Closing the Circle with Toy Story 3
Quaroni tells a funny story about the new and old Buzz. While comparing models in an early review, John Lasseter pointed out that the new Buzz was wrong-- he was smaller. However, Quaroni insisted they were the same. Turns out that the data was not stored properly, so, during the conversion, there was a tiny scale adjustment of 0.5%.
"It was interesting how vivid in memory those characters are to John," Quaroni adds. "We did certain things better. Some decisions may have not been technically correct back then but somehow made sense. We changed a few things in the characters. If you look at Bullseye's legs in Toy Story 2, they're pretty square. But now they're more rounded because John said he never liked the square ones. We told him it was too complicated to fix back then but [he gave his blessing to fix it]."
The biggest noticeable improvement on Toy Story 3 is subsurface scattering, which began on Ratatouille. "Plastic, until now, never had subsurface," the supervising TD continues. "But, actually, soft plastic, like the vinyl on Woody and Buzz's faces, will have some sub scattering because they're not super hard. Light can travel inside and go out -- it's not like a total reflective surface. So we had a little bit of that and you see more softness on their new skin. With backlighting and subsurface, we have this ability to pretend that this surface doesn't stop right at the most outer shell. You get a sense of depth."
But Lotso, the pink, plush bear and leader of the toys at Sunnyside daycare, was definitely the most challenging new character. A few years ago, without global illumination, Lotso would've been unthinkable. (He actually predates Toy Story when the project was first proposed as a Christmas special starring Tinny from Tin Toy.)
"Hair [or fur] was another one of those incremental improvements to be able to handle the challenge of Lotso," Quaroni offers. "We wanted to be able to put out a lot more hairs with thinner and fuzzy and interesting properties. In the end, it didn't matter how much hair Lotso has: it was more about increasing the performance and making the toolset easier for the person using it to be able to see the individual pieces.
"When you look at Andy, there are 30 different patches of hair that are managed separately and then assembled together. But the more you have, the more complicated it gets. Sometimes people stop adding more because it gets unmanageable. So we tried to improve the management of all the layers to do more layers and add more detail.
"Shading and lighting for hair were improved as well. When you put Lotso in a scene, he comes in with 16 lights shining on his hair to give it the proper sense of depth and richness. Then there is a global control that changes how the lights behave based on the environment. They are meant to give you a natural look to his plush hair, with all the shadowing. The most time was spent with Lotso."