Remaking Joe Dante's Piranha as a 3-D horror comedy was a natural: As VFX Supervisor Derek Wentworth proclaims: "It's 3-D gore, boobs, asses, blood and fish!"
Neville Page designed a semi prehistoric-looking piranha and Flat Earth animated the hero fish. Images courtesy of Dimension Films.
Indeed, Wentworth adds that in making Piranha 3D, they had to navigate rough MPAA waters in steering clear of an NC-17 rating, especially with regard to a notorious penis shot, along with fixing and augmenting nudity.
In fact, Wentworth suggests that director Alexandre Aja (the upcoming Space Adventure Cobra and The Hills Have Eyes remake) always had something in mind along the lines of a horror version of Porky's.
"Alex had this idea of creating a cool 3-D horror film and thought it was something that hadn't been done before in a medium that's just starting to come into its own, so I was pretty excited about it and jumped on board," Wentworth explains. "It's the middle of spring break and an earthquake releases all these prehistoric piranha and they go on a feeding frenzy."
And there were plenty of challenges, beginning with design of the deadly fish: "The design was the brainchild of both Alex and Neville Page, who was our creature designer," adds Wentworth. "They went back and forth a lot and then, obviously, Bob Weinstein had very specific ideas about what he liked and didn't like. Neville had various kinds of tails and mouth structures and fin structures and dorsal fins. Some of them screamed prehistoric and other are a little more what we would expect the shape of a piranha to be. It ended up going more toward the prehistoric extreme. Our design was from the nose to the middle of the body an old piranha and then from the middle of the body to the tail it was a prehistoric, eel-like shape. Most piranhas are very sporadic in their movement and we knew right away that the footage we had looked at was useful for schooling behavior but not for swimming behavior because ours was three times longer than it should be. So that took some animation noodling."
Stereoscopic 3-D was part conversion by inner-D and as vfx for big negative parallax moments.
That noodling went back and forth between several vendors early on (including Intelligent Creatures), before a change of direction necessitated the creation of an in-house vfx unit through the Weinstein Co. called Flat Earth, under the animation supervision of Don Waller. In all, there were around 325 shots in the final film, with most of the CG concentration on the fish and rock formations and the aforementioned nudity and gore.