Chronicling Narnia's Third Adventure
In The Dawn Treader, the third film adaptation of C.S. Lewis' famed Chronicles of Narnia saga, Edmund (Skander Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) travel back to Narnia with their pill of a cousin, Eustace (Will Poulter). They set sail on the Dawn Treader with King Caspian (Ben Barnes) in search of the seven lost lords. With Disney bowing out, Walden Media has partnered with Fox, and Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough, the continuing Up docs, Gorillas in the Mist) replaces Andrew Adamson as director. Given Apted's dramatic sensibilities, he sought even greater believability for VFX under the overall supervision of Angus Bickerton. MPC, Framestore and Cinesite return and are joined by The Senate and The Mill.
MPC, the primary vendor, created 700 shots, including the Dawn Treader ship, the return of the heroic mouse, Reepicheep, the dragon version of Eustace and the giant sea serpent.
"They wanted to make it seem like a voyage at sea without filming at sea," remarks Adam Valdez, MPC's visual effects supervisor. "We threw everything in the kitchen sink with this one because we had to do talking characters, creature work, CG water, fire, volumetric smoke-based effects. There was quite a lot of design process throughout, including the look and mood of certain scenes. It should also be noted that the plate photography of John Mahaffie, the second unit director, was instrumental in bringing it all together. For the Dawn Treader, there were two separate shoots with set builds that utilized plate photography; these were tracked into the environment to give a sense of movement, sometimes augmented by CG skies for continuity or changing time of day.
"One of the things we're proudest of is the acting between Reepicheep and Eustace. They gave Reepicheep some really good scenes and it was nice to see them embrace the CG character so he comes off as one of the cast. And they developed a friendship that arcs nicely when Eustace becomes a dragon. We did make a few improvements to Reepicheep: in particular, we moved the eyes forward a bit to make it easier for close-ups and medium close-ups, being wary of not turning him into a cartoon mouse and changing the design too much. We also rearticulated his face to give better control of mouth shapes and eye shapes. He also got more of a pot belly and there were some changes to his hair grooming because Michael Apted wanted a slightly more mature feel to him."