Saturday, April 17, 2010

Geek Fact no more

One of my odder talents is the retention of random movie facts and trivia. While mildly entertaining at parties (and "Scene It" games), this skill never offered any real-world application. That is until Animation Mentor decided to add a "Geek Corner" section to their monthly newsletter...

For over 3 years I wrote a monthly Geek Fact usually involving a movie or game released that month. Since I was already searching and internalizing this information (and spouting it off to my coworkers) the newsletter team asked me to write them down and after 3 years I have quite a collection. But, as with all publications, the newsletter recently went through a redesign to be more efficient (and lets face it, 2006 design trends look so old in 2010) and this most recent redesign no longer had a place for a Geek Fact.

So in remembrance of the facts de geek, here is my 3+ year collection of delicious movie-related morsels. And remember, most of these were written the month a movie/DVD was released, so some of the facts may seem outdated ("In this months release of TMNT") or the records may no longer be correct (both Transformers and then Transformers 2 topped the same records).

In no particular order:

Did you know that to gather reference for Pixar's Ratatouille, producers and artists ate at famous Parisian restaurants and toured their kitchens? Chefs also visited the studio and cooked the entrees depicted in the movie (including the title dish); and pet rats were kept in the artist's area for inspiration!

Did you know that Dumbo is the only Disney animated film where the title character does not have spoken dialogue?

Did you know ILM's visual effects in Iron Man were so convincing as the real thing that the film's director, Jon Favreau, once gave ILM notes to improve their VFX in a scene only to be notified that the scene was all practical effects that he filmed on set?

In Pixar’s movie repertoire… Preceding “Cars” is a Brad Bird film (The Incredibles), an Andrew Stanton film (Finding Nemo), a Pete Docter film (Monsters Inc), and Toy Story 2. Following “Cars” is a Brad Bird film (Ratatouille), an Andrew Stanton film (Wall E), a Pete Docter film (Up), and Toy Story 3.

Did you know that while Horton Hears Who may be the first computer animated Dr Seuss story, it is the second Dr. Seuss movie to star Jim Carrey (How the Grinch stole Christmas), the second computer animated movie to star Steve Carell (Over the Hedge), and the second movie to star both Jim Carrey and Steve Carell (Bruce Almighty)!

Did you know the visual effects in the original Clash of the Titans (1981) were created by Ray Harryhausen, a few animators, miniature modelers, matte painters, and optics specialists for a total of about 20 people? In comparison, the visual effects of the Clash of the Titans re-make (2010) were created by over 450 artists, including animators, modelers, digital painters, and compositors!

Did you know that Bolt was the first Disney movie to be fundamentally changed when Disney bought Pixar in 2006 and hired Pixar’s “brain trust” (John Lasseter, et al) to oversee all creative content at Disney? Prior to the Pixar merge, the movie was called American Dog and involved a cocky TV star dog who gets lost in the desert (while accompanied by a one-eyed cat and a large, radioactive rabbit) and believes the entire adventure is being filmed for his TV show.
Did you know that Hong Kong animators for the movie TMNT were trained in the martial arts and would spar in the office for reference? Also, the animators went into so much detail that each turtle fought in a different martial arts style.

Did you know when ILM redesigned the Enterprise for J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot they even digitally recreated effects that only appeared due to the use of practical models in the original series/movie, such as the varied coloring effect created by the interference paint on the model?

Did you know that Marvel is creating a connected universe with their movie franchise beginning with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk? Tony Stark (Iron Man) appears in June's The Incredible Hulk, the agency "SHIELD" and it's leader (played by Samuel L Jackson) are prominent in both films and set-up for their role 2010’s "Thor" movie, Captain America is also referenced in both films (preparing for his 2011 movie), and finally all of the aforementioned heroes are brought back together for 2011's "Avengers" team-up movie!

Between 1988 and 2005 Disney released at least one animated feature in every year except 1993. Three films were released in 2000: Fantasia 2000, Dinosaur, Emperor’s New Groove, the most wide-released animated films released by a single studio in one year.

Did you know in order to create a detailed world in Avatar, James Cameron hired numerous specialists to design each facet: a linguist created a new language (and taught actors to speak it), a botanist and biologist designed all the flora and fauna (and created scientific journals to document them), and James Cameron even designed a new 3d camera to film live action segments and a new "virtual camera" to interact with the CG elements live on the set (rather than seeing them for the first time after filming was complete).

Did you know the new movie “300” took 60 days to shoot and over a year to complete post-production as 90% of the shots required visual effects work? Most of the movie was shot at 50-150 frames per second in order to add the slow down effect in post-production. Also, the Spartans' physique in the movie did not come easy or instantly, the actors and stunt crew worked out for 10-12 hours a day, five days a week for four months.

Did you know that a character like Davy Jones on Pirates of the Caribbean 3 takes team work? Animators use actor reference to create facial animation, on-set motion capture delivers many body movements, and creature simulation gives life to the tentacle beard and movement to the costume.

Did you know Bioware's Mass Effect 2 employed 90 voice actors to play 546 with more than 31,000 lines of dialog (the average 2-hour movie has 1,500 lines of dialogue)? Animators also added more animated actions to the characters, in some cases a single action had more than 200 separate playable animations.

Did you know that for Transformers, ILM created robot models with thousands of moving parts which could transform from robot mode to car mode without changing the implied mass of the model? The special effects for the Transformers were so complicated that a single frame took 38 hours to render.

Did you know Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has the record for the largest manned practical effects explosion? A VFX action sequence which was 8x larger than ILM’s previous record-holder, one IMAX frame would take three years to render on a top-of-line home computer (the entire 51 minute ILM screen time would take 16,000 years to render), and the largest character model (standing 10 stories high) is comprised of almost 12 million polygons.

Did you know that for The Simpsons Movie, animators tried many new techniques not used in the TV show? They added shadows to all the characters, used CG backgrounds, colored with a larger palette, and even used the larger anamorphic 2.39:1 aspect ratio for the film!

Did you know that character models in the PS3 game “Heavenly Sword” can have over 5 million polygons and are rendered at 60 fps in 1080p? In comparison, a single frame in Pixar’s Toy Story consisted of 5 million polygons and took 4-13 hours to render at roughly the same resolution.

Did you know in 1995, rendering a single frame with 5 million polygons in Toy Story took 4-13 hours, while 2009 games Uncharted 2 and Ratchet and Clank render 5 million polygons at roughly the same resolution 60 times every second?

Did you know that while James Cameron's Avatar and Titanic are the two highest grossing films of all time (before inflation), they are currently ranked 21st and 6th in number of tickets sold respectively? Other successful Directors/Producers who have high attendance movies include Steven Spielberg with E.T. (4th), Jaws (7th), Raiders of the Lost Ark (16th), and Jurassic Park (17th); George Lucas with Star Wars (2nd), The Empire Strikes Back (12th), Return of the Jedi (14th), Raiders of the Lost Ark (16th), and Star Wars: Episode 1 (19th); and Walt Disney with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (10th), 101 Dalmatians (11th), and Fantasia (20th).

Did you know the movie 9 is based on a 2005 student short film by Shane Acker which was nominated for an Academy Award and won "Best in Show" at SIGGRAPH? When Tim Burton saw the film he approached Shane to direct a full feature which will be released on 9/9/09.

Did you know Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo opened in a record number of theaters and quickly became one of the top films of all time in Japan? Miyazaki personally drew nearly 170,000 images (when including all layers of cels) for the movie.

Did you know Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit series has been nominated for 5 Oscars and won 3 times? Although, the 1989 Wallace and Gromit short lost to the short Creature Comforts and it lost this year to Logorama.

Did you know that Ghostbusters: The Video Game was written by original GB writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (Ray and Egon) and is essentially what Ghostbusters 3 would have been if it was filmed in 1991? All major actors and many supporting actors voiced their characters to further add to the game's authenticity.

Did you know that Valve's Team Fortress 2 (part of the Orange Box) has been in development for nearly 10 years? To create the game's uinique cartoon-look, they developed a combination of lighting and rendering techniques utilizing advanced Phong shading

Did you know that Disney animators experimented with creating the 2D animated film The Princess and the Frog by using a paperless digital pipeline consisting of Wacom Cintiqs, but in the end the animators preferred traditional pencil and paper pipeline and used it instead?

Did you know that WALL-E’s director Andrew Stanton originally intended to use 30’s French swing music as the unifying musical theme in WALL-E? Then the French animated film The Triplets of Belleville used French swing music to great effect and Stanton changed the theme to music he performed in high school theater. Thus we have “Hello Dolly!” songs in WALL-E!

The stop motion film, $9.99, is a collaboration of Israeli and Australian artists and writers and was animated entirely by only nine animators. The story revolves around a book, Meaning of Life, that costs $9.99 and how it affects different people in an apartment complex.

Did you know that the 2-D animation for Disney's fairy tale spoof Enchanted were created by James Baxter Animation, the namesake of which is responsible for memorable characters such as Jessica Rabbit, Belle, and Quasimodo? Enchanted pays homage to previous Disney fairy tale animated films so watch and see if you can catch all of the references to (and voice actors from) the Disney classics!

Did you know the estimated budget for "The Golden Compass" is 50% of the entire budget of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy?

Did you know in Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan is computer-generated but during filming Billy Crudup acted in the character’s place while wearing a suit covered in blue-LEDs to cast the blue glow that emanates from the character?

Did you know Tippett Studio worked on the Godzilla-sized monster for J.J. Abram's secret project Cloverfield releasing this month? The secrecy around the movie was so involved that early trailers didn't include the movie's name and even the actors didn't know what the movie was about until they started filming.

Did you know the stop-motion film Coraline was originally to be shot half in stop-motion and half in CG with the transition occurring when Coraline entered the “Other World” (a homage to the b/w to color transition in The Wizard of Oz)?

Did you know that both Industrial, Light & Magic and Tippett Studios worked on the upcoming Spiderwick Chronicles?

Did you know in Will Wright's "Spore", players are able to create creatures of all shapes and sizes and with as few or as a many legs as they wish? As such, the developers had to create a procedural animation generator that would realistically change the creatures animations depending on its size, weight, and number of legs. Presently, over 3 million creatures have been created (and procedurally animated) for Spore; this number is twice the amount of actual known species on the Earth.

Did you know Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D is the first wide-release film to be released exclusively in the "Real D Cinema" format? The 3-D format which was launched with Chicken Little and used in films such as Monster House and Beowulf?

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