We talked to John Harvey, Creative Director – Animation at ReDefine, about the ins and outs of the making of the forthcoming animated feature ‘100% Wolf’.
What is ‘100% Wolf’ about and what are the key themes of the movie?
‘100% Wolf’ centres around a werewolf, called Freddy Lupin, who turns into a pink poodle on his birthday. In this way, he defies the expectations of his family of werewolves. The movie then follows his journey and path to self-acceptance. The key themes of the movie are around the ideas of accepting yourself as you are and thriving on this.
How did the idea for the project come about?
We are co-producing ‘100% Wolf’ with a company called Flying Bark Productions. Most of the story and art direction were done by this partner but we did have a level of creative input. That mostly involved key animation during the character development phase.
What was the inspiration behind the character design? Did you do any specific research into the movie?
It was key for us to create characters with a cartoony design while retaining a high level of realism. We conducted a number of facial tests whereby we created exaggerated expressions. With the help of these tests, we could ensure that the muscle structure does not get broken and that we could make the wolves as lifelike as possible while keeping the cartoony feel intact.
It was also very interesting to study wolves and dogs from a behavioral point of view. Our artists watched a great number of videos that allowed them to observe all the minute details of how dogs sniff, how street dogs dominate the area they are in and even how they pee. There is a jokey sequence in the movie where the dogs pee in a jail cell.
Fur creation can be challenging. How did you go about creating fur for all the characters?
It is indeed a challenge and especially in this case as we had 51 characters that required fur. We used a proprietary DNEG tool called Furball to furnish all of these characters with fur. At the outset of the project, we found out that nobody had ever rendered a show with that many characters using the tool. This was an opportunity for us to revolutionize our workflow and we did work closely with the team developing Furball to optimize our characters. We did this by making the renders faster and more memory efficient, notably by using a LOD (Level of Detail) system which allowed us to generate fewer fur strands while making them thicker for characters that are away from the camera. This allowed us to use less memory while attaining this improved look.
Having Furball, the proprietary software you mention, must have been a great help in creating fur in this case?
Definitely! It was great to be able to optimise the tool as well. We perfected the software and workflow parts necessary to give control of the fur to the animators – as opposed to having it systematically follow a dynamic simulation, which is usually the case for VFX projects.
‘100% Wolf’ was a great opportunity for us at ReDefine to leverage the capabilities of the DNEG pipeline and toolset while at the same time putting its scalability to the test. At ReDefine, we are very happy to be able to utilise the technical capability of DNEG to ensure our projects have the best possible stylised look and feel.
“ReDefine really delivered for me and HBO on this project; starting fully remote before the pandemic started, then continuing to make deadlines we needed up through delivery. I appreciated Serkan’s patience with changes that came up, and would definitely work with ReDefine again on a similar project!”
“The visual effects for Brahmastra will pioneer new techniques and processes that have not previously been seen in movies for the mainstream Indian film market. Having worked with DNEG, and now ReDefine, I know that together we are creating amazing visuals that reflect a quality and calibre that audiences have come to expect from big budget Hollywood films.”
“COLLABORATIVE” is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about ReDefine. I’ve had the pleasure of working with ReDefine for a little over a year now, and throughout the production process, the work has been excellent and we have always been able to collaborate – finding creative solutions for all our production challenges. I am very excited to continue our working relationship and look forward to completing Rock Dog 2 with the ReDefine team in 2020.”