Alvin and the Chipettes
The usual antics displayed in Alvin and the Chipmunks are nothing compared to what happens when the boys go to high school and the Chipettes are introduced as rock 'n' roll rivals in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Doug Smith, the visual effects supervisor, describes some of the challenges in Rhythm & Hues' largest production in 23 years, which has been shortlisted for a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination (with more than 75% of the movie's shots containing animated characters). Rounding out the team is Chris Bailey (overall animation director); Andrew Arnett (senior animation supervisor); Keith Roberts (co-animation supervisor); Todd Shifflett (co-visual effects supervisor); and Michael Conelly (digital effects supervisor).
Bill Desowitz: What are the challenges of tackling Alvin?
Doug Smith: The first Alvin set the look for the characters and their behavior and it was a very difficult process. And I don't think people realize how tricky it is to take established 2D characters and turn them into three-dimensional shapes and bring them to life and maintain the personalities and nuances because there's a thousand issues to think about. And we budget a lot of time to make them dimensional and it's never enough. When you start putting them into shots and interacting with each other, it just changes your perception of how their shapes and how they behave. You have to keep reworking the characters, and the first Alvin had tremendous production schedule issues because that process went way into what was supposed to be the production schedule. Luckily, they were very successful at figuring that stuff out.
On the second one, we have additional characters -- these Chipettes, which were established in the cartoon series in the '80s-- but they actually look like little people and ours are little chipmunks that kind of mirror the guys. So that was also a long process, and the girls, in fact, take the technical issues further.
BD: How so?
DS: They have hairdos with hair that flops around and it had to be groomed a certain way. And there are a lot of aesthetics that go into somebody deciding what a hairdo looks like. And then clothing all had to be designed for them, and the Chipmunks all had clothing changes. And they had loose, floppy clothes on top of fur that also take it to another technical level when you're dealing with photorealistic characters, and the number of shots we had to deal with and there was more dance choreography on this one.
BD: What about the fur?