A Beastly Mirror Mirror
"The other thing was Tarsem liked the snake body and the chimera aspect of the original design," Groebe says. "But there were other people in the production who were confused about the direction. So we did a lot of key art to take cues from the set and the environment to put everybody at ease that this was going to look cool and move through the trees dynamically. Animation wise there were a lot of interesting aspects to this creature. Even before they started shooting, we figured out things like how fast he moves through the trees. We did tests and helped with previs. We made him more snake-like with his coils as he moved through the woods so there's a lot of side to side movement along the base of his tail. We looked at a lot of cobra reference for that because his whole upper body functions like that while he's slithering."
The beast also uses hands and arms to propel himself through the trees. Tippett did animations where the beast grabbed at the ground or at trees and the director liked the idea of the beast tearing through the landscape to get to Snow White and the prince. "But sometimes we went overboard and had a big, snarly beast in front of the camera," Groebe admits. But with the same animation, we could show less teeth and it's not as scary but still works for the story we were telling.
"I would create face shapes and poses for the wings and hands to help speed up the process for our animators. This enabled them to hit a button quickly to do a clawed hand or a fist or a flat palm as he's pushing off the ground without having to animate each finger individually. The other thing I liked was that our comp and effects department created this cool trails in the snow that are behind the beast. It really looks like he's moving through the snow. The whole thing was shot with hard-packed salt."
"For us, the tone of the creature being received by a young audience was the overriding concern," Jacobs concludes.
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld. He's the owner of the Immersed in Movies blog (www.billdesowitz.com), a regular contributor to Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and author of the forthcoming James Bond Unmasked (Spies), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of 007 on screen and features interviews with all six actors.