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Original Reporting
Subject Specialist

A week prior to its release into the world, the 2021 League of Legends anthem, “Burn It All Down,” was still receiving its finishing touches.

While PVRIS had completed the title track, the animated video accompanying it, crafted by Chinese animation giant Haoliners Animation League, was still being fine-tuned down to the final minutes. But Haoliners, having worked with Riot Games before on animated shorts, are no strangers to the world of League of Legends. Their founder is an avid fan of the game and its esports scene in his home country of China.

“Hao Lin has been playing League since it first launched and started following [League of Legends] esports as it grew in real time,” Carrie Dunn, the global creative director for LoL esports, told Upcomer in an exclusive interview. “He’s a passionate LPL fan and loves to watch Worlds every year. He’s talked before about what it felt like to watch IG and FPX win Worlds — joyful of course, but he was also disappointed that they both won 3-0 because that meant it was over too soon.

“I think you can see that approach in how he built our fight sequences. Nothing is ever simple or quick because he knows that the moments of struggle and close calls with defeat are what make victories even better at the end.”

Hao Lin and his studio have already had a massive 2021. Earlier in the year, they released the smash hit donghua series “Link Click,” centered around a supernatural photography studio. Yet even with so much on their plate, Haoliners put more than 100 people across four of their subsidiary studios on the “Burn It All Down” music video, bringing to life 22 of the most recognizable League pros in both 2D and 3D animation.

A screenshot from Burn It All Down
A screenshot from Burn It All Down. | Provided by Riot Games

Along with Haoliners, Riot Games also tapped their regional offices in China, North America, Europe, South Korea and Brazil to build this year’s three-and-a-half-minute epic. The music video portrayed the differing battles going all around the world to make it to the world championship, featuring a slew of locations. A dazzling, back-and-forth fight scene between reigning world champion Heo “ShowMaker” Su and rival Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon illustrates their tug of war to see who will follow in the footsteps of the eternal South Korean king, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok.

And though a majority of the players highlighted in the music video did make it to the world championship, some of the leading stars did not — most notably Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo of Top Esports and Martin “Rekkles” Larsson from G2 Esports. Beyond the months of animation, audio and collaborative work to make “Burn It All Down” come to life, there were also the time constraints forced upon Riot Games and Haoliners if they wanted to release the music video on time.

In September of last year, before 2020’s “Take Over” even debuted, Dunn began ideating on the concept of this year’s anthem and music video. By October, she had the idea of the regional battles sprawling across the world in different clubhouses. January is when Haoliners officially came on board with everything finalized by February so the animators could start working on the year-long project. That meant the cast of players couldn’t change before even a quarter of the season was over.

“We wanted our main characters to have a strong legacy at Worlds,” Dunn said. “It needed to be pros who have proven themselves worthy of a Worlds Music Video. But they also needed to have unfinished business — a future still to be written. That was their reason for going to this underground clubhouse, for working so hard to train and push and fight to make the future their own.”

Through it all, though, Riot Games and Haoliners wanted “Burn It All Down” to feel like a love letter to the esports scene as a whole. Instead of focusing on a singular main character, as they’ve done before, they wanted to put the spotlight on as many players and regions as possible.

It’s the simplicity of how these stories, written from Los Angeles to Shanghai, converge once a year on a singular location for the world championship. For some, their legacies are cemented forever. Others are forced to go back to the beginning, a full reset needed.

“We also intentionally rooted the entire film in the modern world, in real city settings,” Dunn said. “We didn’t want to escape to far-off fantasy lands. We wanted everyone watching to feel the urgency and excitement of our very real, modern sport. To know that ALL this — an uprising of a new generation, a battle to make the future amongst incredibly compelling characters and action like you’ve never seen before — is happening in real-time, all around the world, in LoL Esports.”

Tyler Erzberger is entering a decade of covering esports. When not traveling around the world telling stories about people shouting over video games, he’s probably arguing with an anime avatar on Twitter about North American esports.
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