MPC has contributed major VFX for Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (Walt Disney Pictures). MPC’s team lead by VFX Supervisor Patrick Ledda worked closely with Director Kenneth Branagh and Production VFX Supervisor Charley Henley, delivering more than 500 shots for the movie. Work ranged from creating creatures including a family of mice, lizards, geese and butterflies to human digi doubles, complex magical transformations and extensive environment work.
The team took inspiration from the original 1950’s animated Cinderella, and worked alongside the production art department to develop ideas for the look and feel of the CG work. MPC also completed some previs work pre and post shoot for some of the full CG shots.
A labour of love was to create and animate the 4 mice. The director’s brief was to make them look as photo-real as possible, but also to give them enough personality and performance to engage with Cinderella and the audience. The team collected reference photography and videos and observed the behavior of real mice. The mice were given a very subtle anthropomorphic feel, to enhance human traits important for their specific characteristics. Photo real shading and the use of MPC’s proprietary fur tool ‘Furtility’ ensured the level of realism required for their look.
As well as the mice MPC also created other characters including lizards, two coachmen, a goose, the footman, stags, bluebirds and butterflies. For the human characters scans and accurate photo shoots were taken, whereas the animals followed more traditional methods, taking photographic references and observing real animals.
One of the biggest challenges was the magical transformations. MPC’s art department created concepts to develop each stage of the transformations; mice to horseman, geese to coachman, pumpkin to carriage and Cinderella’s dress and glass slipper. Complex rigging systems were built to allow MPC’s animators creative freedom when animating. The team used traditional key-frame animation to bring the characters to life.
For the world around Cinderella, MPC’s environment team worked with the production art department and researched landscape paintings to get a feel for the mood and palette of the movie.
The creation of the palace was fairly elaborate mainly due to its sheer size and level of detail. The exterior of the palace was fully CG apart from the door and balcony visible in some shots. A section of the stairs and gate was also practical but the rest of the palace was entirely digital. Together with the production art department, MPC designed and created the entire model. The majority of the stunning interior of the palace was built practically, and it was MPC’s task to build set extensions, CG chandeliers, digi doubles and dressing. The biggest challenge was to find a way to marry the palace and the landscape. The director wanted the palace to feel grand but at the same time immersed in the landscape. A great deal of work went into the design and creation of the palace gardens lead and surrounding environments.