Computer Graphics World

March / April 2015

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m a r c h . a p r i l 2 0 1 5 c g w 2 7 he glass slipper gets all the attention. But where would Cinderella be without her little friends, the family of helpful critters? Four little mice transform into horses and pull Cinderella's magical golden carriage to the ball. A lizard and a goose become coachmen. And then at midnight, the car- riage turns into a pumpkin. The horses become mice again. The coachmen change back into a lizard and a goose. It takes skilled artists to transform these characters in a cartoon or storybook. To make the magical characters believable in a live-action film raises the artistic bar. But Dis- ney's live-action Cinderella has done just that. Critics gave the film rave reviews, praising the retrograde fantasy's ravishing style, charming magic, and timeless message: Early in the film, Cinderella's mother tells her to "have courage and be kind." She does, and she is. She is to the current crop of warrior princesses in films as the Termi- nator is to Atticus Finch. Kenneth Branagh directed the live-action film. Cate Blanchett stars as the evil stepmother, Helena Bonham Carter is the fairy godmother, and Lily James, who was Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, is Cinderella. Charley Henley was the overall visual effects supervisor, and Patrick Ledda was the visual effects supervisor at the Moving-Picture Company (MPC), which brought the CG characters to life. "Originally we had live mice on set, which we thought we'd use in some shots," Ledda says. "But, they were chubby mice, and they didn't do much. They didn't perform the way the director wanted, so we quickly realized they would be full CG." Even so, the animal actors provided good reference for fur and lighting conditions for what became a family of CG mice. "In Disney's animated film, the mouse named Gus was chubby and always eating," Ledda says. "We had the idea he would be the father. We also have a mum who relates a bit to Cinderella, and then two kids. One is more playful and she runs around. The other is more scared. They're all quite different from each other. We wanted the audience to dis- tinguish them and understand that they belong to a family." Toward the end of the proj- ect, the MPC crew learned that the mice would talk. "The director didn't want them miming," Ledda says. "So, they have so speech, but it didn't really affect our work." M O U S I N G A R O U N D MPC has been creating and animating CG characters for many years; their most recent digital characters were Groot and Rocket in The Guardians of the Galaxy, which they created with Framestore. The mice, though, arrived with new chal- lenges for the experienced team. "We wanted them to be fairly photoreal but with kind of a hu- man form because they interact with Cinderella and understand her," Ledda says. "We needed a chubby mouse that was big enough to fill the frame, but not rat-like. The director wanted them to be cute and pretty, but at the same time, realistic. So, we had lots of trial and error, particu- larly during the first few months. We also did lots of work on the rig and the fat layer beneath the skin, which is like a sack. When the skin and hair moves, the fat sack moves accordingly." For the mouse's hair, the studio relied on its Furtility so- ware, proprietary hair and fur technology first developed for 10,000 BC (see "Making History," March 2008) and The Chron- icles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (See "Animal Kingdom," May 2008). Because the studio had moved to Pixar's RenderMan 18 with this film, the team devel- oped a new specular model to scatter light more effectively and efficiently in white fur. "This was the first time we have done such a large number of shots with fully ray-traced fur," Ledda says. "But, the new shading system rendered faster and gave us more iterations than what we had in the past. We were on the cusp between RenderMan 18 and 19, but we decided to take the cautious approach and stick with 18 for this film. Our shading team will adapt the new work we did on the fur shading into 19." I F W I S H E S W E R E H O R S E S Like all the eligible maidens in the kingdom, including her stepsisters, Cinderella wants to T IN THE FILM, CINDERELLA'S HELPFUL MICE ARE ALWAYS DIGITAL CHARACTERS.

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