Mice and Dragons in Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Michael Apted has directed the latest installment of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, produced by Twentieth Century Fox and Walden Media. MPC completed over 700 VFX shots for the film, creating Reepicheep, Eustace the Dragon, a deadly Sea Serpent, extensive digital environments, and the ocean going ship of the film’s title. MPC also delivered 40 of the shots in full 3D stereo.
At MPC the film was supervised by Adam Valdez, produced by Marianne Speight, with CG supervision by Kevin Hahn, animation supervision by Gabriele Zuchelli, and compositing supervised by Charley Henley.
Lucy and Edmund Pevensie return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace where they meet up with Prince Caspian for a trip across the sea aboard the royal ship The Dawn Treader. Along the way they encounter dragons, strange islands, and a band of lost knights, before reaching the edge of the world.
MPC main challenge was to create some of the key characters for the film. MPC team of animators was once again performed the role of Reepicheep the mouse, voiced by Simon Pegg. Reepicheep – a courageous knight of Narnia – accompanies Caspian on his voyage in the hope of finding Aslan’s Country at the end of the world.
To make sure Reepicheep sword skills were unrivalled, MPC Animators took fencing classes to learn the moves and tricks of the trade. With over 200 hero shots, Reepicheep was upgraded to take the spotlight. MPC’s art department designed subtle changes for a wiser and more mature Reepicheep. MPC Furtility was once again the grooming tool of choice.
When Lucy and Edmund’s cousin Eustace steals a piece of a dragon’s hoard, he is transformed into a dragon himself, with MPC supplying this performance. Without being able to speak, Eustace the Dragon needed to convey subtle emotion through facial expressions alone. Reepicheep and the Dragon have several virtuoso acting moments in which their friendship is bonded.
For the Dark Island sequence, extensive environment and character work was carried out. The 180-shot sequence shows the Dawn Treader sailing into an island of evil mist and being attacked by a giant sea serpent.
The Sea Serpent was designed by MPC’s Art Department, down to hundreds of articulated “feelers” and blubbery skin. For the serpent interactions with the sea, ocean surfaces and splashing water effects were generated by the FX team.
The Evil Mist environment consisted of giant branching pillars of fog and flickering green pulses of energy, realized through intensive 3D particle simulations, with final layouts and mood established by the compositing team in Nuke.
MPC also created the Dawn Treader herself. For some scenes this entailed providing the land-based set build with a full sail and ocean surfaces surrounding it. In other shots the ship was a created completely at MPC, including the ship’s crew. Many have commented that the film does feel like a voyage at sea, a testament to the excellent planning and eye of the film’s supervisor Angus Bickerton.