Making Curriculum Pop

Are you ready for the adaptation of of Maurice Sendak's beloved Where the Wild Things Are? Dave Eggers was a co-writer of the script. Looks pretty cool.

This month Wired did a small feature about how Muppetry and high tech f/x are used in the new film. I added the trailer to the bottom for those who haven't seen it yet. Enjoy!

Spike Jones Melds F/X and Muppetry for Wild Things
By Adam Rogers 09.21.09

Building a lifelike monster is hard enough. But director Spike Jonze needed 14 of them, each with its own unique look and personality, for his film version of Maurice Sendak's beloved Where the Wild Things Are."When I read the book as a kid, I wanted to hug them, and I was scared of them at the same time," Jonze says. To create fearsome physicality with approachable cuddliness, Jonze turned to the Muppet-masters at the Jim Henson Creature Shop, then used CG to make the beasts talk and emote. Sound complicated? That's probably why the movie took half a decade to make. Here's a look at the mechanics.

Heads: The heads were heavy and all-encompassing—performers could see, barely, through the creatures' mouths. To make up for the lack of visibility, a small wireless video monitor mounted just above the performer's eye level showed the view from Jonze's camera. Head-mounted speakers played back the scripted dialogue.

Bodies: Some characters (like the horned Carol) had arms that were short enough for the puppet fingers to be
slaved to simple tube controllers wrapped around the actor's hands. Longer-armed monsters had mechanical hands made of a lightweight polymer called Plastazote, covered with carbon fiber for strength. Performers wore a backpack that supported a sort of rib cage and pelvis, over which hung a Lycra and foam "muscle suit" and a flexible fur skin made of custom four-way stretch fabric. "The suits had to be very lightweight, so as not to inhibit the characters, but they also had to look real," says Peter Brooke, creative supervisor at the Creature Shop. That said, the Carol suit is 9 feet tall and weighs about 60 pounds.

Faces: "Initially I was thinking we would do animatronics in the faces," Jonze says. "But then David Fincher," who directed the facial-f/x-heavy Curious Case of Benjamin Button, "told me that was the stupidest thing we could ever do—go hours into the wilderness with a bunch of suits and all these servo motors and remote controls. We were working out of his office in Hollywood and he would leave notes on our door with a little drawing of a wild thing and an arrow that said 'suit' and another arrow pointing at the face that said 'CG.'" Heeding Fincher's advice, animators created CG models of the creatures' faces in postproduction and tracked them over what Jonze had shot on location. Using videos of the voice actors and of Jonze himself performing every scene, the animators added expressions. One tricky part was calibrating nonhuman mouth movements: Carol has a Kermit the Frog-like line that all but bisects his face; large movements would look cartoony and small movements would be too Muppety. (Turns out there is a such a thing!)

Original article here.

Trailer for the film:

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