2D animation, 3D animation, OSCAR

Oscar Watch 2012

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

Studio: Illumination Mac Guff
Directors: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: March 2
Box Office: $338.9 million [$214 million]
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 54%
Synopsis: The CG animated update of Theodor Geisel’s environmentally minded children’s classic stars Zac Efron as a young boy named Ted bent on saving the disappearing Trufula Trees, Taylor Swift as the girl of his dreams, Danny DeVito as the gruff yet cuddly Lorax, Ed Helms as the mysterious Once-ler, Rob Riggle as the mayor and Betty White as Ted’s grandma.
The Buzz: It’s always a challenge to adapt a well loved picture book as a feature effort; despite the artistic wizardry of French studio Mac Guff and the box office response, critics seemed underwhelmed by the updated Lorax.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Studios: Aardman Animations, Sony Pictures Animation
Director: Peter Lord
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: April 27
Box Office: $121.6 million [$31 million]
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Synopsis: This mad-cap seafaring adventure stars Hugh Grant as Pirate Captain, who in the course of vying for the Pirate of the Year contest gets tangled up with the likes of Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), Charles Darwin (David Tennant) and other characters. The excellent cast also includes Martin Freeman, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Brian Blessed, Brendan Gleeson and even Al Roker as the Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens.
The Buzz: Co-directed by Jeff Newitt and based on the popular books by Gideon Defoe, Pirates was a tour de force of richly detailed stop-motion animation and Brit humor—but after the mania over Oscar winner Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Aardman might have trouble filling its own sizeable shoes.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Studio: DreamWorks Animation
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: June 8
Box Office: $638.8 million [$216.1 million]
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78%
Synopsis: In the zoosters’ latest escapade, a faulty getaway with the “help” of the penguins finds the critters joining up with a European traveling circus, all the while evading capture by Monaco’s most dogged Animal Control Officer, Chantal DuBois (Frances McDormand). Franchise cast including Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and Sacha Baron Cohen return along with newcomers Bryan Cranston, Jessica Chastain and Martin Short as their circus pals.
The Buzz: While the third outing performed very well at the box-office and entertained family audiences, so far none of the franchise’s films have made the final Oscar cut—then again, the popular zoo pals may be overdue in the Academy’s eyes.


Studio: Disney-Pixar
Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: June 22
Box Office: $515.7 million [$233.8 million domestic]
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%
Synopsis: As princess of an ancient Scottish kingdom, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) struggles against the expectations of her parents and her plans for her life. When she takes her destiny into her own hands, it threatens the safety of the kingdom as well as those she loves most. The pedigreed cast also includes Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson as the king and queen, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd and Craig Ferguson.
The Buzz: Pixar’s first fairytale sought to break the mold with its strong-willed female protagonist as well as forge new ground in stunningly detailed CG animation; despite accomplishing this, some critics felt Brave lacked the originality of prior Pixar films.

Ice Age: Continental Drift

Studio: Blue Sky Studios
Directors: Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: July 13
Box Office: $849.9 million [$159.2 million]
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 38%
Synopsis: The fourth installment of the Ice Age saga sees the herd separated by shifting continents, pestered by pirates and desperately trying to reunite families amid the chaos and finding a new home (and a new girlfriend for Diego). Key cast Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Chris Wedge and Keke Palmer are joined by Jennifer Lopez, Peter Dinklage, Wanda Sykes, Drake, Aziz Ansari, Nicki Minaj and more to round out the cool ensemble.
The Buzz: Despite being the highest-grossing toon of the year (so far) and cracking up audiences, the 3-D CG sequel effort seemed to critics to recycle too much from the previous films; it’s unclear whether the franchise is overdue for a nod or if the first film’s nomination was its best shot.


Studio: LAIKA
Directors: Sam Fell, Chris Butler
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: August 17
Box Office: $86.5 million [$54.1 million]
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 87%
Synopsis: Norman is an outcast kid shunned by his schoolmates for his strange ability to talk to ghosts. But when an ancient curse unleashes a horde of zombies on his small town of Blithe Hollow, it’s up to him to set things right. Kodi Smitt-McPhee stars with Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Elaine Stritch, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Bernard Hill and John Goodman.
The Buzz: LAIKA’s second feature effort, ParaNorman’s original story (penned by Butler) and lovingly hand-crafted stop-motion impressed the critics … except certain conservative outlets who found fault with a reference to a character’s homosexuality in a kid flick—but we like to think (hope?) the Academy is less stuffy.

Hotel Transylvania

Studio: Sony Pictures Animation
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: September 28
Box Office: $57.7 million [$49.6 million]
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 45%
Synopsis: Dracula (Adam Sandler) runs a luxury resort for classic monsters (werewolves, mummies, zombies and the like) and is busy preparing for his daughter Mavis’ (Selena Gomez) 118th birthday. As the gruesome guests are set to arrive, a normal human named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles onto the hotel and takes a shine to Mavis, much to Drac’s chagrin. The comedic cast is filled out by Kevin James, Cee Lo Green, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Fran Drescher and Jon Lovitz.
The Buzz: Toon fans were keen to check out Tartakovsky’s first feature effort and enjoyed the colorful, cartoony vibe of this kids’ comedy; but the long and tumultuous production may have added to critics’ sense that the plot wasn’t up to snuff for older audiences.


Studio: Tim Burton Productions
Director: Tim Burton
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: October 5
Box Office: TBA
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%
Synopsis: When young Victor is inspired to reanimate the body of his beloved dog, Sparky, his classmates follow suit and unleash a chaotic plague of strange creatures on the town of New Holland. Based on Burton’s 1984 live-action short, the film features the voices of Charlie Tahan, Catherina O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Atticus Shaffer, Christopher Lee, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell, James Hiroyuki Liao and Tom Kenny.
The Buzz: With a disappointing opening weekend B.O. (lagging behind Hotel Transylvania, which was in its second week), Disney’s gamble on Burton’s quirky éclat seemed wobbly; critics however praised the artistry of the black-and-white stop-motion film as well as its oddball story—hey, how much did Spirited Away make on its U.S. debut?

Wreck-It Ralph

Studio: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Director: Rich Moore
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: November 2
Box Office: TBA
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: John C. Reilly stars as a disgruntled 8-bit game villain who sets out on a journey across the various videogames in his arcade to prove that he has what it takes to be a hero. The 3-D CG flick also stars Sarah Silverman as Vanellope, a glitchy but cute racing game character; Jack McBrayer as the hero of Ralph’s game Fix-It Felix, Jr.; and Jane Lynch as Sgt. Calhoun, star of an FPS game.
The Buzz: Disneyphiles and gamers alike are psyched to check out Ralph, which will feature cameos from popular game characters; first glimpses reveal a sweeping variety of characters and worlds expertly animated—but only time will tell if this departure from the Disney canon will please the Academy.

Rise of the Guardians

Studio: DreamWorks Animation
Director: Peter Ramsey
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: November 21
Box Office: TBA
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: This colorful, action-packed adaptation of William Joyce’s popular book stars Chris Pine as Jack Frost, who joines up with North (Santa Claus, Alec Baldwin), Bunnymund (Easter Bunny, Hugh Jackman), Tooth (Tooth Fairy, Isla Fisher) and Sandy (Sandman) to restore the faith of children around the world and defeat the wicked Pitch (Jude Law).
The Buzz: DWA’s previous features based on Joyce’s books (Meet the Robinsons, Robots) proved popular with audiences, and this latest 3-D CG effort is creating buzz with its fresh take on classic characters and rich visuals—could this be the Joyce tale that makes it to the Oscars?

The Painting

Studios: Blue Spirit/Be-Films
Director: Jean-François Laguionie
Distributor: GKIDS
Release Date: TBA
Box Office: $183,700 (approx. USD value of French B.O., per AlloCiné)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: Set in the world of a 1930s artist’s atelier, three races of painted beings—the completed Alldunns, partially done Halfies and roughly rendered Sketchies—battle each other for supremacy. Ramo an Alldunn and Claire, the Halfie he loves, join up with inquisitive Lola on a quest to find the artist and discover why he created these contentious races.
The Buzz: Critics responded favorably to this inventive, beautifully crafted tale from Laguionie and co-scripter Anik Le Ray (Eleanor’s Secret) on both sides of the pond—it’s a blessing and a potential curse for Painting that 2012 has been such a strong year for foreign animated features.

From Up on Poppy Hill

Studio: Studio Ghibli
Director: Goro Miyazaki
Distributor: GKIDS
Release Date: TBA
Box Office: $56 million (approx. USD value of Japanese B.O., per Variety)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: Set in 1960s Yokohama, the film follows two high school students who undertake to restore an historic building and save it from demolition, all the while unraveling the mystery of their own connected past. GKIDS has tapped Gillian Anderson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, Chris Noth, Aubrey Plaza, Anton Yelchin, Beau Bridges, Sarah Bolger, Jeff Dunham, Isabelle Fuhrman, Emily Osment, Charles Saxton and Alex Wolff as the English language voice cast.
The Buzz: With the pro revamp team of director Gary Rydstrom, writer Karey Kirkpatrick and exec producer Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy (all of Arrietty fame) on the case, audiences can expect a fluid translation of this heartfelt teen adventure—but though the Academy loves Ghibli, Goro’s (son of Hayao Miyazaki) last feature effort was a B.O. and critical disappointment.


 Prima Linea Productions
Directors: Rémi Bezançon, Jean-Christophe Lie
Distributor: GKIDS
Release Date: TBA
Box Office: $1.7 million (approx. USD value of French B.O., per AlloCiné)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: This expansive film takes viewers on a journey from Sudan to Paris as 10-year-old Maki pursues his beloved pet giraffe Zarafa, who is en route to France as a gift to Charles X from the Pasha of Egypt. Through Alexandria, Marseille and the snow Alps the duo encounter many adventures and odd characters in this charming story of true friendship.
The Buzz: Zarafa has won over festival audiences around the word with its impeccably French 2D artistry and sweet sentimentality—although some have raised their hackles over inaccuracies about the fate of the legendary giraffe; it’ll be up to Academy members to decide whether the art of fiction wins out over the complexities of history when GKIDS launches its qualifying run.

The Rabbi’s Cat

Studio: Autochenille Productions
Directors: Joann Sfar, Antoine Delesvaux
Distributor: GKIDS
Release Date: TBA
Box Office to Date: $552,416 (approx. USD value of French B.O., per AlloCiné)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: Based on Sfar’s award-winning comic series, the film centers on a cat living in 1920s Algeria who gains the ability to speak after swallowing a parrot and expresses his desire to convert to Judaism to his Rabbi owner.
The Buzz: While critics have been universally won over by the colorful 2D animation, some were less enchanted by the storytelling in the film translation—but after nabbing the top Annecy Cristal, it’s still a strong contender for Oscar nomination.

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

Studios: Bill and Ben Prod., EPIX
Directors: Bill Jones, Ben Timlett, Jeff Simpson
Distributor: Brainstorm Media
Release Date: November 2
Box Office: TBA
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: Based on Chapman’s fictitious 1980 autobiography, the film is a mélange of completely untrue events from the Brit comedian’s life. Former Python cohorts John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam provide voices, adding to recordings of Chapman reading from the book made shortly before his death in 1989.
The Buzz: Python fans are eager to see how this independent project will turn out, and animation aficionados are piqued by the format which will combine animated “chapters” crafted by over a dozen studios—but has “Project Chapman 3D” generated enough buzz to lure in Academy voters at the end of the year?

The Secret of the Wings

Studio: DisneyToon Studios
Directors: Peggy Holmes, Roberts Gannaway
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: September 3 [Limited]
Box Office to Date: TBA
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: The fourth film in Disney’s popular Tinkerbell home movie franchise sees Tink (Mae Whitman) venture into the forbidden world of the Winter Woods and discovering a mysterious secret about fairies’ wings. Lucy Hale, Lucy Liu, Angela Bartys, Raven-Symone, Megan Hilty, Pamela Adlon, Anjelica Huston, Timothy Dalton and Grey DeLisle star.
The Buzz: While the fairies do gangbusters with their young target home audience, they haven’t managed to conjure up an Academy nod—although Disney may have pushed a theatrical release in part to raise the number of qualifiers, and thus nominees, like they tried with Great Fairy Rescue in 2010.

Arjun: The Warrior Prince

Studios: UTV Motion Pictures, Disney
Director: Arnab Chaudhuri
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: May 25, September 3 [Limited]
Box Office: $19,267 (approx. USD value of Indian B.O., per BollywoodTrade)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: Taken from the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata, the film explores the early life of legendary warrior Arjun, his training, the family rivalries for the crown that drive him into exile with his brother and his eventual triumph.
The Buzz: Indian critics widely acknowledged Arjun, with its intriguing CG/toon-shaded animation style, was a big leap forward for the country’s toon industry and it’s been snapped up by festivals—but with such strong competition it might not make much of an impact Stateside.

The Mystical Laws

Studio: Eleven Arts
Director: Isamu Imakake
Distributor: Nikkatsu
Release Date: October 6, 2012
Box Office: TBA
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: In the near future, the newly formed Godom Empire is threatening to take over the world by using advanced technology offered to them by Leika Chan, the mysterious female president of a trading company. The film’s hero, Sho Shishimaru, is the one man who has the “mystical technology” that can stop the Godom Empire. After being hunted down by the Empire, Sho is saved by mysterious Indians monks, who tell him about a prophecy about the rebirth of Buddha. Based on the book by Ryuho Okawa, the founder of the controversial religious organization Happy Science (Kōfuku no Kagaku).


Studio: Triggerfish
Director: Wayne Thornley
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Box Office: TBA
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: TBA
Synopsis: On the edge of a majestic waterfall, in the heart of Africa, lies the amazing bird city of Zambezia, led by wise and battle-tested Sekhuru (Leonard Nimoy). Our young falcon hero Kai (Jeremy Suarez) leaves his remote outpost against his Father’s (Samuel L. Jackson) wishes to join the prestigious Hurricane defense flyers fiercely trained by Ajax (Jeff Goldblum) to patrol the skies keeping Zambezia safe. Kai’s father goes after him but is captured as the scheming iguana lizard Budzo (Jim Cummings) conspires to attack the sanctuary. Kai and soulmate Zoe (Abigail Breslin) will need to gather all their flying skills along with a big dose of diplomacy to save the city from Budzo’s deadly plot.

3D animation, art, Cartoon - animation films

3D Animation – BRAVE

English: Pixar Animation Studios company logo ...

 Brave New Hair

   By Mike Seymour | June 21, 2012

For Brave, the team at Pixar had to deal with a hero or rather heroine, who is on screen for almost every shot, but who needed wild, yet beautiful hair. The simulation department needed to develop a technique and approach not only viable on a hand crafted trailer shot, but something that could be used almost ‘out of box’ on most shots, or the film was simply never going to make its deadline.

Merida’s hair is really long

If her curls were unwound Merida’s hair would measure 4 feet long. The character is only 5′ 4″.

The Princess Merida’s hair was almost a three year process to get correct. Earlier hair such as for the characters in The Incredibles had much more groomed hair, but here the character’s hair simulation needed to solve how to get this messy, tempestuous and unpredictable look while still looking attractive and flowing nicely with the animation.

The previous hair system used by Pixar had to be seriously overhauled since:

  • Merida’s hair required much greater hair to hair (soft body) collisions than anything Pixar had done before.
  • The curls themselves were an issue from a simulation point of view.

Simulation team was headed by Claudia Chung (R)

Hair is modeled using a series of mass and springs (springs connecting point masses). But very curly hair acts in a contradictory way: curls are very stiff, so the springs need to be quite rigid, but the movement of the hair requires a soft flowing quality that fights this property. If the ‘springs’ were too soft the hair would unwind, if the hair springs were too stiff, her hair would not move realistically. This coupled with the problem of collision and intersection – while holding to the production schedule – made Brave’s hair simulation extremely complex.

Pixar developed and internally released a new simulator, which is multi-threaded. The new code does computation before it sends hair off to the simulator to determine how other hairs would relate. This means that a cluster of hairs would all be dealt with as one group, and the Hair simulation could be multi-threaded. In one sequence Merida flicks her hair from one side of her face to the other, but even such high level gross spatial changes were able to be automatically accommodated.

Mass and weight are two common often misunderstood terms. The fundamental relation between the mass and the weight is defined by Newton’s 2nd Law as:

F = m . a

where  F = force (N), m = mass (kg), a = acceleration (m/s2).

Mass is a measure of the amount of material in an object. Mass does not change with a body’s position or movement. The mass is a fundamental property of amount of matter in the object. Weight is the gravitational force acting on a body’s mass.

It is this force that interacts with the stiffness of the ‘springs’ in the digital hair.

To address the curls themselves there is a core thread or curve that runs through the middle of a primary curl. The key hairs are B-splines that are then used to interpolate the motion of the rest of the hairs. So Merida had 1500 hand placed curves which interpolate to some 111,000 curves at final render. Merida’s hair was simulated at about 20 to 30 seconds a frame.

Hair like Merida’s – if real – would itself have quite a lot of actual mass and weight. “Over the course of doing her hair,” comments Pixar simulation supervisor Claudia Chung, “one thing we noticed was that the idea of weight of curly hair defies logic. If you took a curly hair and weighted it and then one took straight hair and weighted it, with the same weight in mass, the way each would react to gravity is quite different.” Merida’s hair wanted to unwind due to the weight of her own hair, so the team tried lighting the mass, but then the hair became floaty “almost like underwater hair. It is not that the mass changes, it is almost as if gravity itself changes.” So the team ended up using a gravity coefficient closer to that of the moon than earth.

Above: watch interviews with some of Brave’s artists at Pixar, thanks to our media partners at The Daily.

In reality, curly hair has a support structure where curls themselves support other curls. Hair needs to not only interact with other hairs, it needs to respond to cloth/cloths of the character – such as hood, wind, water/rain, the face and head of the characters and them in some scenes other hair, such as when the hair of Angus (Merida’s horse) flicks Merida’s hair.

Progression: Merida’s guide hairs and curls.

To add further to the complexity of Brave’s special physics, Merida’s hair, and that of characters such as Angus, had to look natural even when the characters moved in accelerated, unrealistic ways. Many characters had vastly exaggerated movements for comic and creative effect, yet the simulations would look completely unrealistic if they inherited this movement fully. Thus the team had to dampen the physics between the on-screen movement and the simulation.


Download Video

Watch this turntable showing the sims layers of Merida’s hair including her final wet hair.

 Hair Dressing

Why is hair actually curly?

Hair curls due to the way it is grown. Curly hair is almost like a ribbon, while straight hair is more tubular.

The amount of curl is dependent upon the number of disulfide bonds between hair proteins found in the hair shaft. The greater the number of links, the curlier the hair.

Hair is primarily composed of keratin, a protein, which grows from the follicle. Cells in the hair follicle generate keratin, and various other proteins. These proteins contain sulfur atoms, and when two of these sulfur atoms pair up and bond one gets a disulfide bond. If the two sulfur atoms in the same protein are at a distance when they join (to form the disulfide bond), the protein will bend.

Water and heat affect hair by affecting those disulfide bonds.

To style Merida’s hair, which had both a range of curl sizes and densities, a groom is created as with any hair simulation. “What the artist figured out is that she couldn’t keep up with the art direction,” says Chung. “Lena Petrovic worked almost side by side with the art director, but she couldn’t keep up so she thought she needed a faster way to curl curves, and she thought about it and she realized, ‘How do I do this at home? I use a curling iron!’ So she implemented a curling iron in the computer and the funny thing is that the implementation of it is really pretty simple, almost trivial. You feed it a diameter and the length and then the computer generates the curl, and then once she has that curl she can tweak the curl to give it more character, so it speaks to the character of Merida.”

One of the problems of curly hair is its volume. The team could not ‘groom’ the hair the way it is seen in the film, so the solution was to groom in an “exploded way, as if Merida had her finger in a light socket,” notes Chung. “That way each curl is standing on its own.” And then artists would apply the simulator on that.

In reality Pixar hit its objective of producing a workflow that would get very close ‘right out of the box’, in fact about 20% of the shots in the film were exactly that, which means “what we got out of the simulator was Merida’s hair as you see it, and many of the shots all we were doing was fixing errant hairs (fly aways) and things that were simple, and not having to touch the dynamics at all,” explains Chung.

Pixar is about about to release RPS 17, but on this film the team at Pixar used RPS 16 for rendering. There was a “new shading element that gave it more depth and complexity,” says Chung, but the hair was rendered using Deep shadows. An approach pioneered over ten years ago, Deep shadows (Lokovic, Veach) was very important as it provided self shadowing in hair which is vital to realism and even today without deep shadows, the actual shadows of hair appear harsh and unrealistic on secondary objects. Deep shadow maps also allow for accurate motion blurred shadows from fast moving hair curls.

Detailed close up. Click to see a larger version.

While an individual hair can be rendered easily and its properties are easy to accurately render, the composite effects of hair volumes can be extremely complicated, as the optical properties are influenced by millions of micro-scale shadows, and much of the illumination of hair comes from neighboring hair’s light scattering and bounce.

Danielle Feinberg was doing a lighting test in pre-production and a test render failed of the Scottish landscape. The shot had fog rendered but the primary lights were not on for some reason. The result was a dramatic shot with shafts of fog around silhouetted hills and trees. This ‘happy accident’ so appealed to the Pixar veteran that it informed her whole approach to film.  It became the basis of the forest lighting, and the “mysterious – ‘I don’t know what’s out there in this magical forest‘-  feeling,” she says.

Danielle Feinberg was the director of photography for lighting on Brave. For the last 13 years, she has delighted in bending the rules of light to her every whim. She joined the film three and a half years ago.

Feinberg really likes soft lighting and Merida’s hair really responded and looked “really lovely with soft lighting,” as she explained to our media partner The Daily when they visited Pixar.

“I am still amazed by her hair – just by the fact we could even pull off her hair. We got this really wonderful thing  from our simulation and character department,” Feinberg recalls as she describes lighting the characters “luscious red hair. We played with it and added some sub surface scattering to make the light bounce around and simulate that and then we add just a touch of blue to just the highest bits just to get a bit of fuzzy edges to just soften it out just a little – without going so far as it feels like too other worldly, or over the top. There was a little trial and error but they (simulation) gave us such a wonderful model that it was surprisingly easy to light – it’s been pretty amazing.”

By the time Merida was being animated, “there were over 4000 controls on her,” says animator and animation tool lead Bret Parker. Parker came on very early in the production of Brave, while the characters were still being rigged. “To get her to smile is about 30 controls,” which is fairly standard for an animated character at Pixar’s level, but what animators like Parker had to deal with was also the animation of Merida’s hair, when it is also standard in many productions to not have any hair on a figure at the animation stage and only have a stand in fixed ‘wig’ that indicates the physical volume that the hair would occupy on screen.

Side view of Merida’s hair model.

Early on both the animation team and the simulation team realized that the animators would need some idea of what Merida’s hair would be doing, and also to allow them to add things like her hand flicking her hair or tossing her head – in other words to pose and influence the simulation.

To give the animators something workable that would not slow them down, a cutdown much faster real time simulation was added for the animators for the first time in a Pixar production. This down and dirty quick simulation would indicate roughly what would happen when the final hair was fully simulated and added, but also allowed enough interactivity of the process to not slow down. A normal scene perhaps lasting just a few seconds would normally take a week to animate. “The final animation …I had 4 shots in one sequence, each took a week, so that’s a whopping 10 seconds of animation in a month,” laughs Parker as she discusses her animation process

The quick simulation model system worked extremely well allowing for great posing and animation timing that allowed for the screen time and blocking Merida’s wild hair required. “We knew right off the bat that this was going to be a huge issue especially coming off The Incredibles and Violet’s character,” points out Chung. “The animators needed to see her hair and they needed to see her dress as well, because if you are moving with a dress you move very differently as well. So we created new technology that allowed animation to run sims. We deployed a decimated version of both her hair and her dress, and for the queen as well.”

The animators then had the choice to run the decimated simulation animation which would play at 24 fps or they could pose say the hair with a hair rig, such that these poses would feed into the simulation “like a guide really,” says Chung, “in a very soft way. So when they went into a shot they would have stand-in hair that would give them volume, and then as they went into polishing they would run fast sims for more complex situations where Merida was interacting with her hair. The animation and simulation departments were lock step – we would deploy our artists exactly when animation did – so we sort of had a buddy system.”

Other simulations: horse hair

Perhaps even more complex is the hair simulation needed for Angus, Merida’s trusty horse. Like many of the secondary characters in the film, Angus required a range of different hairs – from his mane, whiskers, fetlocks and to his tail. Angus has some of the most complex hair, with 8 layers ad 111,000 hand placed curves in RenderMan expanding to 1.8 million final curves.

Final shot

Blow up on Angus (click for larger version)

Other simulations: bear fur

By comparison, the bear fur was simpler but it is not as short as it appears, given the size of the character, the hairs under the bear’s arms for example are about one foot long and are defined by about 20 points defining the groom.

There is a key scene in the film where Merida is teaching her mother, now transformed into a bear, to fish. From a simulation point of view this could easily have been one of the most complex scenes. The water simulation needed to react with the cloth simulation, making it wet and with the hair, which is also wet and interacting and affecting both the water sim and the cloth sim.

Hair to hair interactions include friction, static charge which can cause hairs to merge, clump and group. This is magnified several times over if the hair is wet.

Merida encounters a number of bears in the film.

In the fishing sequence the mother bear is in the water splashing and the hair/fur is wet, causing matting or clumping. Merida also falls in the water leading to both characters being wet, interacting with water, cloth and hair sims. Says Chung: “The pairing of the water surface and the hair that had to move, and the back and forward – careful process between the effects artists and the simulation artists, because the movement of the fur had to be driven by the water.”

The groom and shading on the bear itself was done before the shot starts, so only the body is ‘wet’ and the top of the bear is assumed to not be really wet, which meant Pixar did not need to dynamically change much during the shot. The sheen and shine are added to the body to indicate the wetness. The effects TD started by setting up the water surface and they drove the direction of the water, “and then they hand off that to the simulation artist who does both the cloth (Merida) and hair and then he – from that – can judge how to simulate those models.

There are a couple of shots in that sequence he also hand crafted clumps of the fur in order for the water to run off the collected fur clumps,” adds Chung, talking about Stephen Gustafson, “one artist took on the whole sequence – it is big achievement for him, I think – he is amazing – Mark Andrews – (the film’s co-director) gave everyone nicknames and Stephen had the nick name of Sim Samurai – ’cause he was so good – and quiet!”

Meanwhile, Merida’s hair was animated to have higher gravity, increased mass and more drag when wet. “The way wet hair moves,” says Chung, “when it is wet it sort of clings – so we had to get that as well.”

Wet dresses

Dress pattern

Merida’s dress also needed heavy simulation, not only in normal scenes but also in the complex water scene where the dress must be simulated being wet and dry. The dress was built from a digital pattern. Pixar is famous for actually having artists doing digital tailoring who have previous skills and experience in traditional costume, wardrobe, design and dress making. While some of the problems faced in realistic cloth and clothing are related to finding the appropriate level of mesh complexity, or improving the underlying dynamics of cloth or even the excessive intersections and collision problems cloth inherently needs to master, great dress making skills are also needed. Cloth texture selection and pattern cutting is just as important especially for a Princess.

Dress sim

Reference and design

But even the finest cloths get to be dunked in a river in a comedy, and having made Merida’s dress work in air, the team also had to make it work underwater for a brief shot. “For the cloth itself Stephen figured out the parameters for Merida’s dress when it is under the water surface when you have that buffeting,” outlines Chung, “which is very important, and then once she picked up her dress, he figured out how to make it seem heavy and wet.” This was enhanced by environmental shading adjustments, when Merida was near the water surface; “anything around this water surface is now shaded with a wet shader – so there is technology there too.”


Download Video

Watch this turntable video of Merida’s complete wardrobe simulations and Fergus’ different cloth & hair simulations.

Don’t even try this with live action

The team tries to research hood reveals

One of the more difficult shots in live action with a beauty shot of a lead actress is removing a hat, helmet or, in the case of a Scottish Princess, a hood. Normally in live action this is such a problem to achieve without an actress looking bad that it is simply avoided, or it is hidden with a cut or edit, with the action cutting back just after the reveal. And of course on the set the helmet, hat or hood never actually touches the actress’ hair.

But not for Brave.

In one of the hero moments of the film, Merida is revealed from under a hood during an archery contest, and not only is this a close up, but it is done deliberately and very dramatically, requiring a perfect end hero pose of the film’s heroine. And it was required as an early shot for the trailer.

For this shot the simulation team had no choice but to spend a lot of time and hand tweak the simulation extensively. The pipeline was still in its early days and the shot is inherently a difficult one. Simulation does exactly that and simulates what would happen – and in real life that is a mess of hair.


Download Video

Watch the archery scene, including the hood reveal.

The trailer scene is a defining moment where Merida has to be seen “with her hair in full glory and trying to do that was a tricky feat,” jokes Chung. “We had controls that would guide the simulation, and we can blend between sims. All of our models in a simulation all know what their at rest default pose is, and so you can define a simulation to be more attracted to that pose, but you have to do it with a slight hand – if you are not careful. In fact, it can look very stiff, but if you look at that scene, her hair remains looking soft.”

To hear more about the simulation work in Brave, listen to this week’s fxpodcast with Pixar’s Claudia Chung.

All images and clips copyright © 2012, Disney/Pixar.

Re blog from: http://www.fxguide.com/featured/brave-new-hair/

3D animation, art, Cartoon - animation films

Pixar – Disney | Brave

New Concept Art From Pixar’s ‘Brave’

Posted by Bryon Caldwell
– SB: K! K! M chỉ t 1 câu tiếng Việt đi! Câu  nào cũng được nhưng hok phải mấy câu xả giao, câu nào đời thường hay xài á! T cũng mún học!!!!!!
– K: gì bất tử zị, trễ phim 10p ràu tràu au!!! Trời ơi, câu gì??? Ai biết trời ơi
Run run run
– BB: trời ơi lẹ đi bây!!!! hướng này!!! tụi m đi đâu vậy!!!!!
Run run run
– SB: K!!! chỉ t 1 câu thôi!!!!! 
– K: câu gì? trời ơi!! mún câu gì!!!!!
– SB: vậy LET GO tiếng Việt nói sao??? Lẹ lên K, lẹ lẹ!!!!!!
– K [trời ơi, let go, ông nội ơi TV kỉu gì giờ trời, ĐI hả trời!!!!] ờ, “Đi”
– SB:Vậy túm lại  let go TV nói xao K!!!!!!!
– K: ờ, ĐI THÔI!
– SB: Đi Hoi
– BB: Đi Goi
– K: ko phải, ko đúng, ĐI THÔI! chữ “th” phát âm như m đọc chữ “d” trong tiếng anh á!
– SB: ĐI HOI!!!!
– BB: ĐI GOI! Yeah! ĐI GOI!!!
-K: TT^TT, tụi bây đừng có nói nữa, sai hết ời chời quơi!!!! [phổ cập TV  thất bại tẹp 1]
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Anyway, good work and good movie, guys! Nice to have 3 of you guys here ^_^.