Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched “The Sandman” season 1 episode 11 “A Dream of a Thousand Cats”/”Calliope” yet, don’t read on.
The first season of Netflix’s “The Sandman” was always meant to have 11 episodes — you just didn’t know until this special final installment, a two-part animated and live-action story titled “A Dream of a Thousand Cats”/”Calliope,” dropped Friday. .
Or, if you’ve been following every piece of “Sandman” news since the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s beloved graphic novels was first ordered to series in July 2019, you might be. little Gaslit for not noticing that there were 11 episodes when the 10-episode season started two weeks ago.
“There may be signs even earlier. We sold an 11-episode order, and if you go back and look at some of the press you’ll see,” said “Sandman” showrunner Alan Heinberg, who developed the series with Gaiman and executive producer David Goyer. Variety. “So I think we were a little bit like, ‘Did we let the cat out of the bag?’ Before we knew there were cats in the bag, but we did the best we could.”
But there were times when Gaiman said “let the cat out of the building” while making the show under Tom Sturridge.
“One time, I put a ‘Here Comes a Candle’ book cover on Twitter,” Gaiman said, referring to the fictional book featured in his “Sandman” issue “Calliope.” “I answered someone about ‘Dream of a Thousand Cats,’ and I said we’d already started casting cats. But I kept quiet—until Alan came the closest to kicking me under the table he’d ever come in his entire life.
Gaiman revealed that “During an interview where people were like, ‘How did you get this amazing cast?’ That being said, I just started doing the cast list, so on and so forth, and I told Derek Jacobi. ) “And Alan looked at me,” Gaiman said, “[and I finished] ‘… not in it!’
To be fair to Gaiman, keeping the secret was a three-year challenge that began even before he took “The Sandman” to Netflix.
“The ‘Secret’ 11th episode was envisioned by Neil and Alan and myself before we pitched the show to buyers,” Goyer said. Variety. “Anyone familiar with ‘Sandman’ knows that there are all these incredible stand-alone issues scattered throughout the original run and we were determined to adapt them. We all had the idea of doing an 11th episode that would leave the cycle and we’d use these episodes to adapt those issues. will use – but also as a love-letter to fans.
Goyer continued: “It was unconventional and it felt very self-conscious with Neil’s unconventional run. We had several offers to make ‘Sandman’ among buyers – but Netflix was the only one who agreed to make a ‘secret’ episode. And really That said, that was one of the main reasons we went to Netflix. We realized they didn’t get it. We told them we wanted to tackle ‘Dream of a Thousand Cats’ first and we wanted it to be animated. And you could see the fear in the eyes of most of the buyers. You can. Netflix wasn’t surprised.”
Originally, Gaiman says the plan was to wait a year after dropping the first 10 episodes because “The Sandman” could have a two-year wait between seasons due to its large-scale, complex elements. But before the series premiere, the team decided to speed up the timeline and drop a surprise two weeks after the launch as a special treat for fans, who have already turned up in droves to make the show a hit.
“Episode 11 is our gift to fans. We’ve always envisioned doing a surprise bonus episode for ‘The Sandman,’ and it was important to do it in a way that felt like chapters that honored the original source material and Neil Gaiman’s extraordinary vision,” Netflix’s U.S. Peter Friedlander, head of scripted content, said. told Variety. “From animation and storytelling to separate chapter formats, the two-part surprise episode is full of creativity and innovation and we’re thrilled to see fans embrace it and celebrate the series as a whole.”
The first part of that offering is titled “Dream of a Thousand Cats” and is a fully animated adaptation of an issue of the same name from Gaiman’s DC Comics “Sandman” series.
“The challenge for ‘Cats’ was obviously finding the right animation partner,” Goyer said. “We were all fans [Hisko Hulsing’s] work We wanted a handmade feel. We wanted something special that really embodied how incredibly malleable ‘Sandman’ was. Hisko and his team created a work of art.
Hulsing worked with Untold Studios in London for the 3D animation of the cats in the story, as well as Submarine Studios in Amsterdam for the 2D animation, oil paintings and stylization.
“I started by thumbnailing each shot and making a rough sketch of each one. Almost like an animated film production,” Hulsing said. “And we were very true to the story because I had the script, written by Catherine Smith-McMullen, but I also had all the notes that Neil Gaiman had given the cast 30 years ago and I took them very seriously. They were very imaginative and good and intelligent. But sometimes , visual storytelling-wise, they were wrong. You have strict rules like staying in one line of eye-line. Animated films have rules that you can break for a reason – but you shouldn’t, usually.
The voice actors in Halsing’s creation were voiced by some of Gaiman and Heinberg’s famous friends, including Sandra Oh, James McAvoy, David Tennant and Michael Sheen. (McAvoy voices Morpheus aka Dream in Audible’s adaptation of “The Sandman,” while Sheen voices Lucifer, portrayed by Gwendoline Christie in the Netflix series, and Tennant voices Loki. Sheen and Tennant also star in another Gaiman book—To- TV adaptation, Amazon Prime Video’s “Good Omens.”)
“We got an A-list cast for ‘A Dream of a Thousand Cats’ that we probably couldn’t get for two or three weeks of shooting because they’re so busy,” Gaiman said. “But we can get them to record for us. So we can get Michael Sheen and David Tennant and Georgia and Anna. We can get James McAvoy. How crazy is that, James did this as a wonderful gesture for us? Sandra Oh, for me the most A big yes, which I was shocked by… that wasn’t me at all, that was 100% Alan.”
Heinberg added: “It happened because Sandra had just arrived in London to start ‘Killing Eve’ Season 4 and we were having breakfast. And it all came together.”
The live-action portion of the episode, titled “Calliope”, stars Sturridge as Dream and guest stars Melisanthe Mahut as Calliope, Arthur Darvill as Richard Maddock and Jacoby as Erasmus Fry.
“‘Calliope’ was difficult because it’s such a brutal story — in many ways it’s another bookend to ’24 Hours.’ That’s what ‘Sandman’ is about — it embraces the best and worst of humanity. The nightmares and the joys.”
To capture that portrayal of both dreams and nightmares, episode director Louis Hooper wanted to deviate from Gaiman’s original comic in two significant ways: casting a Greek actress in the role of a Greek goddess portrayed as a blonde woman in the graphic novel, and removing Scenes where writer Richard Maddock rapes Devi to use her musical power for his career.
“I really wanted to get an actress who felt like she had that strength and that dignity and that kind of quiet defiance,” Hooper said. “It’s such a modern metaphor, of course there are echoes of #MeToo, and I wanted her to be very scantily clad, to feel very exposed. I wanted her to have that vulnerability, but also that elegance and that strength… and Melisande Fulfilled that vision. That’s what he wanted too.”
She continued: “To do a modern retelling, I don’t want to see a rape scene. I don’t think it helps us in any way to actually see it on screen. You know what’s going on, she’s humiliated and abused, and her voice is suppressed. , but what I wanted from Melisanthe, and what she wanted, is to have someone equal in her power. So the way I shot it, in terms of eye lines, is her position on camera with Richard. So yes, she’s in a terrible situation, but she A fighter and she will keep her moral compass strong.
The fact revealed throughout the “Calliope” story is that Dream and Calliope were not only ex-lovers, but were previously married and had a son together, Orpheus, who had a mysterious – for the moment – tragedy befall him. With Calliope freed from her prison with Dream’s help at the end of the bonus “Sandman” episode, the big question is what we’ll learn about their past and their son in a potential second season.
Heinberg isn’t spilling anything (although Gaiman’s comics do tell the story, if you’re interested in being naughty) but he does say that he and Gaiman have dreams and an actor in mind for the lead role of Calliope’s son Orpheus.
“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but we’ve talked about somebody that we feel very strongly about,” Heinberg said. “And we’ve had those conversations and if we get a second season, we want to be able to cast that person. We’re imagining the whole season with this person in mind.”
Hooper, who also directed “The Sandman” episode 10, the official season 1 finale, notes that the relationship between Dream and Calliope is “such a huge plot piece that’s mentioned,” adding, “She wanted to make sure you felt like yourself. Quiet And space for all this information and understanding without feeling too emotional.
“And at the end, when she’s now transformed into the Greek goddess that she should be,” Hooper said, “you see their sweetness together, and she lays her head against his… Hopefully from this, information can grow.”