23D Films Produces, Eden FX Provides VFX for Community Stop-Motion Special

In late July of 2010, Joseph A. Russo II, James Fino, Dino Stamatopoulos and Dan Harmon, sat around on a lazy afternoon contemplating on how we could join forces on future projects.

Dan mentioned that he received a call from an NBC executive who said he had a dream about a special Christmas episode of Community. He asked Dan what he had in mind.

Community Christmas Special

Press Release from 23d Films

In late July of 2010, Joseph A. Russo II, James Fino, Dino Stamatopoulos and Dan Harmon, sat around on a lazy afternoon contemplating on how we could join forces on future projects.

Dan mentioned that he received a call from an NBC executive who said he had a dream about a special Christmas episode of Community.  He asked Dan what he had in mind.

The group of four immediately agreed that a stop-motion animated Christmas special, not unlike the ones they grew up with, would be an amazing opportunity.

Dan pitched this idea to his team and was asked if this type of show was possible to produce and deliver by the first week in December.  The answer was a hearty, “yes we can!” and they were off to the races.

Dino Stamatopoulos, creator of Morel Orel and Mary Shelly's Frankenhole, who coincidentally plays the character Starburns on Community, was tapped to write this episode in part because of his extensive knowledge of stop-motion animation.Duke Johnson, who was nominated earlier this week for an Annie Award as best director for an animated series for his work on Mary Shelly's Frankenhole, was called in to direct and due to the very short window of production available to us.

Hend Baghdady was brought in as the producer for her effective style of managing productions.

19 sets, 66 puppets, 10 stages, and upwards of 70 artists took over a16,000 sq. ft. castle shaped building to produce 22 minutes of stop-motion animation in 16 weeks.

For a full credit listing of the entire animation team that made this happen, please visit 23dfilms.com.

Press Release from Eden FX

Santa Monica, CA, Dec. 10, 2010 -- Eden FX designed and produced 85 VFX shots for the December 9th episode of NBC’s sitcom “Community,” which featured a tribute to classic holiday-themed stop-motion animation. Jake Aust, a “Community” producer, and Eden FX’s primary production contact on the show, specifically requested the aid of Eden FX, with only one week prior to airtime by which to deliver the assignment. The episode, entitled “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” was produced by Hend Baghdaddy and directed by Duke Johnson.

In “Community’s” homage to classic Rankin-Bass specials such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman,” the character of Abed (played by Danny Pudi) wakes up in a “stop-motion animation” world, seeing it as a sign that he and the group must rediscover the meaning of Christmas. The stop-motion animation was created by award-winning animator Kelli Bixler, puppet fabricator Justin Hilden, and production teams at Burbank-based Bix Pix and Starburns Industries.

Says Steve Pugh, Eden FX Visual Effects Supervisor, “For this special episode, we received raw Canon camera files of the stop motion puppets ‘doing -their thing,’ often against green-screens. I had never previously thought of stop motion as being VFX-heavy work, but it makes sense to shoot the puppets against green-screens, if your background has not yet been approved. That's what happened with this project.”

Pugh adds, “We got to create some really wild and crazy stuff! For example, an entire scene takes place on the roof of a train. Starburns Industries shot animated elements including the puppets and roof, the track, a cliff face on a turntable, and a distant sky image. We then composited those elements together, later adding in a digital blizzard. Another fun scene takes place in Santa's Castle, and the view outside the door was green-screen, until we put a night sky back there. We also added digital elements of candy ‘ammunition’ pelting people during a shootout.”

Eden FX has been providing VFX to “Community” since the show’s first episode. “It's one of our favorite projects to work on,” Pugh notes, “Precisely because of episodes like this one. The creators are always pushing the envelope of things that you're not supposed to be able to accomplish within just a half hour.”

ABOUT EDEN FX:Formed in 2000, Eden FX is an award winning studio specializing in 3D animation, virtual environments, compositing, matte painting, character animation, and on-set supervision for film and television. Eden FX, a Point .360 company, has recently relocated, and its new address is 12421 West Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90064. The phone is 310/481-7002. Please visit www.edenfx.com for more information.

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