot of The Movies Interface - Property of myabandonware.com
This leads to another fading phenomenon of the time... Machinima. Original Machinima... using game engines to create animated content. It was a great movement with its own unsung heroes but could be complicated for those less technically inclined. It presented a lot of barriers to entry at the time.
The Movies, on the other hand, provided not only a platform but a community that was eager to help each other achieve their goals. While there were a few pros sprinkled in the mix, most users were outside of the animation industry, and therefore not constrained by it. No need for high-powered software when a game could get the job done.
So, stories were written, animated and told. Voice actors were created out of thin air it seemed. Some users were hellacious VA's and a few were incredibly talented singers and musicians. I saw scripts that rivaled or excelled many of the professional scripts I worked with.
The mechanics of the motions... well... they were somewhat to be desired, but they were adequate for the time. Solid stories and good storytelling overcame these little peculiarities. Modding websites and forums popped up further forming the community.
It was all fun and games... until Lionshead abandoned any future development of the little jewel and banished it forever to that terrible place where games go to die a slow death.
One of my early attempts at using The Movies 13 years ago.
Since that time some of us have worked together on fun projects, vanity projects and commercial projects that put food on the table. We've learned new tools, taken on new endeavors and, most importantly, do everything possible to avoid the dreaded... gasp... manual keyframe.
Animation software like Antics 3D faded into history, Moviestorm still exists but is near obsolete and iClone just keeps on expanding to become a juggernaut of home animation and within the past few years, it offers tools to professionals as well. Machinima.com is well... no one I know really knows what Machinima.com is today.
Through all this, a core group of former and current users of The Movies still stay in touch or keep up with each other on social media. Lifelong friendships were forged and many a story was told. There is still a forum out there... forum.tmunderground.com (The Movies Underground) with some posts from 2020 so the community... if not the software... lives on to some degree.
If you watch some of these movies don't expect them to be polished or perfect though some were real jewels. But rather view with an open mind for the folksy, homebrew art that they are. Most are the work of a single person and at their very best these shorts were genuine, from the heart. It was also a social experiment that brought talented people together to form a unique club that will only die when the remaining TM animator draws their last breath.
Amateur Videos made with The Movies - NOTE: This site was not vetted and may contain material not suitable for all viewers.
Download The Movies at myabandonware - NOTE: This site and software in question was not vetted. Download at your own risk.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.