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About The Production
For the look and design of The Emoji Movie, Leondis turned to production designer Carlos Zaragoza. Zaragoza and Leondis worked closely with Visual Effects Supervisor David Alexander Smith to achieve the final look of the film. "We have some of the best artists in the business working on this movie, all led by Carlos and Dave, and all were really committed to make the very best movie possible," says Leondis.

The head of the art department, responsible for creating the entire look of everything on the screen, from the characters to the world, Zaragoza says while a movie about emojis would seem to be drawn from the current moment, the animators found inspiration in the oldest animation references. "Ultimately, we are giving life to objects, food, musical notes - so for me, it was going back to the animated shorts of the 1930s, where everything was animated; objects had life. That's one of my favorite periods of animation, so I was happy to work in something like that."

Zaragoza says that his greatest challenge was to bring over 300 emojis - some of the simplest designs around - to three-dimensional, expressive life. "Emojis are graphic designs, icons, pictograms," he says. "We use them to represent a concept, but they aren't very complex. But for our story, we needed a complex character who could convey so many different emotions - it's so important to show how a character feels. So we had to keep the graphic look while making them very versatile."

"We have a great animation team that can bring pretty much anything to life," says Smith. And that's a good thing, because they had to. "Toasters, fire hydrants, stop signs, all kinds of weird things, but they brought a unique characteristic to each one. But the hardest thing was that most of the lead characters are spheres. How do you animate spheres? It was quite a challenge."

To bring an emoji like Gene to life - to make him expressive while not losing his inherent emojiness - the filmmakers started simple and worked toward the complex. "We started with a very simple graphic design that looked pretty much like a regular emoji," says Zaragoza. "We wanted to see exactly what the limitations were, in expression and emotion. From there, we moved to make it more versatile, more three dimensional, more able to move and be animated.


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