Pixar’s Luca Animation Secrets


Pixar’s Luca combines a coming-of-age story on the picturesque Italian Riviera with the richly imagined fantasy of underwater creatures living peacefully beneath the idyllic aquatic surface. To tell the story of Luca and his new best friend, Alberto, and their double life above and below the surface, Pixar had to use a host of cutting-edge animation techniques. You can see previous examples of groundbreaking 3D movies here.

In this article, we explore several ways Pixar’s Luca has been brought to the screen. From expert research to character design techniques and 3D effects, you’ll find plenty of behind-the-scenes information and artistic inspiration. So what are you waiting for? Dive in and experience the cinematic magic of Pixar’s Luca. Pixar fans can also find out how to save 15% on an annual Disney + membership here.

Explore Italian myths

Luca from Pixar

Luca evokes a sense of belonging marked by the influence of anime and Japanese woodblock print (Image credit: Pixar)

To begin the process of creating Luca’s world, the Pixar team embarked on a research process that included an exploration of Italian myths, legends and lore – from tales of dragons to the story of an octopus sounding bells that saved a village from a band of pirates. “Some of these stories were invented by fishermen,” explains film director Enrico Casarosa. “They would find a good fishing spot and they didn’t want anyone to do it, so they were making up some scary stories.”

To create the appearance of sea monsters, artists studied medieval depictions of creatures that appeared in the Carta Marina – a Renaissance map dating back to 1539 – as well as sculptures of sea monsters from across Italy, seen on fountains. and benches, even with mosaics on the floor.

Design sea creatures

Luca from Pixar

To create the illusion of movement in sea monster clothing, a range of wind fields have been designed to pull the “fabric” and give the impression of swaying the tides. (Image credit: Pixar)

“I really wanted these designs to be unique, a departure from their medieval depictions,” says Deanna Marsigliese, artistic director of the film, of Luca’s Sea Creatures. “However, I also wanted to stay true to their decorative origins. You will notice beautiful patterns of irregular scales – as if they were hand carved. You will see different types of facial fins, scalloped ridges, thorns and sharp straps and flourishes in the tails. And as our sea monsters get older, these features only get bigger and more daring. They are beautiful creatures and combined with their iridescence and gorgeous colors, could pass for costume jewelry . “

Chia-Han Color and Shading Artistic Director Jennifer Chang adds, “Out of all the sea creatures we’ve played with many patterns like scallops with their scales. They have an artisanal quality. In terms of color, they represent the Mediterranean Sea – blues and turquoises – with an iridescent quality. “Chang says the sea monster color palette is as bold and saturated as that of the human world,” but in the opposite way. of the spectrum “.

Find friends on the surface

Luca from Pixar

The facial designs of the three heroic friends of the film are marked by distinct and peculiar shapes (Image credit: Pixar)

The friendship between three young characters from the city of Portorosso and Marsigliese is at the center of this fantastic story. . “Luca is a circle with wide inquiring eyes,” she said. “Alberto is a bean with an overactive mouth. Giulia is a flaming triangle, led by a pointed nose. Strong, simple fundamental shapes provide the perfect canvas for our fine detail and rich textures.”

The enrichment of the film’s visual design was the way the animators embraced Casarosa’s love for Japanese animation. “We were able to explore a different style, less physical-based and more playful and cartoonish,” explains animation supervisor Michael Venturini. “For our characters on land, it’s great graphic poses and faster timing. It’s a contrast to what we do in the water where you can never stand still. There is a little more poetry in it. movement underwater, which is fun to watch. “

Visualize the seabed

Luca from Pixar

Luca is available to watch exclusively on Disney + (Image credit: Pixar)

The artistic director of the sets, Paul Abadilla, explains that “the language of forms of the underwater world is mainly round, sinuous and organic. For example, the way the vegetation is dressed around the house is driven by the rippling water currents. go to Portorosso. “Beyond Luca’s home, says Abadilla, is the meadow, which plays an important role.” The underwater meadow is really the threshold for Luca, “he says.” It symbolizes it. living in two worlds. Anything beyond the meadow is unknown – forbidden. So it’s like his last safe space – the rock walls that surround the open field of seagrass provide him with a place to hide. “

Building on this idea, the team of cinematographer David Bianchi only used two wide-angle lenses for all underwater shots. But they still needed to convey the movement into the shots, so they immersed themselves in the project – literally, creating the actual camera movement following each other in the Pixar pool. “We rented equipment, built trackers, got filmed and put it on the computer,” he says. “Two targets and a repeating firing pattern give way to a completely different approach when Luca comes out of the water.”

Start a dramatic transformation

Luca from Pixar

The key to character expression was each character’s hair (Image credit: Pixar)

The key to the whole movie is moments of transformation for the characters. The filmmakers had to figure out how to showcase the incredible transformation from sea monster to human and back again in a fun and organic way. They were inspired by the way squid and octopus change the color of their skin.

“We had to develop specialized technology on this film to make that happen,” Venturini explains. “These plans, technically, are complex, so we had to be careful when we show the transformation.” Coordination models were created and rigged for both versions of the character – sea monster and human – so that each transformation could start with one and end with the other. The character’s supervisor, Sajan Skaria, adds that the tail has posed some issues as it only appears on one version of the character.

According to character supervisor Beth Albright, the transformation needed to be both physical and, at times, emotional. “Enrico wanted the transformation to be something that happens to the character, rather than a costume that puts on or takes off,” she says. “It had to be internal – something the character would react to – but nothing scary. We went for a transformation that would trickle down to the body.”

“Once we realized that it was coming from inside the body – it’s not an external thing – it all came together,” Skaria adds, “we started, with the octopus reference and built on that. . We were able to do this so that the animators could see it happening in real time as they come alive. “

Handcrafted splashes

Luca from Pixar

For the design of Luca and his friend Alberto in their sea monster form, special emphasis was placed on the design of simple basic shapes (Image credit: Pixar)

Throughout Luca, the water above the surface was so stylized that the filmmakers ultimately created a look Pixar had never done before. “It was a very complex process,” says effects supervisor Jon Reisch. “We had to first find the appearance of the ocean, and then decide how to push the stylization of the water as it interacted with the characters and with the splashes.” adds visual effects supervisor David Ryu, “We wanted to handcraft some splashes that could be stuck to the surface of the simulated water.” The lighting team also tackled the appearance of reflections on the surface of the water. “We tried to capture the streamlined, sinuous shapes of the highlights that we found in Japanese woodcuts,” says cinematographer Kim White.

The end result targets specific areas for more detail. It’s not meant to look photoreal as it’s meant to be Luca’s memory of water versus actual water. Ryu says the effects and lighting teams had to figure out how to force a water surface into the shapes they wanted. “We wanted to create a more illustrative image,” he says. “It was all about creating layers of stylized aquatic looks. The effects and lighting teams developed a technique that would allow artists to control the details of a reflection, allowing for a simpler and more stylized look.”

“We also wanted to incorporate the patterns that we see in the ocean due to wind or underwater formations,” Ryu continues. “An area of ​​turbulent water here and a band of calm there – artists can use these elements as a composition tool. Our team has developed a few recipes – choppy water that grows triangular shapes, calm water with curved shapes. We could paint big bands in the frame like brushstrokes to compose an oceanic pattern. “

This article originally appeared in 3d world, the world’s best-selling magazine for CG artists. To subscribe to 3d world.

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