Getting Stitchpunked with 9
And, like Acker, Ksander has nothing but praise for the talented team at Starz, which was required to go beyond what they had achieved before. "There were a couple of creatures in the film: the Fabrication Machine and the Wind Beast, the big dragon creature. We thought we were being clever by not having skin and fur, but [the Machine] was just crazy with the kind of stuff that she had to do, and Starz pushed their pipeline and their people. One thing that really helped us is that everyone was excited after seeing the early animatic.
"The other characters were a lot more fun to create because they provided a lot more freedom. Look at #1, which is a lot more expressive. He's this leader, an elderly military gentleman, and we treated him like a Shakespearean actor. And one reason we did that, of course, is we cast Christopher Plummer. So even early on when we cast him, we did a redesign on the face to push more of his look into it. He even has this old man's palsy.
"Another favorite is #7 [voiced by Jennifer Connelly]. She's the warrior and has the bird helmet and is our martial artist, but I didn't want it to look like The Matrix or Crouching Tiger. So what we ended up doing was looking at a lot of reference for parkour. Plus I looked at a lot of professional tennis players and skateboarders to give her a down to earth physicality."
Ksander says he got the most pleasure from sitting down with the animation team and basically acting out an entire sequence for them, so everyone had an idea what each character was supposed to be doing. "And then I would work with the individual animators and would shoot a lot of reference for them and get them to do the acting. So the thing I'm probably most proud of is the acting and helping find who these characters really are."
While 9 (animated in Maya) didn't have the bleeding edge of technology as a requirement -- there's no skin, hair or subsurface scattering -- it did have lots of metal and plenty of cloth. "We saved it for big things like the wind beast, with wings made out of the red and black flag of the fascist regime," Ksander concludes, "so we saved our cloth simulation for that."
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.