Cultivating Gnomeo & Juliet
"I'd say that we tried to keep in mind that certain characters would be limited in their movements, but at the same time we never let anything get in the way of a strong pose or a strong attitude or a strong facial expression. Now Featherstone, the plastic pink flamingo, was definitely a challenge because of how he's built: he has a seam right down the middle of his neck, so we tried to get the best pose and make sure the seam was not twisting too much. But because Featherstone and the frog, Nanette, were not made of ceramic, we could stretch them more in an exaggerated way."
Michael Chaffe, one of Starz's supervising animators, adds, "Sometimes you can get funny stuff with limitations. You'd have to find ways of bending from the waist and act something out. You couldn't get a strong pose so that's where the facial gestures come in: "The Bennie and the Jets" sequence where Benny orders the lawnmower [on steroids] is a prime example."
According to Chaleur, "We had to figure out a way to relax the geometry so we could keep the detail. It was like a kind of post process after the animation was done. If the animation created some distortion, then we could take care of that by having this post process. Another challenge for the characters is that they were supposed to be a single object, but then we have those eyes, which are texture projected. They are not real geometry.
"Because of so much foliage, we optimized our work through mental ray and we traced everything. So we split our ceramic in different ways. We had the highlight, the retracing/reflection and the environment reflections. They were split so animation and lighting could create an environment reflection map that matched the actual light of the set. And that map would be automatically rigged by our shader."