Fueled with determination and a passion for science, a bright young girl builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess. There she ends up on an unexpected quest, and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures. Over the Moon is an exhilarating musical adventure about moving forward, embracing the unexpected, and the power of imagination.
The Imageworks team lead by VFX supervisor, David Smith, head of character animation, Sacha Kapijimpanga and VFX producer, John Kreidman were tasked with bringing animation legend, Glen Keane’s, vision to life.
One of the biggest animation challenges was the main character Fei Fei. It took some time to establish the animation style as Glen was very specific about anatomical details – how the corners of her mouth behaved, her strong eyes, chopped black hair, dark eyebrows and strong lips. Glen encouraged artists to not animate what the character was doing but instead, what the character was thinking and feeling.
Another character challenge was the Moon Goddess, Chang’e, as she takes on many different forms with a broad range of performances. From a vulnerable character, of regular human proportions, to a towering 9-foot tall Royal Goddess.
Artists had high expectations for Chang’e going into this project. We knew that her broad range required both detailed, nuanced performance, and the more pushed expressions of the Diva that she is. Director Glen Keane’s drawings were also an indispensable source of information when it came to defining this character. Animators could import the many drawings from our review sessions directly into their scenes, to match Glen’s intentions.
All told, Chang'e had five elaborate outfits and four distinct hair styles. The dresses were designed by the world renowned Designer Guo Pei and were the most complex Imageworks had ever worked with. The models were built with Marvelous Designer using the actual patterns provided by Pei.
During rigging, careful attention was devoted to the underlying anatomy. Creating a solid foundation out of believable forms that flowed together accurately, to support the cloth, was crucial on all of the human characters. The target was to see the flowing shapes of a real arm under the cloth once the simulation was completed. With her numerous costume and size changes, the ability to adjust the proportions of her body all while maintaining good underlying structure was critical.
New technology written for Chang’e included our “Extractor,” which allowed our groomers to extract control hairs for her hair styles directly from approved models. For long hair simulations, especially when floating in the chamber of sadness, hair could be hand positioned with our new “Offsets” tool, and additional breakup could be added to follow specific sketches from our Director.
The city of Lunaria, on the dark side of the moon, was designed to be a tribute to color and whimsy. Each building was meticulously sculpted to have an organic feel and a changing profile as it bobs and turns. Thousands of frames of animation were attached to each building, which an animator could slide or manipulate or choose to create a specific animation to get the perfect choreography.
Lunarians, who live in Lunaria, are composed of a semi-solid gummy like material, full of glowing gases. To craft the desired look, Imageworks developed a procedural character rig between rigging and FX that allowed for dynamic topology changes, custom attributes and internal volumes for these characters. The animation and FX department also worked together to fill the stadium with 250,000 dancing Lunarians.
The combination of heartwarming artistry and innovative technology allowed our team to bring Over the Moon to life.