In the News


Color Grading the “Lego Batman Movie”

2017-06-08 18:00:53 ccwire-staff

SYDNEY — Due to a long and productive relationship with Warner Bros. — through films such as Happy Feet, The Matrix and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole — Sydney’s Animal Logic collaborated on The LEGO Movie (2014) from pitch and proof of concept through to post. After the success of this film, Animal Logic and Warner Bros. began working on a spin-off, and three years later The LEGO Batman Movie enjoyed global success.

Can you talk about how you developed the grade?
Chynoweth: “For this all-animated feature, we acted less as post-production and more as part of the production team. Where we might normally get four weeks to grade a live-action movie, here we were embedded in the production process for a year. From near the beginning of the project we were working with production designer Grant Freckelton to develop looks and we essentially became an extension of the lighting, compositing and output departments rather than just waiting for finished shots to be delivered to us.
“The process began with Grant and Chris [McKay, the director], where we would work a lot to get exactly the right feel. At one stage we were dark and gritty and very Batman. Very early on they had some ideas where they wanted elements of a ‘70s film, so we had to work out how we could incorporate those but keep it feeling modern — and then we lifted it up a little to get a bit of fun happening.
“We ended up coining the phrase ‘baby’s first apocalypse’: dark and gritty and Gotham-like, but all the bits that could be made fun would be fun, and anything that could be turned up was turned up to 11. Our motto all the way through was ‘enhance, enhance!”
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Toon Goggles Takes on ‘The Mojicons’

2017-05-22 16:22:12 ccwire-staff

Ink Global has announced that quirky new animated series The Mojicons is coming to global on-demand streaming platform Toon Goggles. Ink Global represents The Mojicons (26 x 11 min.) worldwide.

The Mojicons is a 3D series that reveals the behind-the-scenes world of the internet inhabited by the Mojicons — the emoji that grace our emails and text messages. When a mysterious digital villain steals the “@” symbol, all electronic correspondence grinds to a halt.

The Mojicons must undertake an awe-inspiring and dangerous quest to restore their system. Their mission is complicated by the fact that the zany bunch of condensed emotions are clueless about how the web works. Along their adventure, the internet reveals its secrets to the Mojicons and their audience.

The deal with Toon Goggles adds to the show’s global presence, with digital platforms and broadcasters across Greece, Turkey, MENA, Southeast Asia, Portugal and Israel.

“As soon as I saw The Mojicons, I knew it would be perfect fit for Toon Goggles,” said Toon Goggles CCO Lee Adams. “It’s bright, fresh, funny and incredibly original, so I’m sure our millions of viewers will love it as well!”

“Toon Goggles is a fantastic platform and full of great entertainment for kids — so we are delighted to have signed this agreement,” Ink Global Director Claus Tømming said. “It represents another step forward for what is becoming a very popular global show.”

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Kelly Asbury’s ‘Smurfs: The Lost Village’ Makes a Colorful Dive Into the World of Peyo

2017-04-12 13:30:33 ccwire-staff

Smurfs: The Lost Village, Sony Pictures Animation’s reboot of the popular ‘80s cartoon The Smurfs, opens in theatres this weekend. The film stars Demi Lovato as Smurfette, Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf, Joe Manganiello as Hefty Smurf, Jack McBrayer as Clumsy Smurf, Danny Pudi as Brainy Smurf and Rainn Wilson as Gargamel. In the story, a mysterious map prompts Smurfette, Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty to find a lost village, inhabited by SmurfStorm (Michelle Rodriguez), SmurfBlossom (Ellie Kemper), SmurfLily (Ariel Winter) and SmurfWillow (Julia Roberts), before Gargamel does.

Director Kelly Asbury, who previously directed Gnomeo & Juliet (2011), Shrek 2 (2004) and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), signed on to direct the film in November 2013. He explained that when he was first approached to direct it, he had to a do a little research. “I didn’t know tons about the Smurfs,” he confesses. “I was not really of the age to have been brought up on The Smurfs in America, because they really didn’t come to America until around 1982, and by that time, I was already out of college. I didn’t have kids so I really wasn’t watching Saturday morning television that much.”

Read the full story at AWN.

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EIFF Gears Up for UK Premiere of Disney-Pixar's "Cars 3"

2017-03-23 20:46:44 ccwire-staff

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) is set to go full-throttle in its opening weekend, with the UK Premiere of Disney•Pixar’s high-octane family adventure, Cars 3, confirmed for Sunday 25 June, 2017 at 2pm at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh. Tickets are now on sale.

Revving up to attend the UK Premiere is Cars 3 Story Supervisor, Scott Morse, who will present the film at Festival Theatre, as well as host two School Screenings at Cineworld Edinburgh on 26 June.

EIFF is also excited to announce a nation-wide drawing competition for children up to 13 years to win tickets to the premiere screening. Entrants will be asked to draw their ultimate racing car to compete alongside Lightning McQueen with winning prizes including tickets to the film screening, and the opportunity to take part in an exclusive story workshop with Scott Morse. Full details on how to enter can be found here.

The UK Premiere builds on Disney’s longstanding relationship with EIFF, which has proudly hosted Festival premieres of Disney•Pixar’s Academy Award®-winning WALL•E, Toy Story 3, Inside Out and Finding Dory in recent years.

Mark Adams, EIFF Artistic Director commented: “Pixar Animation Studios is responsible for some of the greatest animated movies of our time and we’re thrilled to be continuing our relationship with the studio and providing such a treat for our younger audiences and their families in our 70th Anniversary Year with Cars 3.”

The turbo-charged, Cars 3, which sees Owen Wilson return as the voice of legendary Lightning McQueen and Armie Hammer joins the voice cast as new character Jackson Storm. The film sees McQueen blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers and pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez, with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage.

Directed by Brian Fee (storyboard artist “Cars,” “Cars 2“) and produced by Kevin Reher (“A Bug’s Life,” “La Luna” short), “Cars 3” will cruise into cinemas on 14th July, 2017.

Cars 3 UK Premiere tickets can be purchased by phoning 0131 623 8030, or online at Ticket prices range from £12, £8 (concession), £5 (under 16s).

  • School Screenings will take place at Cineworld on 26 June, 2017. Tickets for School Screenings are £3 per pupil and teachers can book by emailing
  • “Cars” (2006) and “Cars 2” (2011) took in more than $1 billion in combined worldwide box office.
  • “Cars” won a Golden Globe® for best animated feature film and two Annie Awards for best animated feature and best music in an animated feature production. Composer Randy Newman won a Grammy® for best song written for motion picture, television or other visual media (“Our Town”). The film was nominated for an Oscar® for best animated feature film, as well as best achievement in music written for motion pictures, original song (“Our Town”).
  • “Cars 2” was nominated for a Golden Globe® for best animated feature film, in addition to a host of other industry nominations.

Source: EIFF

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Bringing Mickey Mouse into the Modern World

2017-02-09 22:19:22 mgalas

Rob LaDuca has a particular fondness for the classic Walt Disney characters: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the entire gang. A twenty-eight year veteran of Disney Television Animation, LaDuca has served a number of roles including storyboard designer, director and executive producer on programs including “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, “Aladdin” and “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.”  He’s received numerous awards for his efforts, including five Daytime Emmy nominations and one win, for 2004’s “Tutenstein.” A car enthusiast, LaDuca became intrigued by the idea of taking Mickey and the gang out on the road in some very hip vehicles that would allow them to see the world and learn some life lessons along the way.  Thus began “Mickey and the Roadster Racers.”

LaDuca, serving as executive producer on the series, reached out to his collaborator on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”, Mark Seidenberg. Joining LaDuca as co-executive producer and supervising story editor, the two began to refine the look and vibe of the animation.  Geared towards the Disney Junior audience, “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” has a bright, fresh three dimensional look filled with modern gizmos while harkening to the 1940s aesthetics of its characters.

“Working in a 3D world of computer animation, the camera can move around,” said LaDuca. “The shadowing and the details are pulled from the 30s and 40s. For instance, in 2D animation Mickey’s ears look flat, so we’ve maintained that look in the 3D world.”

During the program’s research phase, LaDuca and Seidenberg went to a variety of car shows as well as comedian Jay Leno’s garage to review his auto collection. They noted the extreme variations in details as well as vibrant colors found in the vehicles.  While the duo have worked with each classic Disney character in the past, they went through a period of watching and re-watching original animated films featuring Mickey and the gang to ensure they captured each character’s personality authentically.

“These characters haven’t changed their personalities since the 30s and the 40s,” said Seidenberg. “We can modernize their activities but not (their core personas).  We don’t want to overly personalize them.”

Each character’s personality is embodied in the design of their roadster. Mickey, the leader and role model of the gang, is a Model T.  The more introverted Minnie is a Delahaye, a classic French model that features a small, rounded driving space behind an extensive engine.  Goofy’s model is designed after the hot rods created by Ed Roth, an artist and automotive customizer.  Daisy drives a Snapdragon, while Donald’s vehicle is essentially a boat on wheels.

Working with Disney Junior’s in-house education group, each episode of “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” includes themes that are valuable to young, developing minds, such as loyalty, friendship, skill development and teamwork. For example, in one episode, Mickey can’t participate in a parade he is supposed to orchestrate, so Donald takes over.  Donald has to learn how to take responsibility of his fiery temper to ensure the parade runs smoothly.  To further engage the young viewers in the social themes, Minnie and Daisy run a side business called “Happy Helpers”, where they lend a hand to those in the communities needing a little extra help.

To heighten the action in the series, Mickey and his friends engage in little adventures as they travel the globe, including trips to London, Spain and France. LaDuca and Seidenberg have fun infusing elements of each locale that can be easily embraced and digested by the viewer’s young minds.

“In London (the characters) meet a proper English gentleman. In Spain they get to experience spicy foods,” said Seidenberg.  Noted LaDuca, “We’re focusing on creating a social experience that is fun for kids, without making it to curriculum based.”

In addition to the roadsters morphing into skateboards or scooters and the characters using iPads and iPhones, current popular figures in the entertainment world lend their voices to the show. Gordon Ramsay, Tim Gunn and professional race car drives Danica Patrick and Jimmie Johnson are amongst those who’ve embraced their voice-over debut on “Mickey and the Roadster Racers.”

“We’ve shown them what they look like as a cartoon characters and they are so enthusiastic,” said Seidenberg. Added LaDuca, “It’s fun to bring in guest actors.  Patton Oswald came in and asked if he could add snorts to his character.  They come in with some great ideas.”

To learn more about “Mickey and the Roadster Racers”, please visit:

Source: Variety411

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How They Animated ‘Sing’ With a Live-Action Vibe Like ‘The Commitments’ Video

2016-12-28 12:34:38 ccwire-staff

Although it came as no surprise to the Illumination animators in Paris that live-action director Garth Jennings wanted them to approach their first musical extravaganza, “Sing,” more like “The Commitments” than “Despicable Me,” only with animals, they had no idea what they were in for. Long takes, wild camera work, off-beat song and dance performances and naturalistic acting required greater teamwork and more time than any of their previous movies.

“It was an acting breakthrough because of Garth,” animation director Pierre Leduc told IndieWire. “He pushed us to add more feeling to the characters and to push the way they moved in a more particular way.”

And what a diverse ensemble had to work with, thanks to both Jennings and Illumination founder/producer Chris Meledandri: Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), the impresario koala; Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a domestic pig with great singing chops; Mike, a crooning mouse (Seth MacFarlane); Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a punk porcupine; Johnny, a young gangster gorilla (Taron Egerton); Meena (Tori Kelly), a teenage elephant with stage fright; and Gunther (Nick Kroll), the dancing pig.

Read the full story at IndieWire.

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The Fiber Art World of Trolls

2016-11-10 22:56:16 ccwire-staff

With its retro-inspired, musical message of happiness and unification, “Trolls” suddenly serves as a post-election hangover remedy. And veteran production designer Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin (“Madagascar”) had plenty of hair, fuzz and felt to work with in weaving a psychedelic world divided between the joyous Trolls and hateful Bergens.

“We wanted to create a hand-made kind of world made of fiber art…carpeted floors, houses made of hair, even fire made of hair…and Kendal was essential to doing that and getting our teams [in sync],” said director Mike Mitchell.

“The Trolls live in a felted forest like hippies of the ’70s with bright colors and the Bergens are like the suburbanites that pollute and litter, eat fast food and wear all-polyester,” Cronkhite-Shaindlin told IndieWire.

Read the full article at IndieWire.

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Bird Wings, Wolf Packs, Cutesy Babies and more - Creating the Animated Family Adventure, "Storks"

2016-09-29 23:00:17 ccwire-staff

Warner Bros and Sony Pictures Imageworks’ new animated feature film collaboration, Storks, is the latest expertly crafted, gorgeous looking and frenetically-paced CG animated movie to hit the local movieplex.  Storks takes place in a world where our fearless feathered transporters no longer deliver babies, but packages for internet giant  When the Baby Factory accidentally produces a cute and unauthorized baby girl, top delivery stork Junior, voiced by Andy Samberg, races to deliver the troublesome kid before his boss finds out. Cue the “fowl” hijinks. Sorry.

Imageworks animation supervisor Joshua Beveridge and I recently spoke about his work on the film, a production that at its height employed 126 character animators alone. He shared his insights on the four main challenges the studio faced from day one: designing featherless bird wings, developing a workable wolf pack rig, designing cute but not cloyingly sweet babies and a lead character Tulip, who was anything but a predictable “animated film” princess.

Read the full article here.

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Calabash Helps Fans Get to Know the U.S Women’s National Soccer Team Thanks to WNT Animated Branded Content Shorts

2016-09-15 23:00:34 ccwire-staff

calabash-logoCHICAGO, IL – We love to watch them play, but what do we really know about the women on the U.S. National Soccer team, who just competed at the Rio Olympics? A lot, thanks WNT Animated — 19 online short films featuring animation by Calabash, the creative studio led by Executive Producer Sean Henry and Creative Director Wayne Brejcha.

“We really felt as if we were getting to know the players as we animated their stories,” said Henry. “They are all incredibly focused and accomplished athletes, but they each have unique personalities and great senses of humor. It is easy to see why they are adored by millions of fans.”

Sebastian Podesta, lead editor and cinematographer for the U.S. Soccer Federation, captured and arranged the green-screened live action of each player. From there Calabash set the footage into animated story worlds, in a style crafted for maximum storytelling value while managing costs and racing against tight schedules. The goal: to complete 19 shorts, each over 2 minutes in length, in just a few months.

“Sebastian’s team did a fantastic job with all the players,” Brejcha said, “eliciting these wonderful moments and putting the stories together in a way that gives you both the player’s personality and the dramatic arc or the humor of their tale.”

Sponsored by Ritz crackers, each short captures a specific soccer-related moment in a player’s life. The tales range from the whimsy of Morgan Brian remembering a funny prank that went off the rails to the disarming sweetness of Alyssa Naeher remembering her team winning the world cup as she became an aunt that same day. Others are bit more serious like Hope Solo recalling an alarming and grisly injury during a hard-fought match.

The challenge for Calabash were to create an animation style that would hold the 19 shorts together into one unified look, and also simply to manage the production details of so many shorts at once.

“Producing this many videos in such a short period of time required a very coordinated workflow,” Henry notes. “We had a core group of directors and animators working in-house and a large group of freelancers working out-of-house. We had to develop a management structure to handle the volume of communication across a network of artists working in different locations. The amount of animation meant we had to work quickly, but this actually complimented the whimsical storytelling.  It was appropriate that the look of the animation not be overdone, that it have a breeziness and looseness to it.”

Brejcha adds, “The WNT players all seem to be great natural raconteurs. We just lived these stories so intensely while producing them, and they were all marvelous and all loveable in their own way.”

About Calabash Animation
Led by Creative Director Wayne Brejcha and Executive Producer Sean Henry, Calabash Animation is the Chicago, IL-based animation production studio known for its award-winning animation for the advertising and entertainment industries. Calabash Animation is perhaps best known for their creative character animation and development of some of America’s most beloved brand icons. In addition to it advertising working, the company has also produced several acclaimed short films, including ‘’Stubble Trouble,’’ which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002.

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The Little Prince and Mark Osborne

2016-08-18 21:20:01 ccwire-staff

The Little Prince is a 3D animated film directed by Mark Osborne and based on the 1943 novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This is the first adaption as a full-length animated feature, and beautifully tells the story of a young girl who lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.

Iain Blair Interview’s the Osborne…

Two-time Academy Award-nominated director Mark Osborne has been telling stories with animation and live-action for more than 25 years.  His breakout film was the 2008 animated DreamWorks offering Kung Fu Panda — co-directed by John Stevenson — which has grossed over $630 million worldwide.

Osborne’s live-action directing credits include the independent feature film Dropping Out, the animated TV series Spongebob Squarepants, featuring Patchy the Pirate, and all of the live-action sequences for The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.

Now Osborne has directed and executive produced the upcoming first-ever animated feature film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved classic, The Little Prince, which premiered Out of Competition at Cannes and then won the French Cesar Film Award for Best Animated Feature. Using stop-motion animation and CGI, the film features the voice talents of Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, James Franco, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Riley Osborne, Albert Brooks and Mackenzie Foy.

Read the full story.

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Creating ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’

2016-08-04 21:57:03 ccwire-staff

Portland Oregon’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird”—which may be why I feel so at home there. Another reason might be the city’s proximity to the unique stop-motion animation studio, Laika.

Last September the studio invited a handful of journalists to their low-profile production facility in Hillsboro, a few miles west of downtown Portland. There’s no sign in front of the anonymous-looking building indicating it’s the birthplace of Laika’s beautifully idiosyncratic stop-motion features Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls.

We were there for a sneak peek at the studio’s then in-progress fourth film, Kubo and the Two Strings—a peek so sneaky we were forbidden to report on our visit until now, just a few weeks before the film’s August premiere. The cavernous building that once housed a plastics factory is now home to an eclectic crew of artists and artisans who have migrated from around the world to help take stop-motion animation places it’s never been before.

We’re given the grand tour of the studio, dropping in on the various departments taking part in Kubo’s creation: costuming, character design, 3D printing, set construction and so on. We learn about the care taken in adapting classical motifs from Japanese art and dress into the look of the film, the challenge of creating armatures and rigging for feathered, furred and elaborately costumed characters, and visit a set where a gigantic monster—18 feet tall with a 24-foot wingspan—is being constructed. Our penultimate stop is a screening room where we’re treated to 15 minutes of action-packed, in-progress footage.

The day finishes with an hour-long sit-down with Kubo director Travis Knight, who also happens to be Laika’s CEO, former lead animator and self-described grande fromage.

Walt Disney may have been his company’s big cheese, but he never drew a single frame of any of his animated classics. Knight on the other hand has been a hands-on participant in creating his studio’s movies, animating successively smaller chunks of each film as his CEO duties expanded along with Laika’s size. This time however, Knight has added on a particularly large task to his responsibilities: Kubo is his directorial debut.

“I’m animating on [Kubo] but it’s impossible to do the kind of footage that I was doing before. When I took on the helm of this thing, I tried to structure my day, ‘I have to make this work, I’ve still got to be CEO but I want to oversee the film, animate on it and do all these other things.’ I started planning out my day and figuring out how I can make it work,” Knight explains.

Read the full story here.

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The Secret Life of Pets

2016-07-14 22:29:45 ccwire-staff

It all started with a simple question: Chris Meledandri, the founder and CEO of Illumination — the animation house behind Despicable Me and the mega-grossing Minions — is a dog-lover. He has two wire hair fox terriers. So pets were on his mind when he asked Chris Renaud, who directed with Pierre Coffin Despicable Me and its sequel, if he’d “ever thought about doing a movie about what pets do when you’re not at home?’.

“We just started with that idea,” recalls Renaud, who would go on to helm The Secret Life of Pets, the $75-million feature that Universal unleashes today. “The challenge was how big a concept that was. What do they do? Are they solving mysteries? We had to figure that out, but we wanted it to be relatable, a celebration of our relationships with our pets.” That idea was first discussed in the summer of 2012 and after developing the story and characters, it took two more years to produce.

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Technology Enhances “Finding Dory” Filmmaking Process

2016-06-29 21:59:40 ccwire-staff

It’s been 13 years since Disney•Pixar’s Finding Nemo hit theaters. So when it came time to create Finding Dory, the film’s production crew faced a curious challenge: how to take advantage of the technological advancements that have been made in animation since 2003, while still preserving the look and feel of the blockbuster original film. The sequel debuted at No. 1 at the domestic box office this past weekend, earning $135.1 million and now stands as the biggest animated opening of all time and the second-largest June opening of all time.

The technology behind the films continues to amaze Ellen DeGeneres, the voice of Dory. “I thought that Finding Nemo looked incredible; the water and the way they made everything look,” she says. “But this is beyond.”

John Halstead, Finding Dory’s supervising technical director, points to one constant that can be found in both productions—the Disney•Pixar team continued to look for tools that allowed them to extend their creative reach and work more efficiently. “Dory is a special case,” he shares, “because we made three major technology leaps at once.”

Disney / Pixar

Disney / Pixar

The first was adopting RIS, the next-generation RenderMan that is Pixar’s proprietary, core system to render animation and visual effects. This enhancement helped simulate the way light behaves in the real world more accurately than ever before. “Complicated effects like indirect lighting, reflection and refraction not only look more sophisticated, but they’re also handled automatically by the renderer.” Halstead explains. “This means our artists do less technical heavy lifting and can focus on the more creative aspects of their work.”

Alongside updating its shading and lighting program, the team also invented a system called “Universal Scene Description (USD)” to replace its previous, proprietary scene description format. By doing so, animators can now use models and shots over and over again, without having to re-create assets for different animation and editing programs. This new method essentially centralized and streamlined the filmmaking process for the whole crew. “We plan for USD to be an industry standard that will allow better interoperability between all of our in-house and commercial tools,” Halstead shares. “Additionally, USD is incredibly well-engineered and stable, supporting more complexity in our scenes than we’ve ever had before.”

With all of this in mind, how did the Finding Dory team actually keep the look and feel of the film familiar with all of the updated technology behind the scenes? Halstead credits the close attention to detail that was paid throughout the production pipeline, starting from the Art department, all the way to Lighting and beyond.

“The set design for the reef uses many of the same forms and color palette that we’re already familiar with from the first movie. You’ll recognize cats paw corals, vases, tabletops, sea fans, and grass from Nemo,” he says. But enhancements like complex lighting and more detailed flora and fauna in the background make Dory a little more aesthetically sophisticated than its predecessor. Halstead mentions, “How we create these effects has changed, but they’re the same concepts as in the first film.”

Disney / Pixar

Disney / Pixar

One character that directly benefited from these technological advancements was Hank, a cantankerous “septopus” that calls the Marine Life Institute home—specifically his seven tentacles. “Humans have arms with clearly defined elbows and a limited range of motion. But Hank’s arms—along with the rest of his body—are incredibly flexible,” Halstead details. “The computer likes well-defined rules, so building flexibility like this is really difficult. The arm rig that we developed for Hank allowed our animators to capture that movement that our directors were specifically looking for, without the process being incredibly taxing for them.”

But what about one of the most important visual elements in the film—the water? Halstead thanks the addition of RIS for this go-round, as developing the look of the sea, and even glass, was an easier task. “On Nemo, we had a six-month project with four people dedicated to figuring out how to render just one fish tank in the dentist’s office,” Halstead shares. “Now, we can model these tanks to be any shape and size, fill them with water, dress them anywhere in the set, and RenderMan figures out how to render it all.”

Although advanced technology may have opened many new doors throughout production, the effort to add another heartfelt chapter to the Finding Nemo story was as important as ever. “The goal for technology at the studio remains the same,” Halstead says about Pixar embracing new technology to continue making each of its film more lifelike and realistic than the last. “We want to give our artists the best possible tools so that we continue to can tell great stories.”

Source: The Walt Disney Company

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Angry Birds Movie's Hatchlings Star In Brand-New Short

2016-06-09 21:38:10 ccwire-staff

CULVER CITY, CA – The Angry Birds Movie has flown to new heights, circling $300 million in worldwide box office, and The Hatchlings are celebrating in their own incredibly cute way.  Everyone’s favorite fluffy little birds, voiced by young children, star in a brand new short, “The Early Hatchling Gets The Worm,” viewable in select theaters starting this weekend, it was announced today by Sony Pictures Entertainment and Rovio Animation.

Four hilarious Hatchling shorts have been released so far, garnering a total of 40 million views and counting.  The videos are part of an inventive marketing campaign that went viral, with the first video in the series having been shared a total of 400,000 times on social media.  Previous Hatchlings shorts have been released to mark holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day.

The short, focusing on an unlikely friendship that forms between a Hatchling and a worm she adopts, will run in select theaters before showings of The Angry Birds Movie beginning this weekend.

“The Early Hatchling Gets The Worm” is directed by John Rice, from a story by Vadim Bazhanov.  Producers are John Cohen and Catherine Winder.

In the 3D animated comedy, The Angry Birds Movie, we’ll finally find out why the birds are so angry. The movie takes us to an island populated entirely by happy, flightless birds – or almost entirely.  In this paradise, Red (Jason Sudeikis, We’re the Millers, Horrible Bosses), a bird with a temper problem, speedy Chuck (Josh Gad in his first animated role since Frozen), and the volatile Bomb (Danny McBride, This is the End, Eastbound and Down) have always been outsiders.  But when the island is visited by mysterious green piggies, it’s up to these unlikely outcasts to figure out what the pigs are up to.

Featuring a hilarious, all-star voice cast that includes Maya Rudolph (BridesmaidsSisters), Bill Hader (TrainwreckInside Out), and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), as well as Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night LiveGhostbusters), Sean Penn (MilkMystic River), Tony Hale (VeepArrested Development), Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele), Hannibal Buress (Daddy’s HomeBroad City), Ike Barinholtz (NeighborsSisters), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street), Billy Eichner (“Billy on the Street”), Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black), YouTube stars Smosh (Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla), Latin music sensation Romeo Santos, and country music superstar Blake Shelton, who co-writes and performs the original song “Friends.”  The film also features brand new music from Demi Lovato, Charli XCX, Matoma, and Steve Aoki. The Columbia Pictures/Rovio Animation film is directed by Fergal Reilly and Clay Kaytis and produced by John Cohen and Catherine Winder.  The screenplay is by Jon Vitti, and executive produced by Mikael Hed and David Maisel.

About Sony Pictures Entertainment
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition and distribution; television production, acquisition and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. For additional information, go to

About Rovio Animation
Rovio Animation creates and distributes family-friendly animation properties for audiences worldwide. Rovio Animation distributes content through ToonsTV, the multi-channel video entertainment app available on iOS, Android and Apple TV. In addition, Rovio Animation manages the licensed consumer products business based on the globally known Angry Birds franchise, as well as the licensing and publishing of other properties. The Angry Birds Movie, Rovio Animation’s first full-length feature film, is slated for release in May 2016.

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Building "The Loud House"

2016-05-19 21:18:11 mgalas

Chris Savino has never lost the desire to create a comic strip.  At the tender age of four, he spent hours gathering swatches of leather an older sister amassed from her job that he used as drawing pads, mimic the comics he saw in the Sunday morning papers.  During his senior year of high school he shifted gears, looking for other creative avenues to explore.

“I watched cartoons and knew people made them,” said Savino.  “But coming from a big family in Michigan, college seemed like a pipe dream.  I didn’t think a career in (animation) was an option for me.”

He did make it to college, and his earliest jobs in the animation field include layout artist on “The Ren & Stimpy Show” and character/prop designer on “Hey Arnold!”  Throughout his career Savino rose the ranks working on high profile animation series, eventually becoming supervising director, producer and writer on “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Powderpuff Girls” and executive producer and director on “Kick Buttowski.”  Savoring every experience and creative challenge, Savino never lost the yearning to pay homage to the disappearing printed comics.  After 25 years in the field, Savino shifted his career focus by joining Nickelodeon overseeing development of new projects. Soon into his new career a colleague encouraged him to submit concepts to the network’s first annual Animated Shorts Program, which promotes a selected short to pilot status.  Having worked on human-based cartoons, he was excited to explore some extreme physical humor accepted in animal based cartoons.  Savino’s pitched featured a boy rabbit surrounded by 25 siblings.  After it was suggested the characters be humans, Savino realized his upbringing in a house full of ten siblings offered the perfect marriage of story inspiration and his childhood love for classic cartoon creation.

Savino erased the bunny ears and nose, made some slight modifications and created 11 year-old Lincoln, a boy stuck in the middle of five older and five younger sisters.  He based the story for his short animation around the difficulties he had growing up with ten sisters, reflecting on the challenge he would sometimes have when going on a date.  Before getting to the door his older sisters would blockade him and critique his outfit.  Modifying the situation to something universally understandable, Savino’s short focused on Lincoln trying to get to the bathroom.  Each sister, named after someone or something special in Savino’s life, is introduced as they interrupt his much needed goal.  Recognizing the cacophony that arises from ten yelling children, he realized he had a great last name for his animated family, and “The Loud House” was born.

The short was the first series to be greenlit out of the global shorts program.   Creating stories that resonated with a broad audience while mining the humor of the large family was a primary concern to Savino.  His writer’s room bridges individuals who come from live action comedy as well as animation.    The top notch writing team help place Lincoln in situations that are digestable to a broad audience, while outlining the unique personalities of each character.  The humor for the audience comes from the relatable moments that transpire as Lincoln tries to achieve his goal, such as the constant obstacles that are thrown at Lincoln as he innocently tries to reach the living room couch to watch the conclusion of his favorite TV show – the storyline in the May 3rd premiere episode of “The Loud House.”

“I wanted to make sure the heart in this show is absolutely believable and is real and comes from an authentic place,” said Savino.  “We’re using universal themes that people know, but in Lincoln’s case, they are multiplied by ten, so it’s more amplified.”

The animation style of “The Loud House” allowed Savino to merge his love of comics with his animation design knowledge.  While hand drawing the cells would be his ideal choice to replicate the cartoon style, he knew the challenge of working on eleven unique characters would be an overwhelming burden for animators, particularly on a television schedule.  Seeking to duplicate the line qualities in a comic strip and maintain this aesthetic throughout character builds and rigging, Savino used an animation software called Harmony.  Harmony presents a more fluid finish to the characters when the images are rigged for movement.   The palette mimics the limited colors used in the printing process of 1970s comics; the time period of Savino’s early inspirations.  Floors, walls and other environments are a single color, referencing the half-tone color scheme of classic comic strips.  And, like the “Peanuts”, each character’s wardrobe has a signature color.   Interestingly, as Savino aimed to evoke a feeling of familiarity to the comic strips, early feedback he received was that he created a style that was “fresh and new.”

“It was an amazing process to witness that the more I tried to make people think they had seen the style somewhere before, the more people thought was something new,” said Savino.

To learn more about “The Loud House” please visit:

Source: Variety411

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The Ultimate Sidekick Finally Discovers Herself in Pixar’s ‘Finding Dory’

2016-04-21 20:54:56 ccwire-staff

For director Andrew Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins, ‘Finding Nemo’s eternally upbeat memory-impaired blue tang fish has a compelling and important journey of her own worth sharing.

Almost 13 years to the day after the release of Pixar’s Oscar-winning Finding Nemo, the long awaited and closely guarded sequel Finding Dory will begin hitting cinemas around the globe this June 17th. In the new film, Dory’s happy life on the reef with Nemo and Marlin is jolted by her sudden realization she has been separated from her family, who may still be out looking for her. The ensuing journey across the ocean to California’s Marine Life Institute rehabilitation center and aquarium, the new friends she meets along the way, all change her in ways she never imagined possible.

Four plus years in the making, Finding Dory is written and directed by long-time Pixar brain trust stalwart and Nemo director and scribe Andrew Stanton, who finally decided he had a follow-up story worth telling. But not without two difficult years struggling to figure out how to turn Dory, a supporting comedic character from Nemo, into a central lead that audiences would find compelling and worth caring about.

Stanton concedes he took on a potentially thankless task with the project. “I know. I’m a glutton for punishment,” he concedes about the concept of finding a plausible story for a character who essentially provided comic relief in the first film. “It was the bane of our existence through the whole making of the film. I kept complaining every day, going, ‘Who the hell thought of this character? I hate them.’ She was wired up to be a supporting character. She was built to be the ultimate sidekick.”

Read the full story here.


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Cartoon Network strengthens EU reach with TLC appointment

2016-03-23 17:21:20 ccwire-staff

Cartoon Network has appointed TLC as its licensing agent across France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Benelux.

Under the agreement, TLC will be responsible for building and managing the official licensing programmes for the network’s portfolio of animated properties across the European markets.

Brands at the forefront of the deal include the likes of the award-winning Adventure Time, The Powerpuff Girls, the new-look Ben 10 and The Amazing World of Gumball.

“Cartoon Network Enterprises owns a unique space in the entertainment licensing industry and their plans for the future and upcoming shows are very compelling,” said Melvin Thomas, CEO of TLC.

“We plan to build, promote, assist and expand the company’s licensing and merchandising business, positioning it as a leader of licensed kids’ brands in our territories.”

Johanne Broadfield, vice president of Cartoon Network Enterprises EMEA, added: “France, GSA and Benelux are high potential markets for us.

“We are very excited to be partnering with TLC to ramp up our licensing activity and bring the successes we have seen in our other core European markets to these key licensing territories.”

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The Fur-reaching Tech of "Zootopia"

2016-03-17 21:42:54 ccwire-staff

Walt Disney Animation Studios is clearly hitting it out of the park right now. Big Hero 6 was a huge success, while Frozen remains the highest grossing animated film of all time. Creatively, Disney Animation is telling highly compelling stories, but they’re also investing heavily in incredible artistry and tech – seen most clearly via the creation of their own renderer Hyperion (which fxguide covered in depth previously, here). That same approach to taking advantage of both the art and the tech of animation is carried through in the studio’s latest adventure, Zootopia, directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, where the need for major solutions to hair and fur and also vegetation were crucial to pulling off the all-mammal world of the film.

Down to the follicle level

Of course, it’s not like Disney Animation hadn’t tackled the complexities of hair or fur before. There was Tangled’s lead character of course, and then a myriad of others in say Wreck-it-Ralph and Frozen. Disney is also behind the instancing tool XGen (now licensed to Autodesk) used widely for hair and fur.

But the studio hadn’t yet taken on a project that featured so many animals, with so many different types of hair – often with several species all in the same frame – like Zootopia. The film features 64 different species, equating to about 800,000 different character models. The lead characters Hopps (a rabbit) and Wilde (a fox) would require 2.5 million hairs each, a giraffe character had 9 million hairs and even a gerbil needed 480,000.

Still, the number of hairs is relatively meaningless unless you also have an efficient means to groom and control them. That’s what Disney Animation sought to do this time around. But first, they had to get down and dirty with all the kinds of hair and fur that would be required in Zootopia. And for that the production embarked on a series of animal research visits to find out exactly what fur really looked like.

Fur reference.

“We visited lots of animal parks and a safari park,” visual effects supervisor Kersavage told fxguide. “We went to a place where you could get a lot closer and be in contact with the animals. We went to Natural History museums where you could examine fur right up close and even get it under a microscope to understand what makes fur and how is it different than what we’ve thought about in the past.”

The result of that research was an analysis of what fur looked like and how it behaved at the follicle level. “You suddenly realize that some hairs can be super opaque,” notes Kersavage. “We have a honey badger in the film and it has some white fur on it and it’s very opaque. But then we also have polar bears and their fur is actually more translucent, almost transparent, and you can’t really see any color in it. It’s more about the way the light actually goes through the polar bear’s fur and scatters through the rest of the fur that creates the white effect.”

On past films, Disney had ‘got away with’ several cheats for generating hair and fur. But with this new desire to replicate hairs at the follicle level and not make their animals look like “stuffed toys,” a new approach to hair was needed. “It would have been challenging for us to re-build the actual hair follicles for every species,” admits Kersavage. “So we decided to take a shader approach to this and try to see if we could replicate through some shader principles the ways we can create fur that has the right opaqueness or the light passing through.”

Movement of hair and fur had also previously been achieved with somewhat limited controls. “Typically,” explains Kersavage, “if we wanted pass wind through the fur of the characters, we had some effects modules we used to create noise patterns and be able to send ripples through. What we wanted to explore instead was how can we get more control, going back to to the follicle level, to be able to affect individual hairs at that moment.”

Koala visdev

The answer for both hair creation and movement came essentially via continued adaption of Disney’s XGen work. “XGen has been a way to do geometry instancing, basically,” states Kersavage. “It was also where we dialed in the materials and the shading, so we added the ability to be able to change the properties shader-wise. That work done for the shader was leveraged off of the BRDF that we did even back from Wreck-it-Ralph.”

Disney also brought back an earlier tool it had created for grooming the hair. “We had this tool in our past that was part of XGen that was called iGroom and we brought that back to life and were able to use it on more of a granular level,” says Kersavage. “It essentially lets you comb the hair and put in different kinds of patterns, say for the animals that have more cowlicks, and then different kinds of roughness and clumps.”





And then there’s the rendering handled in Hyperion. Already Disney had found that the path tracer was allowing them to include almost an unlimited amount of geometry in their scenes – both for environments and characters. However, the fur and hair were a slightly different story. “With Hyperion being a path tracer, it wanted to bounce around inside the hair and scatter throughout,” says Kersavage. “That can get very complicated, so the big thing that the team did was try to figure out how to optimize the hair itself.”

In Hyperion, during the rendering process, the scatter would occur and “then we’d get back to a point of diminishing returns,” explains Kersavage. “We had to work out how to average the large number of bounces into something that’s a little bit more digestible and so more efficient. Hyperion could do all that averaging for us and then we’d know what our cut-off was, based on species and therefore hair density.”

Yax had one of the more complicated grooms.

Rendering the complex hair threw up another challenge; artists would not see the final results of their animation and hair sims until the final renders were delivered. What Disney needed was a way to get an idea of how the hair would behave and how it might impact the performance – and get it fast. “In the past,” says Kersavage, “what we’ve done is have some proxies with basic shapes. That can get half of the way there but when you really get into the the really dynamic grooms, that breaks down a lot.”

So Disney capatilized again on earlier tools it had developed in hardware shading and GPU rendering with its Nitro GPU solve. Nitro allowed animators, in particular, to generate near real-time playblasts of their hair and fur for immediate feedback. “You could say, ‘Give me 10 per cent of the groom or give me 100 per cent of the groom’ based off how much you wanted to receive playback in the shot,” outlines Kersavage. “That might be based on how many characters you had in the scene – if you had just one character you might crank it all the way up or if you have 20 characters you’re trying to manage then you dial it down accordingly.”

Hair and fur for so many different species was required.

“That really gave animation a big control into what they were going to see in the final render,” adds Kersavage. “Another part of that too is that the hair would mask the performance. If the character had a smile or a frown, the corners of the mouth specifically sometimes get lost underneath the fur. If you’re just looking at the solid surface view of it, it all looks fine but as soon as you put the fur on it, the subtle performance is lost. So with the GPU tools we were able to provide animators with, none of it actually got lost and they realized perhaps they’d need to push a facial expression a little bit further to be able to see the expression through the hair itself.”

It’s a jungle out there

At one point, Zootopia’s action moves into the rainforest, where Hopps and Wilde continue their detective work. The forest is a vast landscape of trees and vegetation, intertwined with living quarters and a constant supply of rain (some from giant sprinklers) and mist.

Zootopia’s rainforest district.

The environment was always envisaged as dense, but just how dense could it actually be? In many ways that was left to the artists at Disney Animation and the continual R&D and updates to tools they’d been been creating. One in particular was Bonsai, a vegetation-generation tool. The team also drew on procedural tree growth used on Tangled. But what really changed Disney’s approach to how dense the rainforest could be was being able to take advantage of Hyperion.

“Early on,” notes Kersavage, “I wanted to push Hyperion to see how much we could do with vegetation. How much geometry can we actually stuff through it? We did this test and kept making it larger and larger, and the next thing was we had 7 million trees that we were able to fly through! That made me feel like the complexity was not necessarily going to be an issue with the rendering. The complexity really came from an artistic point of view in being able to place all of that in such a fashion that was consistent with the production design. We started small by building up individual pieces with branches and designs and as we were going the thing got larger and larger. They’d ask, ‘Can we add 100 more trees?’, and we did!”

Vegetation tools developed for the rainforest were also used for other parts of Zootopia.

Vegetation tools developed for the rainforest were also used for other parts of Zootopia.

Kersavage also pushed for the trees, leaves, branches, vines, grass and all the vegetation to, like the fur, always be moving. “We had some procedural tools that allowed artists to set up a slow, medium, fast, extra fast version of trees, and when we got to the point where we could finally take it from the base version and make it live in the shot, you could dial in the parameters and say, ‘Oh I want this tree to move faster.’ That really helped a lot. And then we leveraged that not just in the rainforest but everywhere else in the film too. You’ll see a lot of vegetation, whether it’s ivy on the side of buildings, or grass that’s moving – we used the techniques.”

For the rain of the rainforest, Disney relied on the idea of volumes. “We realized the thing that makes any environment look very specific to that area is the amount of water vapor or moisture in the air,” says Kersavage. “It’s about the way the light passes through that water vapor. So we generated lots of volumes. There’s one where it’s just an overall volume that we can place into a shot, all the way down to individual pieces, right down to the steam that’s coming out of the tree.”

Not only that, the rainforest scenes feature shots of individual rain drops falling – at different levels in the foreground, mid-ground and background – which also helped sell the stereo presentation of the film. “The water droplets actually hit the characters,” adds Kersavage, “and for that we had procedural pools of water you’re going to actually see when they’re running out onto the gondola platform – that applied to the whole rainforest. And then there’s the condensation and dripping and droplets hanging on the leaves when the rain actually stops.”

How Disney Animation dealt with fur/hair and vegetation are really just two examples only of the tech innovations in Zootopia. It could be said the studio has really hit its stride in pioneering creative, artistic and technical methods to help in telling great stories, something Kersavage also acknowledges. “With each film we try to get better and better at efficiency and what we can achieve artistically. With each one of these things we gain that confidence of saying ‘nothing is impossible’. We’re able to take whatever vision a director has going forward and know that we can make something cool out of that and come up with something that’s fantastic.”

Source: FX Guide

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Calabash ‘Catches’ Charlie The Tuna In New Animated StarKist Ad

2016-03-03 11:44:43 ccwire-staff

CHICAGO, IL – Forget ‘Sorry Charlie,’ the classic brand icon for StarKist Tuna has never looked better thanks in large part to Calabash, the award-winning 3D animation studio led by Creative Director Wayne Brejcha and Executive Producer Sean Henry. The studio partnered with acclaimed director Steve “Spaz” Williams, who began his career at legendary visual effects house ILM, production company Phasmatrope, West Conshohocken, PA; and the Harrisburg, PA-based Quench Agency, to create the new ad “Modern Charlie,” which boasts the heart-healthy benefits to StarKist’s Tuna and Salmon Creations products.

The new ad isn’t the first time Calabash has been trusted with the brand icon (they were the animation masterminds behind the classic 2005 MasterCard Super Bowl ad “Icons”), but for Henry it was important to stay true to the original look of Charlie.

“Charlie’s basic design has hardly changed since he was first introduced in the early 60’s, but he has been interpreted in slightly different ways over the years,” Henry says. “We felt obligated to stay as true as possible to the official look, but there were a lot of elements to the design that needed to be thought out carefully. Charlie’s design is pretty abstract, like a comic strip character. It works well as a drawing, but it is a real challenge to sculpt in 3D since it is only designed to be seen from one or two angles.”

Brejcha found the recent “Peanuts Movie” from Blue Sky Animation inspiring in its adaptaion of quirky 2D characters into 3D.

“Charlie’s 3D spatial coherence is playful,” Brejcha notes. “Sean rigged our CG Charlie to be able to do what the handdrawn cartoons can do.  He’s not a strictly jointed armature – he’s more of a series of liquid forms, and we kept a sharp eye on the resulting 2D shapes you see as the final result to guage how well we were capturing Charlie’s personality.”

Paying Homage

“Modern Charlie” (:15) pays homage to a classic ad from the 1960s featuring his sidekick known as the Octopus in which we see Charlie playing the harp and “putting his heart into it” when the flute-playing Octopus reminds him that StarKist “doesn’t want tuna with heart, they want tuna that’s good for the heart.”

“From the very beginning, it was clear that everyone shared a similar vision for the project and it was a great collaboration,” Henry says. “It was an honor for us to work with Spaz, one of the original pioneers of CG animation, while Phasmatrope Executive Producer Jon Isen did an amazing job keeping the creative effort focused and on task and the agency and Quench proved a perfect creative partner, providing excellent direction and plenty of creative space to explore possibilities.”

Brejcha notes that this latest ad is yet another example of the power of brand icons in the ever-increasingly fractured media landscape.

“Characters like Charlie carry an enormous amount of equity for their brands,” Brejcha explains. “A memorable mascot has the power to elevate a brand to the status of cultural icon, and one thing we are seeing is that these characters have serious longevity and flexibility to adapt with ever-changing culture and technology. We love breathing new life into a classic.”

Watch it HERE

Creative Credits:

Client: StarKist

Project: “Modern Charlie” (:15)

Agency:  Quench Agency, Harrisburg, PA

Chief Creative Officer: Jeff Odiorne

CD/Writer: John Gilbert

ACD/AD: Dave Spink

Producer: Matt Campbell

Group Brand Manager: Ami Lawson

Brand Manager: Laura Osmolinski

Production Company: Phasmatrope Studios, West Conshohocken, PA

Director: Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams

EP: Jon Isen

Animation: Calabash, Chicago

Creative Director: Wayne Brejcha

EP: Sean Henry


About Calabash Animation
Led by Creative Director Wayne Brejcha and Executive Producer Sean Henry, Calabash is the Chicago, IL-based animation production studio known for its award-winning animation for the advertising and entertainment industries. Calabash Animation is perhaps best known for their creative character animation and development of some of America’s most beloved brand icons. In addition to it advertising working, the company has also produced several acclaimed short films, including ‘’Stubble Trouble,’’ which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002.

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The Photoreal World of Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’ Remake

2016-02-24 16:44:08 ccwire-staff

Jon Favreau and visual effects supervisor Rob Legato unveils stunning live-action/CG hybrid environments and characters.

AWN was invited to see a presentation of Disney’s upcoming remake of the classic 1967 animated feature, The Jungle Book, at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, CA. That storied venue — the home of countless Disney premieres, stage shows and special presentations — was the perfect spot for director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and two-time Academy Award winning visual effects supervisor Rob Legato (Avatar, Hugo) to talk about the upcoming live-action/CG hybrid feature, including the technical aspects, how their live-action Jungle Book will compare to the animated original, and the research and casting process that went into making the new film.

The Jungle Book, due in theaters April 15, is directed by Favreau from a script written by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li). The stereoscopic 3D feature, which will also be shown in IMAX theaters, is being produced by Brigham Taylor, who also produced Disney’s Tomorrowland. Working alongside cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Noah), MPC is the lead visual effects studio, with Christopher Glass serving as production designer.

The film’s voice cast includes Bill Murray as the voice of Baloo the Bear, Christopher Walken as King Louie, Giancarlo Esposito as Akela, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, and newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli.

Disney has a slew of live-action remakes of classic animation properties on its development and production slate, including The Sword in the StoneMulan, Winnie the PoohBeauty and the Beast, the Tim Burton-directed Dumbo, and the “Bald Mountain” sequence in Fantasia, and the proven box office success of live-action films such as last year’s Cinderella and 2014’s Maleficent mean that audiences can expect similar projects to continue into the unforeseen future. Also in development at Disney is a Maleficent sequel, a new Peter Pan spinoff, Tink, starring Reese Witherspoon as Tinker Bell, and a live-action Prince Charming movie. Oh, and let’s not forget Alice in WonderlandThat live-action remake, also from director Tim Burton, has a sequel as well, Alice Through the Looking Glass, which arrives in theaters on May 27.

Rather than the usual clips and animatics, the presentation at the El Capitan Theater included a sneak preview of the entire film, for which anticipation has been growing since the first bits of footage were screened at the D23 Expo back in August 2015. The theater itself is one of the venues at which fans will be able to see The Jungle Book movie in Dolby Vision, a brand-new laser projection system designed in part to combat the dimming effect of 3D.

“The picture is really bright,” Favreau said of the format during the event. “Once you see it, it’s hard to look at a regular projection system ever again, especially in 3D… For this film, it was interesting to see this level of contrast and dynamic range. We’re dealing with, essentially, a computer-generated image that has a lot of information and latitude.”

“We’re creating a full, photo-real world that we can recognize as real,” Legato added. “We’ve all seen pictures of animals. We see how they move. We see how they walk and talk and we can tell if it’s artificial or not.”

Despite the lush environments and realistic looking animals that populate the film, none of The Jungle Book was shot on location. Shot in a big empty building in downtown Los Angeles, everything on the screen — with the exception of actor Sethi, who plays Mowgli — is computer generated and animated.

“We had a motion-capture volume, we had actors playing the parts, we had suits, we had sets that were lined up with what the digital set looked like. And then we captured it,” Favreau said. “First we had an animatic version, as you would on an animated film, then a motion-capture version that we edited, and then finally we took that and shot the kid as though he were an element.”

The film’s realism can be credited to MPC, which most recently provided visual effects for Ridley Scott’s The Martian, Kenneth Branagh’s re-envisioning of Cinderella and James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Weta Digital, known for its Oscar-winning work on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies as well as the last two Planet of the Apes movies. MPC handled the bulk of the film’s effects, with Weta — which has a trove of experience animating realistic-looking fantastical characters such as The Hobbit’s Smaug — stepping in to handle a sequence set around King Louie.

“The idea of going out to the jungle and shooting this just felt like it wouldn’t have the magic the ’67 film had,” Favreau said. “There was a dreamlike quality to it. There was a surreal quality to it. It was a high-water mark for character animation, because of the character and the emotion and the music. And that’s what I remember about it, and so I wanted to make sure we preserved that.”

One of Favreau’s objectives for The Jungle Book was to put a live-action sensibility into a computer-generated world. To blur the lines between what is practical and what is computer-generated, two different sets were used: one that was used for filming, and the other that was being built for the next shot. This meant that individual sets were constantly being built and then broken down when they weren’t being used or had already served their purpose.

“Some people seek out an experience that they’ve never seen before,” Favreau said, “and I’m proud to have the film that will introduce this technology in much the same way I was introduced with Avatar to that tech. It’s the marriage of story and technology that always makes for an interesting presentation.”

For the story itself, Favreau looked at both Rudyard Kipling‘s 1894 book of stories and Disney’s 1967 big screen take. “I think, though, that, as far as story structure, the ’67 actually had a lot to offer, so we tried to stick with it as much as we could,” Favreau said. “What I really tried to do, though, was focus on the images that I remembered from it before going back to look at it again. That was a trick that I learned on Iron Man. It’s not necessarily what’s in the material that’s so important, it’s what you remember. I find that everybody has a collective memory that’s very similar. There were images that I remember very clearly that I listed off and those were the top priority. Then, as you go back and we started to break story together, you start to figure out that Walt and his team came up with a lot of the same conclusions and a lot of the same story points. There’s a lot of familiarity there.”

One of the main challenges was finding precisely the right way for the new Jungle Book movie to depict its talking animals. Favreau and Legato looked at every previous example they could find (even Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Dog with a Blog) to determine exactly what worked and what didn’t. “There are certain animals that talk well,” Favreau explained. “A snake is harder to talk. You want it to have phonemes, the mouth movements that are required to make the sound. We always erred on the side of subtlety.”

While Walt Disney used an orangutan for King Louie in the animated film, Favreau’s version tries to stay true to the animal’s habitats and native environments. This means that King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken) won’t be an orangutan in the new movie. But Favreau did manage to find a loophole that would allow him to bring the likeness of King Louie to life while staying true to the animal’s habitat. Instead of an orangutan, the film uses a now-extinct descendant of the orangutan called the Gigantopithecus, which were native to the area.

Jon Favreau and Rob Legato talk about production on Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’ at an event in January at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, CA.

Although the Jungle Book movie’s animals were always intended to look as photoreal as possible, some of the features of the actors playing them were actually incorporated into the character designs. There’s not so much of Scarlett Johansson in the python, Ka, but you might find that Baloo’s eyebrows bear a subtle resemblance to those of Bill Murray.

“For King Louie, we really wanted him to have blue eyes and the look and the way [Christopher Walken]’s face is rigged,” Favreau said. “We did some motion capture work and key framing and video reference… We tried to make it informant enough that you could see the soul of the actor, but not enough to take you out of the reality of the movie.

“We had a motion-capture volume, we had actors playing the parts, we had suits, we had sets that were lined up with what the digital set looked like. And then we captured it,” Favreau said. “First we had an animatic version, as you would on an animated film, then a motion-capture version that we edited, and then finally we took that and shot the kid as though he were an element.”

“You have to breathe life into this thing,” Favreau concluded. “Otherwise, it’s just an exercise in technology and that’s not entertainment. You need to have a beating heart in there and that’s what your cast gives you.”

Source: Jennifer Wolfe, AWN

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