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Plumbing Together
After achieving success with the critically acclaimed box-office hit "Chicken Run” and the Academy Award®-winning "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Features team up for the third time with "Flushed Away.” For this film, the two studios took their collaboration to a new level: after being conceived at Aardman's UK studio, "Flushed Away” became the company's first computer-animated film and was produced entirely at DreamWorks' animation studio in Glendale, California. 

According to director David Bowers, the movie reflects the best of what each studio has to offer. "We have Aardman's charm and rich sensibilities, and all the imagination and technological capabilities of DreamWorks,” Bowers attests. "I don't think the movie could have happened without either studio.”

As "Flushed Away” was in its early stages of development, the filmmakers realized their third collaboration would need to be entirely computer-animated for several reasons. Water is notoriously difficult to recreate in stop-motion, and the sets would have to be enormous to be in proportion with Roddy, Rita, and the rest of the "Flushed Away” characters. 

According to director Sam Fell, Aardman had been looking to make a CG animated film for some time, and "Flushed Away” seemed to be the right project to make the jump. "We wanted to create a whole city, a whole world, and populate it with thousands of little rats walking around along canals instead of streets,” says Fell. "With water, crowds, big scope, many sets – it seemed like CGI could really help us make that happen.”

Bowers agrees. "The Kensington apartment, where the movie begins, would have had to have been full size,” he says. "There just wouldn't have been room in the studio to do it. And there wouldn't have been enough plasticine or clay in the world to do it.”

"At first, we thought we would do a stop-frame film with a lot of CG enhancements,” says Aardman co-founder and producer David Sproxton. "But when we looked at how much we would be doing on the computer – the extensive tunnels, the large sets, the water – we thought, ‘Why not make the whole thing in CG?'” 

In addition to the scaling challenges, the myriad water effects – critical components to a story set largely within a sewer world – provided an even more convincing case for CG. From Roddy's titular tumble into the toilet's whirlpool to the frenetic boat chase leading up to the film's climax, water would need to be as versatile as the characters themselves. Aardman co-founder and producer Peter Lord explains, "Water is practically a character in this film, and it's just the hardest thing to do in stop-frame animation,” he says. "When we do water, it's normally little bits of cling film making a splash, or animating drips of glycerin trickling down the damp character. To have a boat bobbing about on a stream or tearing along at a super speed, through a river, chased by villains on egg whisks – it would have been impossible.”

Head of effects Yancy Lindquist comments, "We have flushing water. We have water running down pipes. We have frozen masses of water. Each of those requires a slightly different technique.”

Like the directors, Lord says that "Flushed Away” remains a film that could only have been made by a collaboration between Aardman and DreamWorks. "I think ‘Flushed Away' brings a stillness to the CG art form,” Lord says. "We believe in performance above all; the audience needs to believe in the characters. That often means watching what happens on the face when the character is almost still. That subtlety is what we do best. On the other hand, computer animation is great for big action. By putting the two together, we've got strong, believable characters and some truly spectacular action sequences.”

Visual effects supervisor Wendy Rogers expands on the ide

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