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THE SHAGGY DOG

Special Effects
Even with Coal's uncanny canine acting abilities, the story of THE SHAGGY DOG still called for a number of eye-popping actions no dog was going to be able to perform—including morphing back and forth into a human dad. So right off the bat, the filmmakers began investigating how the latest in special effects could help to give this classic story a whole new life. "We wanted the movie to be funny, but there is also a sci-fi element to the story and we wanted to be as true to that part of the action as we could,” says Brian Robbins.

To start, the filmmakers asked the creative wizards at Stan Winston Studio to come up with a life-size animatronic "puppet dog” that could go where no dog has gone before. "Coal was amazing, but there are still certain things he couldn't do—like roll his eyes or shake his head in a certain fashion,” explains producer Dave Hoberman. "By using the animatronic dog along with CGI enhancements, we were really able to capture some great expressions and actions that add to the comedy and excitement.”

Stan Winston Studio faced a tough challenge—matching a living, breathing Bearded Collie with a robotic double that had to mirror the real thing precisely! Animatronic effects supervisor Alan Scott began by closely observing Coal in action to precisely replicate his color, body type and even his very special joie de vivre. "We were able to videotape him, photograph him, take all sorts of measurements and even scan him,” says Scott. "We don't usually get this kind of close proximity to the animals we're creating, so it was wonderful. We were able to really hone the creation, and it shows in the results.”

Once the animatronic Shaggy's basic shape was sculpted, he was covered in fur and put through some "test runs” to see if his hair flowed in a realistic manner. The biggest focus was on creating Shaggy's head—a robotic wonder with ears that can twitch, eyes that can roll and a nose that can sniff, all by remote control—and then finally a face that can move into a whole rainbow of emotions. "One of the tasks we were given was to create a dog that could be very emotional, to push the boundaries of what you might be able to read in this dog's expression,” says Scott. "So we have an input device which, when moved, can change Shaggy's expression from surprise to anger. So he looks like a real dog, but he has the expressive abilities more like a cartoon character.”

In the end, even dog trainer Mark Forbes was blown away by the animatronic Shaggy. "It's the most lifelike animatronic animal I've ever seen,” he says.

Later, visual effects supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum and visual effects producer Blondel Aidoo were brought in to further enhance Shaggy's mix of human and canine qualities. "Our job ranged from creating a variety of realistic-looking animals within a computer to painting out wires that were used to allow Tim Allen to run fast on all fours,” explains Rosenbaum. Some of the most difficult visual effects involved switching back and forth between using real dogs, animatronic dogs and CGI dogs in the same scene. "The computer-generated animals had to be cut seamlessly together with the live-animal action shots, so we had to collaborate closely with the dog trainers so that we were always all on the same page,” Rosenbaum notes. "We were really lucky that the animals on this film delivered such strong performances that were filled with character. As a result, we were able to use CG to extend and enhance their performances into even more exciting sequences.”

Then there was a whole menagerie to bring to digital life, a task Rosenbaum turned over to the CGI experts at Tippett Studio. "Tippett Studio created a variety of CG animals, including four rabbits, six rats, one cat, a King Cobra, a mutant creature and, of course, parts of Shaggy. We went to them because they ar

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