Computer Graphics World

March 2011

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CGI ■ ■ ■ ■ ers Saddle up, CG cowboys. T e fences are down, and the barn door fl ew open. We’ve seen fi lmmakers straddle the boundary between live-action and animated features for longer than great-grandma’s chin whiskers, but we’ve never seen anything head out for new territory like Rango. Directed by Gore Verbinski, designed by Mark “Crash” McCreery, and created at Industrial Light & Magic, the Paramount feature, produced by Blind Wink, GK Films, and Nickelodeon, is the fi rst animated fi lm for the live-action director. It’s also the fi rst animated fi lm for the designer, and the fi rst animated feature to move through ILM’s visual eff ects pipeline. Did that mean that the director and artists mimicked an anima- tion studio’s pipeline and processes? Nope. Cain’t say they did. OK, then, did they adopt Robert Zemeckis’s style of making an animated fi lm using live-action techniques? Nope. Didn’t go there, either. T is fi lm has no motion-captured performances. Here’s how it worked: T e crew simply herded the wacky spaghetti western down the road as if it were a visual eff ects project and adapted to the scale of an animated fi lm as needed. T at makes Rango the fi rst animated feature created with visual eff ects, and it opens the cattle gate to other such projects in the future. “We all came from live action, and that was our common language,” says Tim Alex- ander, visual eff ects supervisor. “As we got into the pipeline, we found things we could do better in terms of scale and continuity, but we kept our strengths.” Freaky Frontier One of ILM’s strengths is in creature animation, and boy howdy did they have creatures to animate: 130 individual characters and 50 rigged variations. Of those, 50 were hero characters, 26 were main characters. But, the quantity didn’t cause the studio to slack off . “T e characters in this fi lm are as detailed as the creatures we create for visual eff ects,” Alexander says. McCreery designed all the characters based on animals, but, with few ex- ceptions, they act like humans, and all but a few wear multiple layers of clothing. “All the characters are really humans with an animal design mo- tif layered over them,” says Hal Hickel, animation supervisor. “T e mayor acts like John Huston from Chinatown. He doesn’t act like a turtle.” T e star, Rango (Johnny Depp), is a chameleon who bounced out of his ter- rarium from the inside of a car traveling through the desert. As the fi lm begins, he’s free, alone, and lost. But along comes Beans (Isla Fisher), a lovely lady lizard bobbing her way to town in a rickety wooden wagon fi lled with empty, jostling water bottles. She’s holding the reins of a javelina, a crusty wild pig that’s pulling the wagon, and she’s cranky. Somehow, we’ve moved into a creature-sized world, and it’s rough, tough, and dirty. Look-development supervisor Damian Steele describes the character design as “a cross between Robert Crumb and Beatrix Potter.” Others simply call it “nasty.” When Rango fi rst sees the town of Dirt on the horizon, it looks like two blocks of ramshackle old buildings lining either side of a main street rising from the hot des- March 2011 11

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