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SINBAD

Creatures Great And Small
Sinbad is not the only one with a pet. Eris has her own menagerie of creatures, although they are hardly what you would call tame. The goddess often dispatches them to instigate the chaos she lives to create.

The inspiration for Eris' monsters came from the night sky. Many of the constellations were born of mythology, so in turn, the filmmakers made them part of the Sinbad mythology. Johnson, a self-proclaimed "astronomy nut," remarks, "To bring these astronomical icons to life as creatures that a goddess could call her ‘pets' was an exciting way to have some fun with the character while hinting at her power."

Gilmore illustrates: "The constellation Cetus became our sea monster; Aquila inspired our giant bird of prey called the Roc. You see Scorpius, you see Draco… They are all part of Eris' cosmic realm of chaos."

The gigantic sea monster is the first of Eris' "pets" to confront Sinbad, and the computer-animated creature posed almost as big a challenge to the CGI animators who had to manipulate it. The sea creature had a myriad of moving parts—a head, a tail, tentacles, ears, legs, a tongue, and more—all of which had independent controls, making it exceedingly complex.

The computer-animated snowbird called the Roc presented a different set of challenges. Not only does it appear the size of a commercial jetliner, the Roc also generates a perpetual snowstorm in its wake. Doug Ikeler, the 3D effect supervisor, notes, "Wherever he flies, a snowstorm follows, but it couldn't look like falling snow; it's snow that's caught up in the vortex caused by his flapping wings. It has a hand-drawn, swirly quality to it, so it was a very large effect for us."

The Sirens, while hardly monstrous in appearance, were among the most dangerous creatures faced by Sinbad, Marina and the crew of The Chimera, and among the most complicated to animate. Johnson offers, "Sirens are the mythological women who sing songs that entrance sailors and cause them to crash on the rocks and drown. We wanted our Sirens to feel unearthly and derived purely from water. We went through a lot of development to take animated female figures and turn them into essentially living fountains. When they rise out of the water, they splash up like a wave, float in the air, and then fragment into a million drops of water as they try to sweep the men off the deck of the ship."

To choreograph the graceful movements of the Sirens, the 3D animators, led by Michelle Cowart, studied the moves of rhythmic gymnastics, ballet and modern dance. They also looked at underwater photography to depict the fluidity of the seductresses. The initial 3D characters looked more like naked silver plastic women until the effects department took over. The effects team used particle systems to create flowing drapes of water that gave the Sirens their liquid appearance.

The Sirens' hair, which enhances their ethereal quality, took the longest to animate. Every Siren had 16 strands of hair, each of which had a minimum of seven separate controls to manipulate its shape. The problem was that even when the animators got the individual strands moving beautifully, they didn't always move beautifully together, resulting in the character looking more like Medusa than a Siren. In addition, the animators didn't know exactly what the end result would be after the effects department completed the look, so there was a lot of going back and forth between the departments and starting over again to get it right.

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