LONDON – Visual effects studio MPC  recently collaborated with Outsider and JWT to create Barry, a CG platypus for a new brand campaign aimed at targeting a younger audience for UK bank First Direct.
Extensive research was carried out into both animal behavior and physical attributes – from anatomical, skeletal and muscle structure, through to surface texture. MPC’s VFX team, led by Anthony Bloor and Chrys Aldred, developed a 3D model using software tool ZBrush. After a few tweaks to his weight and height, the team got to work animating him in CG.
“Creating a CG platypus with such a unique character was a fantastic challenge,” said Bloor. “Barry is a cheeky individual with very distinct movements. We have worked on many CG characters in the past and making sure that all movements are photo-realistic is our absolute focus and commitment.”
Once the CG model was built, the team created a skeleton and muscle rigging system to create realistic movements. Animating the platypus was a particular challenge because he behaves in ways never seen in real life – sitting at a bar, rifling through records and riding on a motorized scooter.
“Right from the outset it was important that we focused on his walk-cycle. It needed to be individual, to suit his character, but also realistic so the audience almost believe he is a real platypus,” explained lead animator Tim van Hussen. As the team created expressions within the limits of platypus’ features, the acting focus was on the body mechanics, head and hand movements.
To create the platypus’s fur, MPC’s relied on its in-house fur grooming system Furtility. The system was originally developed for MPC’s film pipeline and has been used in films including Narnia and X-Men: First Class. After being applied, Barry’s fur was combed in different directions. This lengthy process allows the fur to curl and curve, creating very complex patterns.