MPC creates enchanting and photoreal visual effects for Disney's Hocus Pocus 2
Global VFX Studio, MPC (Moving Picture Company) recently delivered over 557 VFX shots on the Disney production of Hocus Pocus 2, directed by Anne Fletcher. The team was led by MPC VFX Supervisor Malte Sarnes and MPC VFX Producer Gillian Howe from MPC Australia. From creating the town of Salem to enchanting character transformations, a total of 554 MPC artists across Adelaide, London, and Bangalore helped conjure up the film’s final product, with the Adelaide studio working across every shot in the film.
At the core of the film are the Sanderson sisters, three witches, Mary (Kathy Najimy), Winifred (Bette Midler), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), whose individual character development is key to the narrative. The primary VFX directive for MPC was to enhance and bring out their characters even further with magical effects. As VFX Supervisor Malte Sarnes says, “each witch had their individual magical FX which conveyed their personality. Winifred is very controlled and purposeful, Mary a little erratic and uncontrolled, and Sarah’s being playful.”
A primary objective for the teams was to keep Hocus Pocus 2 feeling like the first one back in 1993 but simultaneously “updating the level of quality but maintaining the vibe,” Sarnes points out. The film’s opening sequence is a prominent MPC contribution and serves as a clear homage to the 1993 original. “We built a lightening FX template to allow the director and producers to work across multiple shots that could be adjusted to adapt to any client requests and style we require,” adds Sarnes. “The team was also keen on enabling adjustments and new ideas to come to life easier than before, as well as saving time on production.”
VFX Producer, Gillian Howe said the teams in Adelaide would work “closely with the team from Disney”, it also filled the teams with confidence as they were instilled with “the faith [they] could do justice to this fun sequel.” Something that comes across in the VFX work demonstrated.
Another key asset that the MPC teams worked on was the full CG raven, also seen in the opening sequence. These shots required improvisation from the teams to match up the animation of the transformation with the shot of the actress Hannah Waddingham on wires. “We were supplied a plate with the actress flying in on wires and match-moved/tracked the shot,” says Malte. “We then animated the Raven to match the trajectory of the actress. Once we had the timing, we created transition shapes, Raven transforming to a witch, and Digi-double Witch transforming from Raven back into the plate.”
The film was a big hit at the Adelaide studios, with VFX Producer Gillian Howe claiming: “The team here were so excited to be able to work on Hocus Pocus 2 as we had so many fans of the original working in the studio.” This brought a great spirit to the MPC teams who unanimously loved working on the show. Malte Sarnes (VFX Supervisor) reinforces this, describing the team’s working processes: “it was amazing to see how the entire team, across all disciplines and departments, pulled together, and delivered.”