Shy 13-year-old Alex (Evan Whitten) flies from Kansas City to Mexico to meet his extended family for the first time. There he meets his grandfather and former lucha libre champion Chava (Demián Bichir), energetic, wrestling-obsessed cousin Memo (Nickolas Verdugo), and fearless, hip cousin Luna (Ashley Ciarra). But just as Alex begins to get his bearings, he discovers a mythical creature living under his grandfather’s shed: a young chupacabra cub, which he recognizes from stories of the feared, full-grown chupacabra, fabled to feed on farmers’ livestock. Alex soon learns that his new friend “Chupa” has a secret history with his family, and that dogged, dangerous scientist Richard Quinn (Christian Slater) is hunting the misunderstood creature to try and harness his powers. To protect Chupa from impending danger, Alex sets off on the adventure of a lifetime, one that will push the bonds of his newfound family to the brink, and remind him that life’s burdens are lighter when you don’t have to carry them alone.
MPC CREATES CHUPACABRAS FOR NETFLIX’S NEW FILM “CHUPA”
From Netflix and Director Jonás Cuarón comes Chupa, a playful twist on the classic mythical creature, the chupacabra. Shy 13-year-old Alex (Evan Whitten) flies from Kansas City to Mexico to meet his extended family for the first time. There he meets his grandfather and former lucha libre champion Chava (Demián Bichir), energetic, wrestling-obsessed cousin Memo (Nickolas Verdugo), and fearless, hip cousin Luna (Ashley Ciarra). But just as Alex begins to get his bearings, he discovers a mythical creature living under his grandfather’s shed: a young chupacabra cub.
Global VFX studio MPC (Moving Picture Company) created the baby chupacabra as well as three adults. As always, the team rose to the challenge of crafting an incredible creature, capturing all its dimensions, both fantastic and realistic.
615 MPC artists across 3 continents worked with VFX Supervisors Matt Glover, Mitchell S. Drain and Matt Jacobs to deliver the VFX and Animation for Chupa. MPC’s main goal was designing, building, and then adding CG Chupa into scenes. They spent several months working with the director to develop Chupa and its characteristics. The MPC team also built Chupa’s ‘Dad’ and two other grown up members of his family. Each of these characters went through the same design process to end up with their final look – it was important to the director, that the 3 adults could be easy to tell apart at a glance, so they focused on variation in their silhouettes. The key scenes the team had to work on were when Alex and Chupa first meet in the barn, and bond over food, toys, and their shared loss – both are without their family. Other highlights include Chupa learning to fly, the kids rescuing Chupa from Quinn, and then Chupa saving Alex from our big pipeline set piece, where Alex almost falls into a deep canyon and Chupa first uses his wings.
Designing a creature with so much screen time was no easy task; the team had to make something imaginary still feel realistic. MPC’s Art Department started working with Cuarón in preproduction, to explore Chupa’s design. The Art Department had plenty of creative freedom and were able to present multiple iterations for reimagining the creature. “Jonás and his team had an idea of what they wanted the creature to do in the movie, and they were happy for us to come up with suggestions and sketches” said MPC Art Director Leandre Lagrange “Jonás was trying to find a balance between cuteness, agility, and the ability to fly. Though Chupa is more of a mythical creature, our challenge was that he still needed to feel grounded and real.” Chupa needed to be able to fly, so the Art Department also had to figure out how its wings would attach to Chupa’s body and function. There is a key sequence in the movie where Chupa must carry the boy protecting him. The team’s task was to find a scale at which it would feel believable for Chupa to carry a kid without him feeling too stocky, so Chupa’s body and wings couldn’t be too large. They also wanted to retain Chupa’s smallness and cuteness while also making him strong enough to carry the boy.
In almost all sequences that MPC’s artist added Chupa to, the team used plates with Alex interacting with either a grey stand-in prop, or Harper – the stand-in dog. Harper was invaluable for getting a great performance for Alex, which artists could tie Chupa’s animation to, but there was a lot of complicated clean-up/removal to erase Harper from the plates.
As a result, animation was one of the biggest challenges on the show; the artists had to find the balance between emotive performance, animalistic naturalism and just the right amount of anthropomorphic detail to convey Chupa’s emotions and tie them to Alex’s performance. They also added supporting FX into most scenes, including dust, dirt, grass, and hay displacement, to help integrate Chupa into his environment.
After nailing down Chupa’s silhouette and proportions, MPC’s artists began work on the groom. They experimented with the length of fur, its colour and patterns, and the placement of feathers. VFX artists had to solve how to fix fur on feathers; Chupa has feathered wings, but he is a furry animal. Making this look realistic was a complex task. TArtists used hours of reference material including birds and felines, such as the caracal, a feline with huge ears.
MPC’ other work included a CG Mountain Lion, CG environment extension for the Canyon, and CG take over for the pipeline and cables, and interactive FX simulations”
You can see their work in action in the full Chupa film now streaming on Netflix or catch a sneak preview in the Chupa trailer.