In August 2009 I was lucky to get contacted by director Joe Kosinski—whom I worked with before on Tron: Legacy—for the design of a very unique flying machine. He was preparing a graphic novel and movie pitch to Disney Studios for his original sci-fi story, and the machine for it was described to me as a blend of a dragonfly with a Bell 47 helicopter. The story in the making: Oblivion.
When I did a first series of sketch to understand what the director was looking for, I could not know that this machine would be one of the most elaborate projects I would ever be involved with. Between this first drawing and the film premiere April 2013 about three and a half years had passed, of which I spent over 300 days working on this ship.
I understood two things from the design brief. The dragonfly was clearly a metaphor for lightness, agility, elegance, and proportion. The Bell 47—an icon of aviation—shares actually most of those attributes and is in its own right very dragonfly-esque. Most obviously the large glass canopy, resembling the head of an insect and offering unsurpassed visibility for both pilot and passenger. The other main inspiration was the reduced cockpit layout. However, the stance of the Bell both on the ground and mid-air is rather laid-back. This Bubbleship, equipped with deadly weapons, needed a more aggressive character. This turned out to be the biggest challenge on the project: creating a vehicle with a large glass bubble and thin joints to look strong and serious.