Vancouver's Mainframe Entertainment
(continued from page 2)

The crew at Mainframe look like a fun and lively bunch. © Mainframe Entertainment

The Artists
For Owen Hurley, this was an important "next step" in a computer animation career spanning 10 years. He began his career in Holland, working as a compositor and special effects supervisor on commercials and music videos. Owen came to work for Mainframe at the request of one of its founding members, Ian Pearson. Having directed various shows at Mainframe including Reboot, Weird Oh's and War Planets, Owen had the right stuff for this project. He was also tired of working on television commercials, which he left back in London: "You can sleep a lot more easily at night when you make a living by entertaining children rather than selling them toxic garbage," he quips. "It's a completely different form of directing. Directing commercials is compiling pretty pictures for 30 seconds as opposed to telling stories."

Another interesting thing for Hurley, was working with two talented storyboard artists, Eddie Fitzgerald and Rich Arons, whose "boards were almost like flipbooks." Rich Arons was a Warner Bros. director who worked on Freakazoid and Animaniacs. Eddy Fitzgerald is one of the stars of Spumco who worked on the early Ren & Stimpy shows with John Kricfalusi.

Designing the human beings was one of the most fun parts of the production for Hurley. The artists were given pretty much free reign to design them because the studio was breaking new ground: in all the previous Casper projects, the humans were either 2D or live-action. Mainframe avoided the temptation for photo-realistic humans and went for a real but stylized look. "I find it really unpleasant and creepy when (photo-realistic) 3D humans are animated," says Hurley. "At best, they end up looking like dead people. Stunt doubles and crowd scenes are a great use for realistic characters, but I just don't buy into this whole 'cyber-actor' thing. I wanted the show to stay cartoony."

Another shot of Mainframe artists, here, testing their gadgets. © Mainframe Entertainment.

Pushing the envelope is always Mainframe's objective and Casper's Haunted Christmas represents the transition to a new chapter for them: feature films. As mentioned, Gulliver's Travels is scheduled to be released on Imax screens later this year. In the pioneering spirit, which continues at Mainframe, this will be "an all CGI stereoscopic 3D motion picture in the 15/70 format using Mainframe's cutting-edge 3D computer animation technology." Mainframe will also reach back to their roots to reintroduce their 1994 "cyber-stars," Bob, Dot and Enzo of Reboot. These well-known characters will return to the small screen in two, two-hour made-for-TV movies next year. And considering that the studio has no plans to give up their successful leadership role in computer animated series work (they have recently announced a deal with Sony Pictures to produce up to 40 episodes of its new CG animated half-hour TV series Heavy Gear) the future looks great for one of the earliest pioneers of CGI.

Don Perro is a veteran animator and educator. He founded the Animation Department at Capilano College in North Vancouver and co-ordinates their two year, Commercial Animation Program. He is currently spending his summer vacation as an animation director for Studio B Productions in Vancouver, developing a new character-driven series for the Internet.


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