TNT's 'Snowpiercer' Takes Equal Inspiration From Both The Graphic Novel And The Movie [New York Comic-Con 2019]

When sci-fi fans heard that a Snowpiercer TV series was being developed, the main reaction was confusion. How could a TV show improve upon Bong Joon-Ho's riveting, close-ended 2013 movie? By setting the TV series a few years earlier for one — the TNT series, which stars Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly, will take place seven years after the world-ending "freeze" versus the film's 15 years — and by drawing inspiration from the graphic novel upon which the film is based.

The 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige will play as much a part in building the world of the TV series as Bong's film, showrunner and executive producer Graeme Manson said at the Snowpiercer New York Comic-Con 2019 panel on Saturday. The graphic novel will play an inspiration in the most literal sense, as we saw in the gorgeous animated opening sequence released by TNT today, and in the cerebral sense. "The novels are incredibly heady," Manson said.

Snowpiercer New York Comic-Con 2019 Panel

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in New York City, it was hard to imagine a desolate world blanketed by snow and ice. But Manson and stars Daveed Diggs, Jennifer Connelly, Alison Wright, Mickey Sumner, Lena Hall, Sheila Vand, and Steven Ogg painted a vivid picture of the world of Snowpiercer, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the remnants of humanity survive in a perpetually-moving train that circles the globe.

Fans may recognize the premise from the 2013 film directed by Bong, which followed a group of survivors living in the impoverished "tail end" of the train who stage a revolution and attempt to make their way to the head of the train. That is the basic plot of the first graphic novel written by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, but Manson said that this is the one element from which the show will be differentiating itself.

"I think that's probably a real difference from the film," Manson said. "The film starts from the tail and it's really linear. But we bounce around the classes and tell this class story. It's about class, immigration detention, climate; it's a beautiful existential tapestry we get to work with."

The class commentary especially rang true for Diggs, who compared the tail end, where his former detective Layton Well resides before he is called out to investigate brutal murder, to real-life marginalized communities. "Anyone who's from a marginalized community knows there's a kind of togetherness that comes out of necessity, and a feeling of family and lack of lying from having to band together," Diggs said. "So there are some good things, but no amenities. It's pretty bleak, it's hard to raise children with no resources. They're dealing with truly extreme circumstances so the idea that there's something to fight for is pretty intense."

Class and climate change played a major part in both the film and graphic novel as well. But Manson insisted that the series will be telling its own story, and drawing more inspiration from the tone and designs of the film and graphic novel, Manson said:

Of course, it started with this amazing series of graphic novels. I came to Snowpiercer first through director Bong's incredible feature film. So adapting it to the small screen we took huge inspiration from the tone of the movie. And the graphic novels are just this amazing source of inspiration. We've taken cues, characters, inspiration. The novels are incredibly heady.

Another major difference from the film is that the series takes place seven years after the freeze, instead of 15 like the film. "We chose to bump it up to make the experience of everyone losing their loved ones more immediate and visceral," Manson said. "Everyone on this train has suffered amazing loss, on a train that is 10 miles long and 1,001 cars long. We have a map in the writer's's quite a monster, the train. It's a character unto itself."

All Aboard The Brutalist Express

The closest that the Snowpiercer series will be hewing to the graphic novel — apart from the illustrative opening sequence, which Manson revealed was animated in a slower "retro" 12 frames per second by the Sequence Group — is in the design of the train itself. At the panel, Manson showed images of the train from the graphic novel that showed "echoes of Soviet trains that we researched. It's very Brutalist." The series kept pretty close to the graphic novel's original design for the train, except for the amount of cars — in the novel it's 1,001 cars, but Manson wanted the possibility of "new doors" to open.

The digital concept art renderings look like a steam boat crossed with a tank, looming and intimidating. The final designed was created by Alex Nice, taking about 8 months from concept to final product. "A little art deco, a little echo of the trains from the 30s," Manson remarked of the final design. The interiors had been done long before, but the team is still finalizing visual effects, even as they head into production for season 2.

Snowpiercer premieres on TNT in Spring 2020.

Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland Snowpiercer centers on the remnants of humanity, who inhabit a 1001 car, perpetually-moving train that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out in this riveting television adaptation based on the acclaimed movie and graphic novel series of the same name.