Hotel Transylvania Gets a 2D Transfusion
"A lot of these tools are already in Maya but we have our own versions at Sony that are more pipeline-friendly. There are also tools where you can grab clusters of points on a character and move them around apart from the rig. For instance, the nose maybe isn't quite as pointy as you'd like. You could deform individual clusters and sculpt them into the shape you wanted it to be."
SPA's rendering system, lighting system and cloth simulation are built to mimic reality. That's the benchmark of the tool working or not. In this case, Tartakovsky's twisted poses and snappy movements disrupted the cloth. "We had to sculpt every single simulation to make it work with the animation style," Kramer continues. "Without adjustment the cloth would flap around uncontrollably behind Drac as he did some really quick move and stopped for a hold pose. It breaks the whole animation style where the character completely freezes, which happens quite a lot in the movie. We had to give a lot of control to the cloth guys to figure this out. They dampened the cloth and blended it back to plausible situations whenever possible. By giving the cloth artists a basic silhouette, this provided a target to hit. He would have them sculpt a shape for what the shoulders should look like within that cape and how that informs the silhouette. Initially, they would just deform the cape without thinking about the underlying structure. When that goes into simulation, the whole cape suddenly collapses. So that was a learning process for animation; they learned how to do a non-anatomical deforming of the shoulders. Sometimes for the shoulders we might bind completely to the animation and then let simulation take over as you moved down the cape."
A motif of Hotel Transylvania was the energy that comes with the caricaturing of the characters. The design drove everything. Now SPA will have a chance to systematize some of that for Tartakovsky when they do Popeye and a more personal project he's also planning to direct.
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld, the owner of Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), a contributor to Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of 007 on screen, featuring interviews with all six actors.