By Mark Morellini
Animal Logic is one of the world’s leading independent creative digital studios based at Fox Studios in Sydney. The studio has created movie magic for nearly 30 years, working on films including The Lego franchise, Happy Feet, Peter Rabbit, and now on the highly anticipated Peter Rabbit 2 which finally hops into cinemas for Easter after several postponements owing to COVID-19.
Will Reichelt has been employed at Animal Logic for 18 years and is currently the VFX Supervisor. He had previously worked on The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Walking With Dinosaurs, both Peter Rabbit films and many others in different capacities.
“A VFX or visual effects supervisor is the person who runs the visual effects team and is the creative point person for the Director to get what he needs. He then translates that to the rest of the team and creatively supervises the work that goes through from conception all the way to the finished shot,” explained Reichelt.
Peter Rabbit was a live-action/digital runaway hit of 2018, amassing $350 million at the worldwide box office, so it wasn’t a surprise that a sequel was produced. Creating the visual effects for the sequel was a mammoth task which employed 600 Animal Logic crew and an additional 150 from Method Studios in Melbourne.
Digital advances are constantly being made in a field which is mandatory for the creation of more engaging special effects and animation in movies.
“It’s definitely something you have to keep up with. These advances are something that has always happened and will continue to happen. We had a set of challenges on the first Peter Rabbit that we needed to contend with, mainly in regards to the fact that the characters needed to look photorealistic and be able to interact, have voices and facial expressions to quite a sophisticated level.”
Reichelt explained they had the same set of challenges on the sequel but with more complexity.
“Everything had to be amped up because you always have to go harder on the sequel. You always have to do something else to challenge and impress audiences who are very quick to dismiss something that looks derivative.”
Animal Logic came up with a proprietary way of making the fur look realistic. The challenge there was replicating the same amount of hair that’s on a rabbit and structuring it the same way.
“Peter Rabbit has 4.3 million hairs that needed to be rendered for each shot, combined with all the other characters in the shot which have four to five million hairs each. You have that aspect and then there’s the cloth for their jackets and shirts, which also has to interact with the fur. The jacket is simulated frame by frame to interact with the fur and all of it is wrinkled with other stuff that happens while he moves his body.”
Sydney is becoming a hub for digitally produced films which creates employment and boosts the local economy. “The reason is that there’s a lot of talent in Sydney and we have 600 crew available here to work on this film. We have crew that is local to Sydney and crews that come in from other places. It’s a real creative hub for this type of work. There are other companies that do this type of work, but Animal Logic is the biggest company and the company that’s doing projects which are large scale full-feature animation films that other companies aren’t doing.”
Animal Logic has been producing animated features since Happy Feet in 2006 and the film projects just keep rolling in. So busy in fact that they were working on Walking With Dinosaurs and The Lego Movie simultaneously.
Audiences may watch a 90-minute animated film and not realise the amount of work that goes into the production. “These films take a minimum of two years, if not longer to produce. There’s a lot of pre-production development in terms of making the deals, getting everything ready to go, hiring the crew, etc.”
The future seems very bright for Animal Logic, the independent digital studio which has gone from strength to strength over the years creating one successful film after the other, many of which have received awards.
“Hopefully we can keep the momentum going and keep the original projects coming in as well. It’s been great for Animal Logic with the Lego franchise and now that Peter Rabbit has become a franchise with a second film, we can develop other franchises.”
And how does it feel seeing families smiling and laughing at your accomplishments on the big screen?
“It’s the best feeling possible. It’s an incredible feeling as it’s a validation of all the hard work that everybody has put into it. Everybody is so invested in creating something which is original, funny and that will entertain audiences. To see the fruits of that is just so gratifying.”