Framestore Makes Big Bang with Nanny McPhee 2 VFX
Press Release from Framestore
*Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang*, which opens in the UK on March 26th 2010, is the sequel to the hugely successful (over $120m internationally) 2005 family hit, Nanny McPhee. As with the first film, Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay and also stars as the eponymous child minder. The film also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans and Maggie Smith. Directed by Susanna White, *Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang* was produced by Tim Bevan, Lindsay Doran and Eric Fellner for Working Title Films. The production also returned to Framestore, who became the sole provider for the visual effects that bring Nanny's magic to dazzling life.
*Nanny McPhee*'s first appearance was in Victorian England. *Big Bang*, however, jumps forward to the Second World War. Mrs. Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a harried young mother who is trying to run the family farm while her husband is away at war. Mrs. Green's boisterous children have been joined by their spoiled city cousins, making for a highly combustible mixture, and matters are further complicated by the machinations of slippery Uncle Phil (Rhys Ifans). Luckily, Nanny McPhee arrives on the scene, once more teaching both children and adults five important lessons.
*Framestore*'s contribution to the film totaled some 350 shots, of which 250 were CG-based. Key work included a number of CG creature sequences, as well as the film's spectacular climax involving a whirlwind of barley forming pictures in the sky. In addition, there were environment shots, set extensions, period vehicle CG recreations, and numerous one-off VFX elements. Preliminary work began on the project early last year, with shooting taking place on location in Surrey and at Shepperton between May and September 2009.
*Framestore*'s creature work has become a byword for excellence in the industry over the last decade, and whilst the CG animals in *Big Bang* - piglets, a baby elephant and a jackdaw - are less obviously remarkable than, say, a Hippogriff or a giant armoured polar bear, they required no less meticulous care than their predecessors. Indeed, several factors made this a particularly tricky brief. "They intended to shoot with real animals whose look and behaviour we'd have to match perfectly," recalls VFX Supervisor Christian Manz. "When we first discussed approaches to the animals with Susanna White and her producers, they were adamant that the animals be photo-realistic, even after they came under the influence of Nanny McPhee's magic. These are emphatically not fantasy or cartoon animals, or even performing animals, but simply ordinary creatures who find themselves suddenly able to do extraordinary things." Given that these include such antics as a pig climbing a tree and subsequently being joined by several of his sty-mates for a spot of in-pond synchronized swimming à la Esther Williams, a little trepidation on the team's behalf is understandable. So in early 2009 *Framestore*'s Director of Animation, Michael Eames, worked closely with White on some proof-of-concept animations. "The production team was blown away by what the animators came up with," says Manz, "This work, as well as cementing the relationship, helped the storyboarding process too."
Further complicating the swimming pigs sequence was the fact that the animation had to be locked down and approved at a relatively early stage, because the essential complementary water interaction and water effects would be tailor-made to fit it, and there would be no time for further tweaking. The pond's pure CG water surface was created in Houdini, utilizing both 3d and 2d simulation, enhanced with filmed elements shot specifically by Manz at Shepperton.