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MADAGASCAR

Heads or Tails
Apart from squash and stretch, all of the animals presented individual hurdles to the animation team, ranging from Alex's mane, to Melman's neck, to Gloria's girth. Marty had a particular talent for shifting from being a quadruped, walking on all fours, to a biped, standing upright and gesturing with his front legs and hooves that now functioned as his arms and hands. Vogt admits, "Creating a rig that resulted in a natural looking quadruped Marty as well as a biped Marty was pretty challenging.”

Gloria, while quite rotund, still has to appear light on her feet and flexible, with a range of motion that belies her size. Character TD supervisor Milana Huang comments, "It was very tough to get that big frame to move in a nice smooth way. We added hundreds of controls to Gloria so the animators could move her shoulders independently of her hips and manipulate every part of her body, right down to the finger tips.” Conversely, the directors wanted the much smaller penguins to waddle, as Huang describes, "like a sack of flour. We made sure that the controls allowed the animators to move each penguin's entire mass as one nice round piece.”

Melman proved to be a literal pain in the neck for the animators, who had to figure out how to keep his head in frame with the other animals, which were considerably shorter. Vogt says, "We were always bending Melman's neck into odd shapes to get his face where we wanted it. This presented a different problem because the directors then wanted the head to stay put, but once you move the body, the head starts to move. We ended up developing another set of controls, which allowed the animators to basically animate backwards from the head and keep the head in place in the scene.”

The system used to animate Melman's neck was similar to the one constructed to animate certain animals' long tails. "We needed to develop a very robust tail system that would allow the animators to pull off very organic motion and also dial in graphic shapes. For example,” Vogt illustrates, "Alex's tail is often sharply kinked, but then, as he's running, it has to have a sweeping, flowing motion. We created a tail system that allowed the animators to apply a specific amount of curve or flex to different points along the tails as needed.”

On the opposite end, some of the animals were also outfitted with what the animation team called "stunt tongues.” Vogt explains, "Before this film we had few controls to animate the tongue effectively once it left the mouth, but there are several tongue gags in ‘Madagascar,' so character TD Penny Leyton designed a stunt tongue system, which allowed the character to interact with his own tongue. They turned out to be very funny, so we added stunt tongues to about six characters over the course of the film.”

Hair and fur are often the bane of an animator's existence, and there are more furry creatures in "Madagascar” than in any computer-animated film before. The hairiest challenge was Alex's mane, which is comprised of more than 50,000 individual strands of fur. To maintain the mane, the character TDs and effects teams expanded on the wig system that was developed for "Shrek 2,” which combines dynamic motion—hair that automatically moves in reaction to the movement of the head and body—and manual controls, which the animators generate by hand. Alex's mane has hundred of curves and each curve has multiple points of animation controls. Additional controls also had to be incorporated to allow the mane to deform accordingly when it came into contact with outside objects and forces.

Visual effects supervisor Philippe Gluckman expounds, "We had to come up with something a lot more detailed for every time Alex leaned against something or put his hand through his mane and so on. Every single strand of hair—or fur in this case—had to interact with that contact and, because Alex is a lead character, it was somethi

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