Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2020

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e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 2 0 c g w 5 1 T hroughout our lifetime, we have read fairy tales of all kinds, nearly all of which have happy endings. The Willoughbys, an animated film based on the book by the same name, is not one of them. "If you love stories about families that stick together, and love each other through thick and thin, and all end happily ever aer, this isn't the film for you," says the narrator, a world-weary cat, in the opening of the animated film. "This family's story is weird, hidden away from the modern world in their old-fashioned home." Indeed, the cat's perception of the story is accurate. However, when looking at the film as a whole, "unique" seems to be a more fitting description than "weird." Unique Story Inside the big, old-fashioned home filled with antiques is a history that goes back a long way, a family legacy of tradition, inven- tion, creativity, and courage, as depicted in the portraits hanging on the walls. The family magnificence has been passed down from generation to generation (like their promi- nent red, bushy facial hair) – that is, until the current one. The house now sits in the middle of a modern, bustling city, closed off from the rest of the world. Living amid all the books, paintings, and heirlooms is the latest family of Willoughbys: Mother (Jane Krakowski) and Father (Martin Short), who are selfish and lovestruck. They share the space begrudg- ingly, their children: Tim (Will Forte), Jane (Alessia Cara), and the Barnaby twins (Sean Cullen). While love is an amazing thing, the parents only have love for each other; they do not extend it to the children, who they see as nuisances. Better not seen and not heard. The children are mistreated. They are neither fed nor clothed. Never is a kind word offered to them. One day the children find an orphan outside the gate to their home. They want to keep it, but their parents forbid it. The kids find a seemingly perfect place for the baby: at a candy factory. Convinced they would be better off as orphans themselves, the siblings come up with a plan: entice their self-absorbed parents to take an exotic vacation to dangerous locales around the world. As the pièce de résistance, they add the caveat "no children allowed" to their fake brochure, ensuring their parents' interest. It works, and off the parents go. Happy to be "orphans," the children's staycation is interrupted by a nanny (Maya Rudolph), who the parents have hired to watch the kids. Eventually, the children warm up to her, that is, except for Tim, who remains mistrusting. Feeling guilty about tricking their parents (even aer Mom and Dad sell the house so they can afford to continue their journey), the children enlist Nanny and a generous candymaker, Commander Melanoff (Terry Crews), to help them build a candy dirigible so they can rescue their parents before tragedy befalls them. However, the children sneak off in the airship by themselves and fly off to the "Unclimbable Alps," the last stop in their parents' trip. The children succeed in their mission, following a trail of Willoughby-red yarn up the mountain and arriving in the nick of time before the lovebirds freeze to death. But the ungrate- ful pair continue their selfish ways and commandeer the flying contraption the kids built, abandoning the children on the mountain top to a frozen fate. But maybe the story has a bit of a happy ending, aer all, which has nothing to do with the parents. Instead, Nanny and the Commander rescue the children, who are truly orphans now, and they, along with baby Ruth, the infant at the gate, become a family – a perfectly imperfect family. This anti-tale, based on the book by Lois Lowry, was brought to life in Burnaby, Canada, at a greatly expanded Bron Anima- tion, a division of Bron Studios, a Canadian motion-picture company. The film is written, produced, and directed by Kris Pearn (Open Season, Surf's Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs). In fact, Pearn's varied back- ground in the animation industry (animator, story artist, character designer, writer, and director) made him an ideal candidate for this project, which took on a homemade aesthetic, due to his experience in 2D, stop-motion, and 3D animation. Producer Luke Carroll optioned the book in 2014 aer listening to an audio version on a family vacation. Pearn signed on, and work began in earnest two years later and finished just about two weeks before North Amer- ican went into lockdown due to COVID-19. "Taking the tropes of animated films and having the opportunity to play with them to tell a story that I think is different in a way that celebrates the independence of kid logic and hopefulness was an interesting challenge," says Pearn. The Willoughbys, directed by Kris Pearn, is based on book by Lois Lowry.

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