It’s hard to imagine anyone besides Marlon Brando in the iconic role of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. When you think of the film, you picture Brando in a tuxedo, sitting behind the desk in his office, taking visitors on the day of his daughter’s wedding. The film spans ten years in the lives of the Corleones, but that one opening scene always sticks out. It’s how this epic tale of crime and family begins.
It was that iconic moment Eric M. Lang and the production team behind the upcoming CMON board game The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire were trying to capture. It took an entire team of dedicated individuals to get all of the elements just right.
Artist Karl Kopinski painted beautiful images of the characters for the game, including Don Corleone. And all the minis of the different families were developed based on Kopinski’s images. With Don Corleone, Kopinski wanted to walk a fine line between capturing the essence of the character without directly copying from the screen.
“It was pretty intimidating at first because Brando is such an icon,” commented Kopinski. “I was very aware that I had to get a good likeness and also convey some of the mood of the films without doing a straight copy of a movie still. It was a challenge, but great fun!”
One of the things that makes the wedding scene in The Godfather so important is that it’s the audience’s first introduction to the character. He is in command of his family and their operations, and he demands the respect of the guests of his daughter’s wedding. Within a few moments of screen time, it’s obvious that although he speaks softly, he is not a man to be trifled with. Capturing that same emotion in a static game piece took a great deal of attention to detail.
“It's the Don in his prime at the height of his power, and it's such a mesmerizing on-screen performance. Those opening scenes really set the tone for the rest of the movie,” said Kopinski.
Kopinksi’s art definitely captures the emotional tone of the film, but work still had to be done to translate that art into the components of the game. Senior Producer Thiago Aranha worked on the development of The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire, and took the responsibility of capturing the famous character in a mini very seriously.
“It was surely of the utmost importance. To be given the task of translating such an iconic character into a miniature is not only an honor, but a huge responsibility,” said Aranha. “The final sculpt had to be approved by Paramount Pictures so that it could be included in the game. There was a lot of pressure to get it just right.”
Having Kopinski’s artwork as a starting point was extraordinarily helpful to the production team, but there were many things to consider along the way.
“Translating a piece of art to a miniature is not such a straightforward process,” explained Aranha. “Several factors need to be taken into account. For example, the proportions need to be tweaked and exaggerated in certain places to make sure the details will show up in a diminutive piece of plastic. We also need to take into account that there is considerable shrinkage that takes places in the process that goes from the master sculpt to the final plastic piece. Then, of course, there are the artistic aspects, such as extrapolating tri-dimensional information that is not present in the bi-dimensional artwork. That is why we need talented sculptors whom we can really trust to make this translation.”
Miniatures can be designed with a traditional sculpt, but for this game, CMON went with a more modern method.
“In the case of The Godfather: Corleone's Empire, the miniatures were sculpted digitally. This allows for great flexibility in refining the sculpt over subsequent rounds of review. The artist can work on the digital sculpt, sending periodical renders for approval from all possible angles, so we can supply them with very precise feedback. Of course, a high-resolution 3D print is created for the final approval. You can only really be sure of how a miniature looks when you're holding it in your hands,” said Aranha
The game is divided into four acts, each one focusing on a different part of the film. From the Wedding to the final betrayal, each act hits upon an important moment in the progression of the movie. The Don Corleone mini is used to mark the game’s progression through the Acts. As the game advances, the Don moves forward, watching over the rival families as they battle for turf in 1950s New York City. The film tells a story of traditional values and new way of doing things coming together. It is with the Don Corleone character that these two worlds meet.
“I think Brando really epitomizes everything people love about The Godfather. His image as Don Corleone conveys at the power and danger posed by a crime boss, while at the same time retaining an incredible elegance and sense of tradition,” said Aranha. “This fascinating mixture of a criminal world bound by traditional rules is, I think, the essence of The Godfather, as represented by Brando's Don Corleone.”
Just like a film, a board game is a product of all of the elements coming together. From the mechanics, to the art, to the components, everything has to work with a cohesive vision. The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire is the result of true fans of the film creating a game that will resonate with aficionados as well as people new to the story. Don Corleone is one of the most iconic and powerful figures in film history. Now, his story lives on, as players vie to take control of his empire.
The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire will be available at your FLGS on July 28 and two weeks earlier on July 14 at official CMON Play Stores.
Learn more about the Five Families of The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire here.