SimEx Digital Studios has recently completed a specialty venue project for LEGOland, an all-CG animated short based on the newly released LEGO Racers toy line. LEGO RACERS 4D is a high-definition 3D stereoscopic 13-minute short with in-theater special effects featuring Max, a driver for Team Nitro, and Max's nemesis Sever, driver for the Exo-Force Team. Together with six other drivers, Max and Sever bang fenders within a 20 mile-diameter racing stadium called The Drome, which provides Max and the other racers with an endless array of obstacles and landscapes. In addition to its specialty venue media work, SimEx Digital Studios has produced a variety of commercial work based on branded character products. The studio is the home of Tony the Tiger, Froot Loop's Toucan Sam, the Cocoa Puffs' character Sonny, and in a recent campaign of commercials for the Walt Disney Company, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Winnie the Pooh. In 2000, the studio produced the opening two-minute sequence to THE TIGGER MOVIE for Walt Disney Features. This branded character experience served the team well when it was asked to develop the project beyond the basic story line provided. LEGO RACERS 4D is based on original characters and concepts originally generated by the LEGO company in Denmark. The project's story treatment was written by co-director Adam Bezark, a veteran creative director (TERMINATOR II 3D) working in the theme park industry. Yamashita and Bezark then reworked this treatment into a 13-minute 3D experience complete with 4D in-theater moments including water spray, smoke effects, wall projections and confetti for the end sequence. "Our assignment was to develop a show around a product line of toy cars. But hard-sell advertising was not part of the mandate," explained Allen Yamashita, creative director of SimEx and co-director of the project with Adam Bezark. "The client accepted the fact that in a film-based story, cars aren't very interesting in themselves, but characters are. By allowing us to develop the experience around characters not products, we made a show that the audience invests in and relates to. Rather than feeling sold to, they are entertained. The advertising downturn of late has made a lot of people think about generating creative methods to deliver effective branding impressions. This is one." Another aspect helping to "sell" the story is that LEGO RACERS 4D has no dialogue. This allows the film to be accessible to audiences of all ages and from many countries and cultures. All vehicles, environments, sets and the characters were constructed digitally at SimEx in Santa Monica. The desert, mountains, ice caves and cities portrayed in the film were all constructed using Bryce and Maya. Vehicles were designed in conjunction with the LEGO product design department and built and animated in Maya. Special dynamic effects were created in Maya and Houdini and compositing was completed in Shake. Music and sound effects were composed and conducted by Eddie Jobson and produced by Maureen Thompson.