Nightmares!: A Dream Project with Jason Segel


My mom had a trick for battling nightmares – let the credits roll. I’m serious. When I was startled awake, she would come to my bedside and explain that every nightmare could be a movie and if I let the credits roll, the nightmare was no longer real. This is a technique I still use. And maybe it’s something Charlie Laird could use as he battles his dreams in Jason Segel’s new book Nightmares! 

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Nightmares! is the actor’s first novel and FableVision – as Jason Segel super fans – had the adventure of building the book’s site and the You Snooze You Lose game featured on the website. 

In the YA novel, co-written with New York Times bestselling author Kirsten Miller and published by Random House, Charlie Laird is convinced his stepmother moonlights as a witch. On top of that, he now lives in a big purple mansion and he can’t remember the last time he’s had a restful sleep. With the help of his nonconventional family, Charlie takes on his nightmares that have started to seep into the real world. 

The excitement for this project really started during the proposal. Bob Flynn, FableVision’s Director of Art and Animation, explained a bit about the initial creative brainstorming. 

“During the proposal we came up with all sorts of kooky ideas,” Bob said. “We knew nothing about the book and wanted to think of what nightmares we had had and translate it into something that was fun and relatable.

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The lawn mower sketch came from a nightmare Leigh Hallisey, Creative Director, had. She asked: ‘What would a monster's nightmare be? Doing boring human things.’ That would be the ultimate worst.”

As the project developed, the art direction for the Nightmares! website really came from the book, as producer Danielle Gillis explained.

“The goal was to make the Nightmares! website feel a little bit cinematic by adding introduction video,” she said. “We used the book’s cover design and music, so from the minute you entered the site, it felt like you were inside the world of Nightmares!

FableVision Lead Artist, Renee Kurilla, was trilled to be on this project. She’s the creative brain behind the site design. 

“Going into the site design, we already had all of this amazing art from Karl Kwasny who is an incredible illustrator and hand-letterer,” Renee said. “I learned a lot trying to mimic his style for the website interface, but most of the site design was basically taking his cover art and rearranging it for web dimensions. If you look a little closer at all those little embellishments, you'll see spiders, bugs, and mushrooms amidst the flowers – just a little bit of Karl's creepy genius there that I enjoy.”

Nightmares Game

To add a burst of fun to the site, FableVision built an endless runner game. 

“We knew we wanted to make a game that was close to the book’s story,” Danielle said. “The purple mansion is a central feature of the book. In the story Charlie doesn’t want to fall asleep because of his nightmares. We liked that idea, so we made the concept into a game.” 

In You Snooze You Lose, the player assumes the role of Charlie and must collect items to stay awake. A set of eyes shows the progress as Charlie races up a staircase collecting cups of coffee and candy, while avoiding fluffy pillows and teddy bears. The game starts off slow, but trust me, it picks up speed and it becomes difficult to dodge bad stuff. 

“The game’s challenging, so kids will want to come back and try to beat their last score,” Danielle said.

From the opening screen to the moving staircase in the game, technology pulls the entire project together.  

“We used a lot of technology for a small site: HTML5, Photoshop, Maya, Flash, and After Effects,” Renee shared. “Possibly my favorite piece of the puzzle was working on the intro splash animation in After Effects. It was challenging to create a movie that would transition to a basic HTML5 home page...but I think we made it work really well. FableVision’s Production Assistant Jordan Persson's music and sound design tie our site together in a similar way that the book design does.”

Nightmares! (Random House Kids) by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller is now available in stores and online. Take a look inside in the video to the right here. 

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