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PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS

Taxi from Hell
Percy's quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece begins when Annabeth hails a cab -- in the middle of a forest -- and out of nowhere, a taxi appears. The cab is driven by The Gray Sisters, three hags sharing a single eye.

Missi Pyle, who along with Mary Birdsong and Yvette Nicole Brown, play the enigmatic, taxi driving siblings, notes: "We don't necessarily need the eye to drive, but we do like to pass it back and forth. The Gray Sisters are blind to what humans see, but when they put the eye in, they can really see." During the harrowing taxi ride, the Gray Sisters provide Percy with a piece of information that proves invaluable.

Pyle, Birdsong and Brown went through a daily five-hour makeup call to transform into the Gray Sisters. Designed by prosthetic make up wizard William Terezakis, the Gray Sisters' makeup effects included head, arm and even foot casts. The makeup effects team created empty black sockets where eyes would have been. Six Checker cabs (circa 1969-1982) were used to film the Gray Sisters scene. Painted and adapted to resemble 1982 Checker cabs, the cars were wrangled from as far away as Arizona. One car was split in half, one was spun on a hamster wheel, one was dropped, one motored and bounced along on a gimbal, and two were actually road-worthy.

As production began to wind down, the visual effects department began to ramp up. Visual effects supervisor Dan Kaufman, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on "District 9," began working on the project some six months before principal photography began. During post-production, hundreds of visual effects artists and professionals came together to create the CG-generated elements. Much of the computer-generated animation was done by animation and visual effects studio, Rhythm and Hues ("Life of Pi").

There are visual effects elements in almost every shot of the film, from removing stunt harnesses and safety rigs from actors in the action sequences, to creating the magical Hippocampus (which has a horse's head and torso, and silvery fish body with scales and fins), the Colchis Bull, the Manticore, Tyson's Cyclops eye, and Chiron's and Grover's respective horse and goat lower bodies. The goal is to integrate VFX shots, says Kaufman, "rather than overpower them. We wanted the visual effects to enhance the movie and give it that mystical, mythic quality."

The mechanical Colchis Bull is a machine that moves agilely and quickly, like a real bull. Kaufman says "In addition to animating Colchis, we choreographed its movements on set. The bull is eight feet tall at the shoulder and thousands of pounds, it's massive, and you have to think about how it's going to move and hit and how the actors will interact with it. Percy is dragged by it, Annabeth stabs it and Clarisse jumps on it -- there's a different methodology for each interaction."

Kaufman says the visual effects "make things that can't possibly be real, be real. PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS takes place in our world, right now, but there's another hidden world, that's also part of our world. The supernatural elements fit right in our world and look like the real thing. For example, the hippocampus looks like a mythical sea creature, but it also looks as real as a whale."

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